A dog’s tail: the meanings behind its movements

A dog’s tail is an effective means of communication. Used on its own or together with a particular posture or movement, it helps the dog to express its intentions and feelings just like cats. Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor and expert in pet behaviour, helps us to discover the meanings behind our dog’s tail movements.

A dog’s tail posture

Tail held high and straight like an antenna: the dog is confident and has a positive attitude. If you notice a stiff, directional movement, with a small push forward of its whole body, the dog is “warning” whoever or whatever is in front of it that it is ready to face-off.

Relaxed tail: the dog is quiet, its mood is calm and balanced. It is open to contact from others.

Tail tucked under: the dog is scared and unsure of the current situation so adopts a passive attitude. It will probably avoid any type of confrontation unless forced in to it.


A dog’s tail: let’s observe its movements

Tail held high with slow movements: the dog is probably nervous and feeling confused.

Wagging tail with large and fast movements: the dog is happy – it invariably displays this behaviour when its owner returns home.

Tail up, in-line with the rest of the body, absence of a simultaneous movement of the pelvis: tension is very high, if forced in to contact at this moment, the dog could either try to escape or attack.

Tail held low between the legs, possibly wagging: emotional tension is high, the dog could growl or try to bite if confronted!

Have you seen any of these posture and habitual movements in your four-legged friend? Before arriving at a conclusion however, we should take into account the differences between breeds and physical conformation: for example, the Siberian husky naturally holds its tail high, while other dogs, even if it’s a generally prohibited practice, are deprived of a tail. Moreover, in some cases the tail can express disturbance or discomfort: for example, if our dog chases its tail it could have a problem relating to insufficient physical and mental activity or an organic disease, so it will be best to consult the veterinarian in the event your pup is displaying this behaviour.

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