Dog Knowledge

Dog Tail Position Chart – What Your Dog’s Tail Position Means

dog tail position meaning

Learning to interpret your dog’s behavior is a great way to get to know your dog personally. Our pets constantly tell us a lot about what they’re feeling by how they move their tails. A dog tail position chart can assist in learning the basics.

Let’s learn what the different dog tail positions and their meaning.

They’re trying to tell you something- are you listening?

Dogs are strong communicators. Everything from their eyes to their ears, the way they breathe, and the sounds they make is the language they use to express themselves. A dog that realizes its owner understands what they’re thinking or feeling and responds accordingly is a potentially much happier and more fulfilled animal.

Communication is the means to a bond, so getting to know your dog’s language can deepen your connection with each other. One of their primary forms of communication is taking place through their tail. By learning what their tail movements mean from a dog’s tail position chart, you can understand their thoughts and feelings. 

Let’s take a closer look at the most universal tail positions and their primary meanings. Applying the reason behind each type of tail position can help us anticipate how a dog is likely to respond to a given situation.

No two tails are the same

There are broad categories of tail movement that are generally universal to all canines. When you’re first acquainting yourself with the meaning behind their tail position and motion, it’s helpful to consider that different breeds have structurally very different tails.

Some breeds have short, twisted tails, while others have long tails that droop slightly in a resting position. However, others have medium-length ones that bend slightly when in a neutral position. Take all of this into account when learning the story behind their tail movement so you can mentally picture the shape of your dog’s tail as a neutral template.

It’s not just the position—it’s also the pace

A great way to learn to interpret your dog’s assessment of a given situation is to pay close attention to how fast they’re wagging their tail. Regardless of whether they’re holding it high or letting it droop downward, always pay attention to how vigorous the motion is.

A slowly-wagging tail movement can send several different signals depending on the circumstance. However, most of the time, this means the canine is apprehensive, unenthusiastic, or highly focused on determining a potential threat. Keep in mind that this is different from simply being indecisive.

When a dog is wagging their tail briskly, it is a sign of high interest, excitement, and enthusiasm. Not all high-energy responsiveness means it’s for a good reason, so there’s more to pay attention to, depending on the stimulus they’re responding to.

How broad is the stroke?

When a dog is wagging their tail in broad strokes, it is a sign that they are happy. On the other hand, when they wag their tail in shorter strokes, it generally means they feel uptight or anxious about something. Aside from minor variations from one breed or individual canine to the next, dogs give us visual cues intentionally and subconsciously. 

While more obvious expressions of their emotions tend to be universal, the width of their tail’s stroke back and forth indicates more subtle thoughts or feelings. It’s the combination of these motions that tell the bigger story.

Follow their tail’s directions

The direction of a dog’s tail wag tells us a lot about whether they’re comfortable or stand-offish as a response to stimulation. If they’re wagging their tail towards the right, it’s a good sign that they feel comfortable in your presence. It shows that they’re not concerned about a potential threat. However, if they’re wagging their tail towards the left, it may be a sign of a lack of trust and concern.

Read vertically and horizontally

The position of a dog’s tail is an expression of their mood. When their tail is held high, it is a sign of alertness, anticipation, and excitement. When they tuck their tail low, it shows submission and can also mean they’re worried. If a dog is holding their tail outward p, it is a go-to sign they’re ready for exploring, or that they’re not clued into anything in particular.

Combinations of tail wagging patterns

Dogs will often react to second-by-second events, taking in lots of sights and smells all at once. For example, if they’re wagging their tail briskly, they may be having trouble containing their excitement. They’ll usually pause, hanging their tail to the right as they’re paying attention to someone’s communication or movement. This is even more true if there’s a lot of activity. If your dog’s processing a combination of things that make them excited and also apprehensive or uncertain, it will appear in changes to their wagging.

The tail tells the tale

Taking advantage of your new insight into your dog’s tail-wagging language can bring a new level of interest in your own awareness of what’s going on around you. Since much of the dog’s behavior is instinctive, there’s a chance that they are picking up on something before we’ve even noticed it ourselves. The direction, pace, and primary position of a dog’s tail give us a set of telltale signs to read that can help us anticipate what will happen next.

The language of their tail lets us know how they feel about their surroundings. Similarly, the main structure of how dogs universally wag, including pace, width, and direction, serves much like grammar. When there’s a pause or changes in direction, moving from one pattern to the next, it’s akin to the dog’s creative use of words. It’s up to you to be a good reader.

The closer you pay attention, the more you may be able to gain insight into how your dog might respond to what’s happening. Just as importantly, when your dog realizes you are more aware of what they’re trying to tell you, the more they’ll seek you out for communication. Following a dog tail position chart is a quick, simple way to see exactly what your pet is trying to tell you.

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