Never assume that a dog with a wagging tail is safe to approach. If you do, you may get a rather unpleasant surprise because not all dogs that wag their tails are ready to be your best friend.
Dogs wag their tail as a means of expressing themselves. Thus, dogs have different tail stances for different circumstances. The stance or position of the tail can tell you a lot about a dog’s mood, so you should look before you leap into thinking that a wagging tail is an invitation to pet the furry critter.
One can often determine what a dog is trying to tell you by watching the canine’s tail. The act of tail wagging stems from the past when dogs used their tails and ears to communicate with each other in the wild. Today, pet dogs tend to communicate with humans as much, if not more, than other dogs.
Puppies learn the language of tail wagging. Puppies are not born with the knowledge to communicate with their tails. Young puppies do very little tail wagging because there is little social interaction necessary in the first couple weeks of their lives. As they age and become old enough to communicate their feelings through their body stances, puppies begin using their tails more to accomplish this.
Although many dogs do have their own unique means of expressing themselves, some stances are pretty much universal. For example, a happy dog that is in the mood to play will most likely crouch down. His or her tail will wag erratically back and forth with vigor in an effort to entice you to play. This position lets you the dog is quite happy to interact positively with you with a game of fetch or a run in the park.
Dogs that have been alerted to a noise or smell may tend to stand at attention while holding their tails stationary in the middle of their backs. This tail stance lets you know that the dog feels the need to be inquisitive and investigate whatever has caught his or her attention. The dog has yet to decide if a situation is dangerous or friendly.
Beware of the dog that holds his or her tail high in the air while making slow, deliberate wags. This is frequently an indication that the dog is feeling aggressive. He or she may feel the need to defend their territory, so beware.
A dog that is afraid or feeling submissive will tuck his or her tail low between the legs. Any movement of the tail will be slight. The dog is telling you or another animal that he or she accepts you as the dominant force.
A dog that has his or her tail between their legs while holding their ears back should be given plenty of room. It means that the dog is feeling apprehensive about something. It is best to avoid petting a dog when his or her body language is telling you that there is something to be nervous about. Fear can cause dogs to become aggressive.
Dogs that walk around with a relaxed tail are showing you that they are content and comfortable. This is one of the better times to approach a strange dog.
A dog that hangs his or her tail horizontally without stiffening it is showing you that there is something interesting nearby that needs the canine’s undivided attention.
If the dog hangs his or her tail horizontally while stiffening it, he or she is showing that there is an intruder nearby. The dog is lying in wait to see what is going to happen.
Dogs that are making their dominance known will generally hold their tails upright as a sign of authority. They may fluff their tails out so that they look bigger. They are telling you that they are boss.
An upright tail that turns up over the back is usually a sign that the dog trusts you. This is a good indication that it is safe to pet the animal.
A dog that is not feeling well will often carry the tail in a downward position close to the legs. If its extremities are rigid and the tail wags slightly, this is an indication the dog is not feeling well. If the legs are slightly bent, the dog is showing that he or she is feeling insecure.
Dogs show fear by cowering and holding their tails between their legs. Avoid contact with dogs that are fearful. Fear can cause the dog to strike out at you.
Dogs that are on guard generally hold their tails in a rigid manner straight out from their body.
Dogs who wag their tails in big, broad circles are telling you that they like you.
Dogs that wag tails at a slow speed are usually saying that they don’t understand what you expect of them. As the dog starts to understand, he or she is likely to being wagging their tail at a faster pace.
Short and slow tail movements show that the dog is pleased and happy. Fast wagging of the tail indicates that the dog feels a great deal of excitement. It is your dog’s way of telling you he or she is quite happy to go for a ride in the car, a swim in the lake or a walk in the park.
Whenever confronting a strange dog, take time to note the body language. Teach your children to look to see what that a dog’s tail is doing before they reach out a hand to pet a strange animal. A little caution can help you and your family to avoid painful dog bites, as well as be better prepared to handle a situation with a dog you do not know. Canines can be unpredictable!
Give the dog all the time that he or she needs to become comfortable enough to come to you. This can help avoid misunderstandings that can result in a painful bite.