Tail wagging by dogs is one of the most common behavior of dogs as their tail moves back and forth. Most of us have observed this behavior of dogs towards their owners.
Last month, my neighbor bought a dog, of Golden Retriever breed. As I love dogs, I used to take it for a walk in the evening with the prior permission of its owner. Last week, I noticed a slight change in its behavior. I saw that it started wagging its tail on meeting its owner. For me, it was quite weird to see a dog wagging its tail only at a particular point of time. Then I asked its owner for which he replied “Tail wagging is used by dogs as a social signal to convey their emotional state”. I found it very interesting. Then I did a throughout study and was glad to find some interesting facts.
Dogs tail perform multiple roles like helping in balancing and communication. Wagging also occurs in circular motions and the height of the tail reflects its emotional state. It is a common myth that a dog wagging its tail is a happy dog and it’s a sign of friendliness. But in reality, it could be a signal for fear, insecurity or even warning. In some ways, tail wagging serves the same communication function as a human smile, a nod of recognition or a polite greeting.
A dog wags its tail only when other living being is around which could be a person, animal or something else seemingly alive. Tails position specifically its height at which it is held, can be considered a sort of emotional meter. If a tail is held vertically, dog is attentive and alert. Middle height of tail suggests the dog is relaxed. If the tail’s position drops lower, it means that dog is becoming more submissive, worried or feeling poorly. Also its movement gives additional meaning to the signals. The speed of the wag indicates how excited the dog is. Meanwhile the breadth of each tail sweep reveals whether the dog’s emotional state is positive or negative, independent from the level of excitement.
A slight wag with each swing of only small breadth, is usually a sign of greeting or recognition of a person. A broad wag is a sign of friendliness. This is the closest to the most popular concept of the happiest wag. A slow wag with the tail at half mast is less social than most other tail signals. Tiny, high speed movement that give the impression of tail vibration are signals that the dog is about to do something – usually run or fight. If the tail is held high while vibration, it is most likely an active threat.
When dogs feel generally positive about something or someone, they their tail wag more towards the right side. And when they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is based to the left. Thus, when dogs see their owners, their tail wags vigorously with a bias towards the right side of their bodies.
After this throughout study, I started observing my neighbor’s dog and its behavior on coming back home and meeting its owner after evening walk. I was glad to observe that its tail wagged towards right and then it moved its tail continuously forward and backward. After coming back home, it used to move around its owner and then its owner would happily give retriever its favorite food.