We love our pets, and we’re always looking for signs that they love us back. A wagging tail is the most assured one of the ways a dog shows off their affection—right? Well, not actually. Dogs will wag their tails when they’re happy or excited, but a wagging tail can actually be used to express a range of emotions, positive or negative.
Wags. What are they good for?
Dogs have been wagging their tails longer before they were “man’s best friend.” Tail wagging was a behavior that originated between other dogs so that they might communicate with one another without the need to say anything. This is an effective method because dogs’ eyes are attuned to movement. Like the human eye reads minute changes in a facial expression, dogs’ eyes are constantly keeping track of any quick movements.
Is this happiness?
Oftentimes, we assume that a wagging tail can only be a good thing. While this certainly can be true, not every wag was created equally. A dog’s tail can reveal the full spectrum of emotion.
Tails can tell us many things. When dogs feel anxious or threatened, they might lower their tail and tuck it between their legs. A tail held up high in the air shows that something has piqued your dog’s attention. A slow wag means that your dog is feeling apprehensive or insecure about something. And a fast wag side-to-side probably means that your pup is excited.
Turns out, even the direction of the wag might have meaning. Dogs wag more to the right when they feel relaxed. Dogs wag their tails to the left more often when they feel alert, stressed, or anxious.
Chances are, your pet is wagging its tail out of love. But good communication is the key to any love, so it’s important to understand the many signals a pet may give with a tail alone.