Tail Wagging Secrets You Need To Know (Part 2)
By noticing your dog's tail in different types of settings, activities and environments you can quickly learn to distinguish what your dog is signaling just by the position and movement of the tail. Keep in mind that dogs with docked tails or very short tails, or breeds that carry their tails curled up tightly on their backs such as the Pomeranian, Spitz and Malamutes will have a slightly different method of using their tail as a social signal. For dogs that have a normal, horizontal to downward sloping tail the following general information is applicable, no matter what the breed, age or gender of the dog.
When a dog is relaxed the tail is normally carried either horizontal or slightly downward, some breeds it many be relatively close to the hind legs and then curling up and away in a gentle scythe shape to the tip. When a dog carries their tail in this position they are signaling they are calm and relaxed, not feeling threatened and ready to do whatever is asked. Dogs that have normally high positioned tails like many of the terrier breeds will have their tail slightly lower and the over the back tail breeds will have a relaxed and slightly flattened curl to the tail.
Moving the tail into a more elevated or horizontal position signals an interest in something that is happening, but not a worry or concern. Dogs in training that are very focused on learning something new often have a slightly horizontal tail that is gently wagging, a signal they are concentrating but still content. Often dogs approach other dogs with this slightly elevated or straightened tail signaling "I am willing to be friendly if you are, but I can also protect myself".
Dominance or Protection
If your dog normally carries his or her down to level and he or she is feeling threatened, showing dominance or establishing that they are the boss dog, the tail will be carried as high as possible and the hair is often very puffed out, making the tail look bigger. The tail is not wagging but rather is held very rigid. Often the hair along the spine is also bristled which serves to make the dog look bigger and more aggressive. In some breeds such as the working dogs, the aggressive posture may result in a more dramatic bend or upward swing to the tail when they are in the dominant or protective posture. Spitz type tails will tend to be held more tightly curled with a bristling or fluffing out of the longer hair over the tail curl.
Dogs that are showing a slight amount of submission tend to carry their tails down close to the hocks with little or no upward curl. The hair is very flat on the tail and there is usually a slight bit of wagging, especially towards the tip of the tail. In extreme submission the tail is literally tucked between the dog's hind legs and is held as close to the body as possible. In some breeds the tail may even curl around the underside of the body. Even in spitz type dogs the tail will be held down close to the hindquarters. A tail that is flat against the body can also signal that the dog is ill or feeling unsure of the situation or environment.
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