Why Does My Dog Wag His Tail?

cartoon of dog wagging his tail
Ever wonder WHY your dog wags his tail?
You love your furry little buddy. And the way you always see that tail wagging, like a propeller about to lift your pooch up into the air, you're pretty sure he loves you back. Whether it is a long full tail or a stubby little nub, a dog's tail seems to tell a lot about what he is thinking.

So why does the tail wag?

Is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog? When you see your pup's whole body wagging, it seems like there may be very little control over it...or maybe there is total control. We set out to find some answers, but of course we're no tail experts (if there is such a thing).

Here are some thoughts. Hope you enjoy.

All dogs and wolves have tails. Every breed is born with a tail, and most are long to begin with. Most nubby tails are a result of having them "docked" at birth. Although many people disagree with this practice, it doesn't seem to change the way a dog uses its tail.

Tails, in their original context, seemed to be mostly for balance. It makes sense when you watch your pooch run like a crazy animal around the house, and turn corners on a dime. The tail may help with navigation, so your dog doesn't run into every table leg and corner in the house (most of the time).

It has been said that a dog learns tail-wagging from the mother dog. Apparently, they don't wag their tails from birth, but develop this talent before they leave the litter. It has been observed that puppies wag their tails when they approach their mother to nurse, so some have thought that it shows submission, but the mother also wags its tail as the puppies approach, so it is more than likely a means of communication between them.

Over the years, dogs seem to have adapted themselves for communication with us and each other. When your dog sees you coming in the door, you know that tail is going to be going a mile a minute! This obviously shows us that this is out of love, excitement, and happiness, without needing to do much research. Dogs do wag their tails when they are happy and excited. It seems to be out of an instinct, but dogs do have control over whether they wag their tails. You may have noticed that sometimes the tail stops mid wag, when your pup gets distracted or startled. And then, there are times when dogs wag their tails even though they seem upset or frightened.

A dog wagging its tail out of fright or aggression will show some different signs along with the wagging tail. If you see a dog wag his tail while his body is tense, or the ears are back tight to the head or very rigid and standing up, then you should keep your distance. Tail wagging can sometimes mean that a dog is upset and they are trying to communicate to people to stay away. Give them their space and let them approach you in their own time.

So there are a few reasons and theories, but we have one more - and it stinks!

Dogs may wag their tails in the presence of other dogs to spread their scent. That stink that emits from your dogs anal glands (yes, they have glands there) is the scent that is used to identify your dog. Other dogs smell the scent and will be able to recognize the dog if they come into contact again. Some dogs have a feeling of wanting to "large and in charge" and will wag their tails more in groups of other dogs. Some may feel nervous and submissive and put their tails down, covering their scent and keeping the communication to a minimum until they are more comfortable.

Whatever the reason for tail wagging, we know how all of our dog loving friends feel about those little wagging bodies and tails. We love our dogs, and while we have no tails to wag to show it, hopefully we can live up to how much they love us!

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