Are dogs really happy when they wag their tails?

Dogs will wag their tail to convey a range of emotions: happiness, nervousness, feeling threatened, anxiety, submission and excitement. It’s thought that when a dog is relaxed, its tail will sit in a resting position.

It’s one of the great joys of dog parenting. After a long day, you arrive home to your furry friend’s slobbery kisses and frantically waving tail. This interaction seems simple enough. Your dog is wagging its tail because it is happy to see you. But did you know that it’s not always that simple?.

Yes, a dog’s tail will frequently wag when it is happy, but it turns out that a dog’s tail can also convey a variety of other feelings and intentions. A dog’s tail may not always indicate that it is feeling friendly; in fact, it may be saying the exact opposite.

What can you do to interpret a dog’s tail wag to determine how your own dog or an unfamiliar dog is feeling given the reasons why dogs wag their tails?

To help you better understand your dog’s mental state, let’s delve deeper into the functions of your dog’s tail and how to decipher its language.

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Most people believe that a dog’s tail will wag when it’s happy, but that isn’t always the case. A dog’s tail can reveal a lot about how they are feeling, and it’s not always a sign that they are outgoing and approachable.

Do dogs only wag their tail when happy?

Dogs often wag their tails to express a state of energetic enthusiasm. In a 2018 study, researchers found: “Dogs wag their tails loosely from side to side to communicate friendliness or their excitability.”

Additional research has validated the link between tail wagging and advantageous canine social behavior.

Are dogs really happy when they wag their tails?

In a 2013 study, dogs demonstrated excitement by wagging their tail in response to their achievements. The researchers write these results suggest “tail wagging may be a useful indicator of positive affective states in dogs.”

Meanwhile, a 1989 study published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior found dogs wagged their tails more after a period of limited social contact. This may explain why dogs wag their tails so much after their owner’s prolonged absence.

Regardless, dogs move their tails for any number of reasons — to convey anxiety, alertness, or other emotions. Some studies even suggest that tail wagging can correspond to a dog’s personality, though further research is still needed to be sure.

Do dogs get tired wagging their tail?

Although they can exercise a certain amount of control, tail wagging in dogs is largely seen as an instinctive response to stimuli. You might remember a certain dachshund that made the news at the start of the pandemic, Rolo. He was so excited that his family were working from home during social distancing, that he sprained his tail from too much wagging. Thankfully, Rolo has since made a full recovery.

“Like all essential doggy business, such as breathing, barking and begging for treats, tail wagging uses energy. When a dog is happy, knows it, and really wants to show it, muscle cells in the tail produce the energy that is needed via a process called aerobic respiration,” explains Dr Helen Pilcher.

This requires oxygen, but if the muscles contract vigorously and the tail wags too much, the cells begin to respire anaerobically, devoid of oxygen. This produces less energy and the byproduct lactic acid, which short-term muscle soreness and fatigue. Even the most animated dog would have to take a break and wait for its cellphone batteries to recharge, claims Pilcher.

Are dogs really happy when they wag their tails?


Is my dog happy when she wags her tail?

A happy dog is one that is wagging and holding its tail in a neutral position. A slow or slight wag could indicate insecurity because you’re neither dominant nor submissive. A fast wag means excitement. A high-up tail wag also conveys aggression and dominance.

Why do dogs wag their tails to show emotion?

The dog is curious when its tail is held straight out. A dog’s tail wags in response to excitement, with more vigorous wags indicating higher excitement.