Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Beagle Dog
Image by Denise Coyle from Pixabay

Wag the Dog

Does Fido go crazy when you come home? You can bet he does and this simple act of wagging his tail might seem like nothing more than a quirk of dog behavior, but there are other reasons too for wagging as our canine friends can show a range of emotions depending upon the situation they are confronted with.

As we have all experienced and most probably the most noticeable of all dog wagging is when Lulu wants to greet you or others, or maybe even other dogs. Wagging can occur when they want something from you as well, like food or to go outside, or when they just want to play.

This behavior is usually with other canine behaviors, such as barking, licking, and sniffing. 

So let’s start with a list of dog-wagging traits and then go on from there.

      • When they see you coming home. We are all familiar with this one and even when a new person comes knocking on the door. 
      • When they want to go outside. Maybe they need their walk, but also, for homeowners, it could be that they want to play in the backyard. 
      • When they see another dog. No explanation is needed here. This is normal expected behavior.
      • When they are happy.
      • When they want to play. When Lulu wants to play, you will know!
      • When they are running. This happens because when dogs run, their muscles contract. This causes their blood vessels to expand, which leads to increased blood flow in their legs and tails, subsequently causing the wagging effect.

Do Dogs Wag Their Tails When They’re Scared?

We have all seen and experienced that when a dog is quiet, his tail is relaxed, but when confronted with emotions, such as nervousness or feeling threatened, his tail starts moving. Most noticeable is that Casper shows fear. His tail may be positioned in a downward state, but this can vary depending on the dog breed.

When They Are Playing?

When two dogs are wrestling or playing, they will often wag as a sign of enjoyment and when they play with us humans, the same will show. Some experts go as far as saying that the direction of their wag is a sign of fright or happiness. 

Good Food

Dog with food plate
Photo iStock. Credit Zontica

No doubt Lassie (remember her?) was more than thrilled with excitement when she saw Tommy coming down with her favorite food. Our canine friends love it when there is something good coming their way and their tails tell us all.

It’s a Communication!

Whatever Rin Tin Tin (why in the world did they name him that?) wags, it is because he is communicating something to us or another animal.  Studies have shown something very interesting.

Canines will wag their tails towards the right when they are in a happy mood and their tail will move to the left when they are anxious or scared, and this is not just due to random body movement.

Same to our emotions being elicited from either the right or left side of our brains, similar reactions occur for four-legged friends, so when Fluffy moves her tail to the left, it is the right side of her brain that is causing her to do this.

Researchers have determined that a dog’s left side of the brain is related to good feelings, such as relaxation, happiness, or even love, and that is displayed by her tail moving to the right. Then, knowing that the right half of the brain is associated with bad feelings, Fluffy will move her tail to the left if she anticipates fear or anxiety, or some other negative emotion.

Tell That Tail

When it comes to wagging tails, there are many different reasons that a dog may do it. It may be because they are happy, when they are playing, or even when they are scared of another animal or human. 

Wagging tails are just one of the many types of a dog’s communication and when you know what your dog is trying to tell you, you can communicate better with them and both of you can enjoy an optimum relationship!