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Why does my dog wag their tail?

Dogs' tails serve many purposes. It is easy to assume that the tail is for the purpose of our pet letting us know that they are happy. But there are several other reasons why their tails play an important role.


Dogs will use their tails to assist with balance whilst walking, running, and swimming. Although having said that, dogs have four feet to help them balance whilst walking on pavements but it’s when they are on uneven surfaces such as a slope or rough terrain that their tail becomes useful. Herding dogs will use their tails to negotiate tight turns and greyhounds will use their tails to negotiate turns whilst racing at top speed.


Dogs also like to leave their scent behind which they do through their anal glands. You can always tell how confident a dog is by how high it holds its tail. If a dog holds its tail lower it means that they don’t want to be noticed and are less confident. However, if they hold their tails very low it means they are afraid and don’t want their scent to be noticed. You would have seen how a dog will hold its tail between its legs when it is in trouble with its owner. Leaving its scent behind is another way for your dog to communicate with other dogs in the area that “I was here”.


According to petcircle.com.au, “a common misconception about tail wagging is that if a dog is wagging his tail, he’s happy but studies have shown that tail wagging can also happen when a dog is feeling aggressive, threatened or stressed”. Further studies have shown that a tail wagging to the left could be a warning sign to us or other dogs that they are feeling stressed or becoming agitated. The opposite is true of a tail wagging to the right as the same studies showed that the dogs were more relaxed and as a result were more friendly towards one another. Take the time to observe your dog and the way in which they wag their tail depending upon the circumstances.


The most important thing to remember is that a wagging tail does not necessarily mean that a dog is happy or friendly. If you or one of your children want to pet a dog at the park it is important to first check with their owner to make sure that it is safe to do so.



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