A dog’s tail provides more than just balance, it is an indicator of their emotional status as well as a signal as to what they may do next. Whether you are meeting a new pup for the first time, taking your dog on the routine daily walk, or introducing him to other creatures, it is important to keep an eye on the animal’s tail for hints about what is going on in his mind. Below are listed some of the main tail postures and stances that dogs take, as well as what they usually mean.
Not that obviously each dog breed will have a different size and shape tail, meaning that the range of motion might be limited depending on the dog. A Boxer’s stubby tail stump will not provide as much insight a Labrador’s, while a Pembroke Welsh Corgi does not even have a tail to speak of. Use the descriptions below as a basic guideline rather than a universal truth for all breeds.
- Standing straight out: A horizontal tail means your dog is focused and alert. He may just be curious, taking in the signs and signals of the environment around him, or he might be focusing on some object specifically. If the tail is raised slightly, the alertness might become playful, and may be a pose short-lived as the eager pup dashes off to play.
- Wagging: A dog with a wagging tail is the tell-tale (pun intended!) sign of excitement and happiness in the dog. If the tail is wagging slowly, the dog is in a calm state of positive feelings, while the quicker the wag, the higher his anticipation is.
- Mid-to-Low: This is generally the relaxed stance of most dogs. They have no reason to be either riled up with excitement or frightened into the threatened stance. When a tail hangs naturally, it means the dog is content or unbothered, and is approachable.
- Drooping: A low-hanging tail usually means that the dog is sad or lonely. If the tail is hanging low between the hind legs, he may even be worried, afraid (or exhibiting what we call the “guilty look”). Dogs that are distressed, keep their tails very close covering themselves, and positioned between their legs. This may be accompanied by an arched lower back, sagging head and flattened ears.
- Lifted/Raised: This either expresses dominance over another creature, or rigid aggression and focus. Some dog tails will stiffen and even quiver when they are highly incensed, and will curl or stand high triumphantly when they have bested their challenger.