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Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails When They Are Happy?

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails When They Are Happy?

13 minute read

Most dog owners believe that dogs wag their tails when they are happy to see them or happy in general! Is this true? Most of the time the answer is, “Yes!” But there are many different ways to interpret your dog’s body language. Here’s what you need to know.

Know Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails

A tail wag means different things to your dog. Think about it this way: tail wagging is one of your dog’s many ways of communicating to you and other animals. Tail wagging is a form of body language.

When you meet another person, you often smile and ask how that person is doing. We use our body and spoken language to convey how we feel. In the same way, dogs use their tails as a way of communicating how they feel.

What’s challenging is that dogs don’t speak the same way that humans do, and communication is a two-way street. It’s not only about how we interpret our dog’s body language, but also about how we are able to communicate our thoughts and “commands” to our dogs. 

Sometimes it is hard for your dog to understand what you are trying to say. Dogs pick up on everything from your body language to tone of voice. This can confuse them, especially if you are inconsistent with the words you use. 

A training collar from Wiggle Kingdom can help you communicate clearly with your dog, and you can kindly communicate with your small dog using this high quality collar. It can help you prevent and stop unwanted behavior to keep your pup safe!

Does your dog want to jump on people, attack other dogs, excessively bark, or run out into a busy street? This causes us anxiety because we don't want our dog hurt. Sometimes it is hard to get our dogs to understand you really don't want them hurt.

Using a training collar will help you protect your small dog thanks to clear communication!

why do dogs wag their tails?

How Can I Communicate Better with My Dog?

Just because you don’t have a tail, it doesn’t mean you can’t communicate clearly with your dog!

When you set healthy boundaries for our little dogs, like not jumping on people, you use your words to tell them “No.” 

It’s not just words and body language. You also can use a wireless shock collar from Wiggle Kingdom to convey to your little dog how important it is not to jump on people – or whatever unwanted behavior your dog engages in. You can use one of the collar’s three settings (sound, vibration, and shock) to bring your dog’s attention back to you.

But communication isn’t limited to just humans and dogs. 

Dogs communicate with each other, too! When we wonder why do dogs wag their tails, we also need to remember that sometimes they're trying to communicate with each other!

Puppies learn to wag their tails just like a baby may learn some words. In fact, puppies start wagging their tails as early as 3 to 4 weeks of age, but this depends on the breed of dog you have. More specifically, puppies utilize tail wagging to communicate with their littermates and their mothers!

The difference between canines and humans is that we are born with the ability to form words later in life, but dogs are limited to indistinguible barks and body language. For example, your dog may push its ears back to tell you something, or it might put its head down. Just like we use our words, dogs use their bodies.

Through evolution, dogs' tails have changed in appearance. They are now bushy, shaggy, long, curly, or have a pop of color on them. Why? The tails evolved to be noticed. This is so other dogs and creatures can see the tail movement and interpret its meaning easily.

Now your dog is part of your “pack” and vice versa, they use their tail to communicate with you! Think about it: you can tell how excited your dog is to see you based on how quickly it is wagging!

But excitement and happiness aren’t the only emotions a dog can communicate with its tail..

What Does a Dog’s Tail Tell You? How Do I Interpret My Dog’s Tail Position?

Why do dogs wag their tails? Dogs are showing emotions through the position of their tail. Here are some common emotions your dogs may be feeling and what tail wagging means:

  • Lowered Tail. If your dog's tail is lowered, it often is a sign that they are nervous, or submissive. If it is really lowered, then your dog is very scared.
  • A Tail Held Higher Than Usual. This means they are curious about what is happening or what is around. It could mean your dog has spotted something like a squirrel. If their ears are raised, they could be preparing for something and a little agitated. (Like that pesky squirrel they are ready to meet).  If the tail is raised and arches over the back this could be an aggressive stance.

    This could be a good time to get your puppy's attention to prevent any aggression. You can get their attention by using a puppy training shock collar from Wiggle Kingdom.

    These collars are the world's smallest training for small dogs. They are high quality collars with a remote so you can use them from up to 1000 feet away! For example, if you are at a park and your puppy puts its tail straight up in the air because it sees a squirrel running towards the road, and then takes off, you can call your puppy and then use the vibration mode to get its attention and bring it back to safety. You want your puppy safe and happy and you can use a training collar to help train it.
  • A Tail Wag with a Wiggle. Your dog is being friendly and might want to play.
  • Natural Position. When your dog is feeling relaxed the tail will return back to its natural position.
  • A Slow Wag. Your dog is unsure about the situation. They could be feeling insecure.
  • A Fast Wag Back and Forth. Excitement. The faster the wagging the more excited your dog is. He or she could be really excited to see you or really excited about a treat.
  • Stopping the Tail Wagging and Freezing. This means the dog is ready to negotiate without aggression. For example, if another dog has entered your yard, it wouldn’t be uncommon for your dog to freeze and keep its tail completely still. Your dog is saying we could be peaceful. 

How dogs wag their tails could change at any moment and you need to remain watchful for what they might be feeling next. This could turn into a fight.


This is why good communication with your dog is key. You want to be able to stop your dog from getting hurt or from being aggressive. While you are training your puppy a, training collar could be what you need to make sure your dog listens to your communication. We don't want to see our little dogs hurt in any way, and it is important that your little dog knows when it is time to cease bad behavior and come back to you.

what does it mean when dog wags tail

Wagging in a Certain Direction

Is your dog wagging their tail more or left or right? There has been research on what it means when dogs temporarily point their tail in a specific direction. According to the researchers, here’s what it means:

Wagging more to the right: your dog is relaxed and happy.

Wagging more to the left: your dog could be stressed, alert, and anxious.

How did researchers figure this out?

Well, the researchers knew that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body

What they discovered was that if  the tail goes to the left, then the right side of the brain is engaged – and the right side of the brain controls negative feelings like fear, sadness, and depression.

Similarly, when the tail goes to the right side, the left side of the brain is engaged. The left side of the brain controls positive feelings of happiness and love.

It was also proven that dogs observe other dogs tail wagging as a social cue. In a study done in 2013, hundreds of dogs were studied. They viewed videos of other dogs wagging their tails. The study participants had their heart rate monitored by a vest, and 43 different dog breeds were included. Some videos included actual dogs and some videos included silhouettes of dogs. 

When the dogs viewed the video of dogs wagging their tail more to the right they were relaxed and engaged. Many dogs approached the screen. But when the dogs viewed the videos of dogs wagging their tails to the left they were anxious and their heart rate increased. 

This shows us how important the social cues of dogs are. Socializing our dogs is so important. We don't want our dogs to be aggressive dogs at the dog park making another dog feel stressed out. That is why teaching your dog your commands are important.

You can use verbal commands, but sometimes we need more to get our dogs attention. You can use the sound setting on your shock collar for toy breed. The collars have a sound, vibration, and a static shock setting that feels like a rubber band. These collars are specifically made for toy breeds to fit them without weighing them down and without hurting them.

Other Purposes of the Tail

The tail is not only used for communication but it is also used to help them get around. Tails help  dogs keep their balance. Their tail allows them to take corners quickly while keeping their balance.  They use their tail in the opposite direction as they are tilting, much like a motorcycle driver will lean to the opposite side they are tilting to keep their bike up.

Dogs also use their tails to swim. They can use their tail like a rudder to help them steer in the direction they want to go.

What About Dogs Without a Tail?

Ancient Romans believed a dog's tail should be docked (amputated) to keep the dog from getting rabies.  

It wasn’t just in ancient times. Several decades ago, some people believed working dogs should have their tail docked to keep them from getting hurt. Recently, breeders docked dog tails because they believed it was aesthetically pleasing. 

Tail docking has become illegal now in many countries.

Many tailless or small tailed breeds were made that way through years of selective breeding so they would achieve that look without docking tails. Many breeds are born without much of a tail. Breeds that usually are born without much of a tail or small tail are a Boston Terrier, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Braque du Bourbonnais, Brittany Spaniel, English Bulldog, and the French Bulldog.

It might be more difficult for you to communicate with short tailed dogs since you will not know what their tail wagging means since they won't have much of a tail to see. To understand these dogs you will need to listen to their vocal cues.

Your dog might have different pitches of barking; such as a certain pitch to go potty. They might have a certain pitch bark for when someone is coming to your door. They might whimper or whine when they are uncomfortable or sad. Your dog might sigh with fully open eyes when it is annoyed with you. It is like your dog is saying "I guess we aren't going for a walk now even though I want to go walk now.” If your dog sighs with its eyes closed and head down that could mean your dog is content.

Your dog also might use its body more to convey how it feels. Your dog might smile at you, they might put a paw on you to signal that it wants to stay near you, and it might wiggle to say "I'm so happy to see you!”

If your dog does not have much of a tail to wag to convey its emotions it will use its body and its language to communicate with you what it needs.

why dogs wag their tails

Communication is Key to Good Behavior

What does it mean when a dog wags its tail? Now you know tail wagging could be many emotions. Your dog could change its emotions quickly. You need great communication with your dog.

You need great communication with your dog to keep it safe. While you are training your puppy or dog you need them to know you have the best for it in mind.

A training collar from Wiggle Kingdom could be the answer to great communication with your dog or puppy. These collars were specifically made for toy breeds.

The collars are user-activated with remotes are small and can fit in your pocket. The remotes have a large, illuminated screen so it can easily be read in day or night.

Wiggle Kingdom Collars are water resistant and durable, meaning you don't have to worry if you take your dog for a walk and it starts to rain. You also don't have to worry if your dog decides to play in the mud puddle!

Wiggle Kingdom Collars were specifically made for small and toy dog breeds. Is your little dog not having luck with traditional training?  Try a Wiggle Kingdom Collar. 

In just 3 easy steps you can use this collar.

  1. Put the collar on.
  2. Catch your dog misbehaving.
  3. Activate the collar.

You choose between sound, vibration, or shock. Static shock might be too much for your little dog, so these collars have a sound and vibration setting. There are nine levels of intensity. You can switch between levels until you find the level that will get your little dog's attention.

Wiggle Kingdom Collars have a long battery life with auto shut off, so it will turn off when you are not using the collar. The battery is rechargeable too!

One Final Thought: Quite a Tail

Your dog's tail is just another great quality that your dog has. 

Whether your dog has a long tail, a short tail, a curly tail, or a fuzzy tail, make sure to pay attention to it so you can better understand your dog!. 

Not only is your dog's tail cute, but it is a great communicator.  Keep those communication lines open with your furry friend by listening to it and clearly communicating what you need as well.

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