Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails: Here Are 5 Top Reasons Why

Have you ever seen your dog wag its tail? If you have dogs, there's an excellent chance that you have seen this before. What you might not know, however, is that there are multiple reasons why a dog might wag its tail. Unlike cats who tend to wag their tail when they are angry (this isn't always the case, but cats do this quite a bit), the answer to "why do dogs wag their tails?" is significantly more complicated. If you've always wanted to deduce your canine friend's tail signals, here are five reasons why your dog might be wagging its tail!

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails? A Common Reason Is That They're Happy!

One of the primary reasons why your dog's tail will wag is that it is happy. When dogs wag their tails, it's sometimes their way of conveying a built-up emotion. When your dog comes to see you after you come home from work, they'll wag their tail furiously to say "hi!!"

This type of dog wag is the most common reason why dogs do these types of motions. The fact that it is so common is the primary reason why many pet owners believe that dogs only wag their tails when they are happy. However, this isn't true. A dog's tail will start moving a lot for a whole range of emotions!

Feeling Nervous

Your dog might wag its tail when it's feeling nervous. Fascinatingly, dogs tend to wag their tail in a different direction when they feel anxious. Researchers at the University of Trento in Italy found that dogs wag their tails more to the right (from the dog's perspective) if they're happy. Conversely, dogs point their tail more to the left when anxious.

Therefore, if you're looking at your dog's face and seeing the tail to the left (from your perspective, which is the opposite of the dog's), you should know that the canine is not happy to see you, but instead, they're anxious. It would be best if you did not rush to pet this dog since that could only lead to more anxiety.

Knowing this subtle difference in tail-wagging behavior can make the difference between a positive encounter and creating a more hostile situation!


Why do dogs wag their tails? If they feel threatened! This point is a bit of a corollary to the point about nervousness (since you would likely feel nervous if you felt threatened), but it's important to point out nonetheless. Your dog might start wagging his or her tail when they feel a little stressed about not being able to find their favorite toy. On the other hand, they might wag their tail when they see a bear and are nervous about what that bear could do to them.

As such, if you see your dog wagging its tail and it seems like it's doing so in a threatened or nervous motion, please ensure that you take care to verify that its surroundings are safe. Your dog may be giving you a warning sign! It would be wise to listen! Part of caring for your dog is understanding their body language.

Another Reason for Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails: Excitement!

A dog tail will also wag if the canine is excited. There are many reasons for your dog to get excited. This includes getting new chew toys, getting treats, or just simply seeing you.

In this case, excitement doesn't necessarily mean happiness. Instead, excitement could be playing fetch, running around, getting food, and so on. Dogs will wag their tails in anticipation of what's to come.

The excited wagging motion will look very similar to the happy movement. If you see your dog's tail wagging when you take your dog outside for a walk, that's why your pet is doing so!


The submission dog tail wagging tends to happen more in packs than at home, but it is nonetheless a standard answer to the question, "why do dogs wag their tails?" Dogs will put their tails lower when they're submissive and not a threat. When they curl their tail between their legs a little bit, that indicates that they are scared.

The science behind these motions is fascinating. The lower the tail position is, the less scent the dog emits from the anal glands. It's a way, effectively, to "mark their territory." A more muscular dog will want to cast the most scent to show that he or she is the "boss." A weaker or more submissive dog will reduce its smell as a way to signal that it respects the other dog's "claim" to that territory. 

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails? For a Variety of Reasons!

No matter what type of dog tails your dog has, they'll wag them for many reasons. The ones above are the most common, but there are others. For example, dogs can wag their tails when they are curious or insecure. The speed of their wagging, the tail's height, and the posture all combine to give an unambiguous signal of how your dog is feeling. With enough time, you'll undoubtedly be able to recognize your dog's tail wagging motion and be able to intervene if necessary.

Your dog's tail movements are not random, however. Quite the opposite, actually. The way they hold and move their tail is one of their primary communication methods! If you want to learn how your pup thinks, look at its tail!

What is a dog's tail made of?

A canine's tail consists of small bones. It's very similar in structure to the spinal cord as it has vertebrae-like bones enclosed in muscle, skin, and fur. Since there are so many little bones, be mindful of any damage your dog's tail may have as it may require vet intervention.

Do wolves wag their tails?

Yes! Fascinatingly, they wag their tails for many of the same reasons why their domesticated dog counterparts do - to signal excitement, submission, and many other things!

What are dog tails for?

While dogs will use their tails to signal things, that's not their tail's primary purpose. The main reason they have tails is to help with their balance. It puts weight on the opposite side of the dog's tilt, thus allowing them to remain upright even on uneven footing.

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Written by Leo Roux

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