Sad Dogs Also Wag Their Tails

There are different tail movements in dogs. The way the dog waves it can reveal how it feels. Although almost everyone equates a wagging tail with joy, this is not always the case.
Sad dogs also wag their tails

We believe that the dog’s tail only swings back and forth when it is happy,  but sad dogs also wave their tails. The difference between sorrow and joy depends on the direction in which it waves.

If it goes to the right side, it is a sign of positive emotions; if it goes to the left side, it is a sign of a negative feeling.

Studies show that dogs suffer from higher heart rate and anxiety when they see another dog with its tail bent to the left. The explanation is that it signals danger or a perceived threat.

But when a dog puts its tail to the right, other dogs will remain relaxed. For this reason, tail wagging is a more nuanced form of communication than most people think.

This is caused by the asymmetric function of a dog’s brain, which causes the tail to point to the active hemisphere at a given time.

For us humans, it is not as easy to detect how the dog’s tail moves,  but for dogs it is natural.

Tail movements

Dog with a straight tail

Almost all of our pets’ tail movements say something to us or other animals. This is why it is so important for dogs to have a tail. It is good for socializing and avoiding problems with others.

One could equate it with people’s facial expressions.

But there is more, because the tail movements also spread the smell of pheromones that the dogs have in the anal glands. It is another channel the dogs use to communicate.

What a tail wagging really means

  • Circular movements: the dog shows empathy, joy or a desire to play.
  • Quick movements from side to side: the  dog is playful, happy and happy, but also impatient and nervous. The dog is torn between desire and fear in these situations. A desire to do something and a fear of what will happen if it does.
  • For example, if we place a plate of food in front of the dog and then approach it, it will wave its tail to signal joy over the food, but suspicion towards the person approaching because it can take the food away from him.
  • Short and quick movements:  in these cases the dog is ready to attack if it comes with ears that bend backwards and bare teeth.
  • The tip of the tail is raised: the  dog shows authority. It considers itself dominant, and it will be difficult to get it to change its mind.
  • The tip is raised and bent: the  dog shows self-confidence and self-control.
Dog in nature

The dog’s tail positions

  • If the tail is horizontal , it usually indicates that something interests the dog. Something has caught its attention.
  • If the tail is horizontal and its hair is on end, the dog is nervous about a possible confrontation. It is best to avoid it.
  • If the tail is low and far from its hind legs, it is a sign that the dog is calm and relaxed.
  • If the tail is low, close to the hind legs and shows small lateral movements, the dog is insecure. It feels uneasy and does not like anything in the environment.
  • If the tail is between the legs, it is usually due to fear. It can also mean submission to the dominant member of the flock. This movement is very important and one of the things that gets lost when docking tails. No pheromones are spread when the dog has its tail between its legs.

Sad dogs also wave their tails, and it is important that we as owners learn as much as we can about how dogs communicate.

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