Different Meanings of a Dog’s Wagging Tail

A wagging dog tail is most often associated with happiness, but the way a pooch wields his tail can actually mean something entirely different. Just like human body language, a dog’s movements and vocalizations are meant to communicate something about what he’s thinking or feeling. But if you’re not paying attention to everything your dog is doing—not just his tail—it can be easy to miss subtle signs that he may be anxious or afraid. So let’s take a walk through the different meanings of a dog’s wagging tail:

Dogs wag their tails both when they’re happy and when they’re angry, so you can’t tell just by the way their tails are moving.

It may be tempting to think that a dog’s tail wag means the same thing in every situation, but it’s important to understand that dogs use their tails for different reasons. For example, you might see your dog wagging her tail when she sees another dog and thinks they’re going to play. In this case, it could mean anything from “I’m happy now” to “I’m excited,” depending on how fast her tail is moving and how high it is off the ground.

It also depends on what else is going on around you at the time of your dog’s wagging: if she doesn’t show any other signs of tension (like growling or raising her hackles), then there isn’t much reason for alarm—though if something does startle her out of happiness (like another dog barking loudly or children running by), then those things could make her nervous enough to scurry away without warning.

It’s not just the speed of a dog’s tail-wagging that tells you something about how he’s feeling.

  • Wagging speed. If you’re trying to interpret a dog’s mood, look at the speed of her tail movement. A fast wag indicates joy or happiness. A slow, deliberate tail wag is a sign that your dog is feeling sad or upset about something in his environment.
  • Direction of wagging. The direction in which your dog moves her tail can also tell you something about her emotions. When she moves her tail back and forth as she walks around, it could mean that she’s angry or annoyed by something going on around her—or it could simply mean that she’s excited about being there! If your dog holds her tail straight up when she notices someone new walking into the room, this might be an indication of happiness: She recognizes them as someone familiar and friendly! Finally, if she tucks her tail between her legs and continues moving around with it tucked away like this (instead of just holding it down low), then it might be safe to assume that something has scared her—or even worse!

A happy dog holds his tail high and wags it more quickly.

A happy dog holds his tail high and wags it more quickly. He wags it more often, with a more vigorous motion and either to the right or left. He may also move his tail from side-to-side as he’s running, which looks like little figure eights in the air.

A happy dog will move his whole body when he wags his tail; he’ll tilt so far forward that he’s almost falling over on his nose. At times, this is accompanied by a “smile” where the two sides of their mouth go up together (rather than one side going up while another side goes down).

An angry dog holds his tail lower, wags it more slowly and may even whip it side to side.

Tail wagging is a very important communication tool for dogs, so it’s worth learning the different types of tail wagging. When a dog wags his tail furiously and rapidly, he’s usually happy or excited about something (even if he doesn’t know why). When a dog holds his tail lower to the ground, wags it more slowly and may even whip it side to side, he’s probably feeling angry or aggressive toward another person or animal.

When a dog submits to another animal or human by lowering himself on his front legs while holding his head low and exposing his neck, he is sending an invitation for physical contact with the other animal/human. This is often accompanied by fast tail wagging because submission can be uncomfortable for some dogs—they may feel like they’re being overpowered!

Even a dog’s straight-up wagging tail doesn’t necessarily mean he is happy to see you.

A dog wagging his tail doesn’t always signify happiness. There are many reasons why a dog might wag his tail, including excitement and playfulness, but also fear or insecurity. For example, if you approach your dog in an aggressive manner he may turn the tables on you by growling and showing his teeth. If this happens to be the case, then it’s important to back off until he calms down.

Wagging tails aren’t always signs of aggression.

Wagging tails aren’t always signs of aggression. Dogs wag their tails when they’re afraid, happy, or angry. Dogs also wag their tails when they are excited or just plain hyper. So it’s important to keep an eye on the other body language signals your dog is giving you if you see him or her wagging their tail.

Your dog may be trying to predict your actions based on where you’re looking.

Did you know that dogs can predict our actions based on where we’re looking? They do this by using a process called predictive gaze-following. A dog will look at the object or person we are looking at, which helps them understand what we want them to do. For example, if you’re looking at your food bowl and then turn toward your dog, the dog may follow your gaze and move toward the bowl in anticipation of getting some food. The same concept applies with avoiding things they don’t like: if they notice you turning away from something they dislike (like another annoying dog), they’ll follow your lead and leave too.

This is one reason why it’s important for them to know their owner well—if a strange person comes over for dinner (or even just a visit), he or she may be unfamiliar with how his pet reacts around strangers—which could lead him or her into making decisions that aren’t good for everyone involved!

If a dog standing in front of you puts his tail between his legs, he’s probably scared or in pain.

If a dog standing in front of you puts his tail between his legs, he’s probably scared or in pain. A tail between the legs means submission and fear. This can be a sign of pain to make the dog appear less threatening or it could mean that he is trying to tell you that he is scared.

A fast-wagging, low-hanging tail is also a sign of fear or insecurity.

Tail wagging is a sign of happiness, but it can also be a sign of fear. A dog with a low-hanging tail may be feeling insecure or uncomfortable and may use the act of wagging to try to calm themselves down. The faster the overall movement of the tail, the more anxious your dog might be feeling.

If you see your dog’s tail going from side to side rather than up and down as they greet another dog or person, this could mean that they’re feeling threatened by their surroundings and trying to assert that they are not submissive—a trait commonly associated with dogs who have been abused in some way.


As you can see, dogs are pretty smart! Their tails are like a built-in mood ring. But just like people, different dogs have different personalities and behaviors that you’ll need to get used to over time. So keep in mind that sometimes your dog might be wagging his tail because he’s mad at you for leaving him alone all day—or wagging it because he’s happy to see you come home!