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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Damon

Tail Language

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

A black dog looking at a tree with his tail curved upward.
A black dog looking at a tree with his tail curved upward.

Dogs convey their feelings in all sorts of ways. They speak to us through vocalizations like barking, growling, and yelping. They speak to us by bristling fur, exposing teeth, and the posture of their body, head, ears, and tail. Most of us are good at interpreting these signals but sometimes the wires can get a little crossed. Maybe your dog is growling but his front end is dropped to the ground. Is he going to attack or does he want to play? This is why it's good to study each of the ways that your dog communicates in order to get a complete picture. After all, you don't want to punish your dog for playing and you don't want him to start a fight either. In this post, I'd like to discuss tail language. The following is a general description of the various tail positions and if your dog could speak, what he might be saying. Keep in mind that if your dog's tail is naturally curled over the back (think Siberian Husky) or naturally tucked between the legs (Greyhound) that some of these don't apply. Wagging from side to side, parallel to the ground - "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!! This is SO awesome!! I'm so happy to see you! I love you! Did I tell you that? I love you. I love you. I love you." And the wider your pup is wagging his tail the more excited he is. Tail tucked between legs - "I'm scared." Tail slightly raised but not yet parallel to the ground, may be wagging - " I'm gonna relax and enjoy myself." Tail parallel to the ground - "Hmmm, what's this?" Tail parallel to the ground and stiff - "Hmmm, what's this? I'm not sure if I'm going to like it." Tail pointing up - "I'm on high alert. I just want to make sure you know that." Tail pointing up and stiff with the tip curved forward - "I'm in super high arousal mode. I could be excited, frustrated, angry, etc. " Above all else, get to know your dog's personal signals and look at the whole body when deciding what your dog is expressing. Tail position alone won't tell you everything but it might give you a clue.

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