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The tale of the tail

Animal behaviourist and Assistance Dogs Australia ambassador Dr Jo Righetti talks about the importance of a wagging tail.

Don’t you just love to see your dog’s tail wagging? Most of the time a wagging tail equals happiness but not every time. A wagging tail is actually an indication of heightened emotional arousal and can indicate pleasure (when your dog sees you approach, for example) or alertness (when they see an unknown dog approach).

When a dog is a little concerned or downright afraid of a situation, their tail is held low, often tucked down between their legs. A confident dog, on the other hand, will hold their tail high in the air and may even wave it stiffly from side to side.

The angle of the tail can also depend on the dog’s breed and natural tail stance, however, so if you are unsure what the tail is telling you, look at the rest of the dog’s body language. A dog can be quick to change emotional state too, so always be cautious when you are near a dog you do not know and pay attention to what the dog is trying to communicate.

Dogs tails are used in communication with other dogs, to signal alertness, fearfulness or confidence. Tails are also used to aid balance, to deter insects, to waft scents and, of course, to look attractive.

Talk to your dog and they will probably wag their tail. Look closely and you will see the tail is probably wagging to the right. This indicates your dog is relaxed. Wagging in the left direction indicates a more stressful situation.

So much information in a simple wag of the tail!

For more information about dogs and their behaviour, visit Dr Jo’s website