Protecting Dogs From Pests and Wildlife: A Pet Owner Blog

Tell Tail Signs: What Your Dog's Tail Is Trying to Tell You

by Courtney Wheeler

As a dog owner, the desire for your pet to be able to talk will almost certainly have crossed your mind at one time or another. Even the most patient pup may become wildly unsettled on occasion, and attempting to figure out exactly what your dog wants can sometimes prove to be a frustrating ordeal.

Of course, the basics of dog psychology are considered to be well known among humans. For example, a dog wagging his tail is a pet that's content and happy, right? Well as it so happens, this is not always the case. What a lot of canine owners do not realise is that their dog's tail movement can actually indicate a wide range of emotional states as well as happiness, and discussed below are common types of tail movement that may help you to decipher what your dog truly wants.


The height of your dog's tail is usually a good place to begin when attempting to ascertain what sort of mood your pet is in. A reasonable summarisation would be that the higher the position of their tail, the more intense a mood they are in.

Low: When your canine is feeling anxious, insecure, or even frightened by something in their immediate environment, they will quite literally tuck their tail between their legs and keep it close to their body. Try to see what might be panicking them, and be sure to give them their own space at this point. A lowered tail lying close to the ground likely indicates that your dog is feeling somewhat submissive and indifferent, and may even be bored. A little playtime with your pup could work wonders here.

Medium: Any dog with their tail positioned midway between being upright and dragging along the ground will usually be rather content and relaxed in their present environment. Be sure to take note of these times, and consider what it might be that's making them feel so comfortable. Did you feed them something particular that day? How many walks have you been on? Is there another friendly pet in the room? Taking stock of what makes your dog happy will allow you take better care of them.

High: In general, dogs with upright tails are on edge; attentive and aware of everything around them. They may be hearing a repetitive noise that's making them prepared, or they may have sniffed out a fellow animal or human who they aren't quite sure about. The higher up the tail moves, the more likely it is that a dog is experiencing some form of extreme emotion—be it excitement, arousal or even anger. If your dog's tail is held rigidly aloft, chances are that they are asserting their authority in the area, and are warning anyone around them to back off. This is never a good time to approach them.


In a similar way to tail height, the higher the speed of your dog's tail wag, the more intense a mood they are probably in.

Low: Dogs wagging their tail in a slow manner are often rather submissive. They may be feeling insecure or unhappy about something in the area, so be cautious about attempting to play with them just because their tail looks a little sad. Chances are they might not be in the mood for socialising. Take your dog's personality into account here, as depending on how they typically tend to receive other animals or humans, inviting other people into your home may not be the way to go at this moment in time.  

Medium: A dog who's wagging his tail at a medium-like rate often indicates a content and relaxed dog who is ready for orders. Just like when your dog is displaying his tail at a medium height, observe your surroundings and see what might be making them feel so comfortable.

High: A dog's tail wagging at high speed may indicate that they are indeed in an extremely happy mood, or that they may in fact be feeling overstimulated or uncertain about something. Keep an eye on other signs when your dog begins to wag his tail at quickly. Are you preparing to head out for a walk? Is there another dog in the vicinity? Has a visitor just entered your home? This can help you to ascertain what sort of excitable mood they are.

Remember to keep your dog's breed type and personality in mind when attempting to decipher their emotional state, and never forget to take note of other bodily behaviour as well as their tail. For more tips, consult clinics like Cardiff Veterinary Hospital.