What’s The Meaning Behind The Dog Tail Position?
January 13, 2021 | 3 min read
Updated January 13, 2021
By Sarah Milton
Published: January 13, 2021
Updated: February 23, 2023
Summary: Ever been curious about the meaning behind a dog's tail wagging? Or what it means when they put their tail between their legs? In this blog, learn about the dog tail position and each of it's meanings...
Unfortunately, our doggo’s can’t talk to us (Unless they’re like Bunny the Sheepadoodle, who’s learned how to communicate via buttons with her pet parents!). So, we as their owners have to rely on their bark, body language… And, their tail! That’s right, you dog communicates all day through the position of their tail!
If the dog tail position is up or down, it can indicate different emotions your dog is experiencing. And, dog tail wagging? That all depends on the speed, as well as the position!
Today we’re taking a look at what each dog tail position means, as well as dog tail wagging meaning too!
Dog Tail Position Chart
Dog Tail Position
Down, but away from the body
When your dog carries their tail low, but away from their hind legs this means they’re feeling relaxed and comfortable – this is the position we pet parents want to see most of the time, particularly when they’re in the home. Your pup is at ease.
PetLab Co. Pro Tip: This position can also indicate that they’re feeling snoozy so it may be time for your doggo to catch some Zzz’s!
Carried high, tilted upwards (between horizontal and vertical)
Fido’s feeling confident, dominant and in control. They may just be feeling it, or trying to assert it dependent on the situation they find themselves in.
Carried high, slightly curved over their back
Fido feels like the top dog, and is very confident. Obviously if your dog’s tail is naturally curly, then this may not be the case, but if they have a straight tail, you can be sure that they be feeling themselves!
Horizontal (Not Stiff)
Your pooch is playing close attention to their surroundings – they’re focussed on what’s going on around them. It’s worth noticing this one because it could go either way: they’re either preparing because they sense danger or they’re just very curious about a new toy or visitor! At present, it’s still a neutral setting…
When the tail stiffens up horizontally, your dog is feeling a bit more intensely cautious. There may be a new visitor they’re not certain of or an unfamiliar dog close by to them. Your dog is waiting to see what’s going to happen next… It’s good for you to start taking some caution too when you see this tail position as things can change very quickly; negatively or positively…
Down, still and fairly close to the body
If the tail isn’t tucked under the body, and not quite touching the hind legs but close to, this can mean that your dog is feeling a little insecure and uncomfortable; a little low perhaps, too. If you see this happen, they need to be reassured, comforted and kept calm. Some canine behavioralists believe that this is the dog attempting to make their body smaller, so they’re not perceived as a threat from what they’re worried about.
If you keep forcing whatever situation is causing this tail position onto them (a new environment or person), things could escalate negatively, so try to soothe them and take caution.
Tucked between their legs
No dog owner wants to see this dog tail position: this means your dog is frightened and doesn’t want to be hurt. Dogs will do this when they fear punishment, cruelty, a loud noise, or when they’re around anything that’s scaring them. They need lots of comfort and love when this happens: reassuring tones and pets. They’re feeling incredibly vulnerable and need their pet parent more than ever.
Stiff tail, slight quivering
Your pooch is feeling tense, and they need you to reassure them to counteract any aggressive or territorial behavior that may follow a quivering, stiff tail. Make sure that your dog knows that everything is fine before you move on.
Raised, and slowly wagging
This tail position may be accompanied by a tilted head and perked up ears – that’s because this means they’re confused. They aren’t worried, they’re just trying to work out a command, what you’re saying to them, or a new food/toy.
This is a happy doggo! Perhaps their pet parent’s just returned home or they’re being made a fuss of for being such a good doggo or performing a trick and/or receiving their favorite treat.
Fido is excited! A fast wag may be accompanied by an excitable bark, particularly if you’ve just said the word “walkies”!
Right Or Left?
Which side your dog’s tail is leaning toward can also be an indicator of the emotions your dog is feeling.
When a dog’s tail position leans or wags to the right, it means that they’re feeling good and encountering someone or something that’s known to them. If the dog tail position is more to the left, a new person, dog or thing is unknown to them and they’re wanting to exert a little dominance.
Is My Dog Sick?
Sometimes our dog’s tail position can indicate the state of their physical health. If their tail stays low for a while, they may be feeling tired or under the weather. If it’s accompanied by severe lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or joint stiffness, they should definitely be checked over by the vet.
If they haven’t moved their tail in a while, this can be a sign of fracture or breakage, so make sure they see a vet pronto if this is what you suspect.
Dog Tail Position
Isn’t it amazing what we can learn about our dogs simply through their tail?
It’s worth noting though that the above dog tail positions and their translations aren’t a one-size-fits-all. Every dog is different and only you, as their parent, will know what the true meaning of your dog’s tail position really is – the above is just a good barometer to start with!
Even though we can’t communicate with our pups like we do other humans, learning about how our dogs do exhibit emotion is a great part of being a responsible, loving pet parent. It can only enhance our bond with them and boost our understanding of their unique personality further.
"This Dog Can “Talk” To Her Owner" Mashable on YouTube, Jul 22. 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LQt5TCHq6E
Author Harris, Steve "A Dogs Tail Can Tell You a Lot: Here are 13 Positions and Their Meaning" Daily Dog Stuff, Apr 7. 2021 https://www.dailydogstuff.com/dog-tail-positions-meaning/
"A Dogs Tail Will Tell You A Lot" Family Pet Health Center https://familypethealthctr.com/pet-articles/a-dogs-tail-will-tell-you-a-lot/
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!