Canine Body Language – A Tale of Tails

We mentioned that dogs signal how they are feeling in many ways.  In order to really understand what your dog is trying to tell you, you must look at various parts of the dog’s body.

Today we will look at tails.  There is an old saying that if a dog is wagging his/her tail, the dog is friendly. A wagging tail does not always mean a friendly dog. You need to look at the rest of the dog’s body – is it relaxed or stiff. A high rapidly wagging tail can mean an aroused dog who is very excited, or may bite. These two dogs are meeting each other for the first time.  Notice how high they are holding their tails and how stiff their bodies are.  If they loosen and relax, they may play.  If they stay as uncomfortable as they are in this picture, the result will not be play, and may even end in a fight.IMG_0222

This dog also has a very high tail carriage.  He is on the alert, not relaxed and friendly at the moment.



A tucked tail can mean a frightened dog. This dog is clearly uncomfortable being tied outside to a post and left alone by the owner.  Check out how the tail is tucked.  Clearly a worried dog that could bite if feeling threatened.


These dog have loose, relaxed tails.


Check in soon for additional body signals that help us understand what our dogs are trying to communicate.