Dog Tail Positions Meaning

Dog Tail Positions Meaning

You think your dog can only bark and whine to communicate? Think again!

A dog’s tail does more than just help him walk and maintain balance. If you pay attention, it is also a great indicator of how he is feeling. Experts have found that a dog uses different tail positions when dealing with different emotions and connecting with other dogs and humans.

This is why knowing what these dog tail positions mean could be of great use while hanging out with them.

Common Dog Tail Positions And Their Meanings

Common Dog Tail Positions And Their Meanings
Image by 👀 Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

Here we have listed some common positions dogs hold their tails on and what they could mean under different circumstances:

1. Tail Held High – They’re The Boss

Tail Held High – They’re The Boss
Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

When you meet your friends at a park for walking your dogs together, keep an eye on their tails. A tail held up, and high is a way of communicating confidence and authority to fellow dogs. This is a canine’s way of telling that they are the boss around here.

This does not necessarily mean any aggression, it only establishes dominance which is quite crucial among animals.

2. Up And Fast – Over The Moon

Up And Fast – Over The Moon
Image by Davies Designs from Pixabay

A dog on its toes with its tail held up and wagging at a joyfully high speed is always a treat to watch. It is a sign of excitement and happiness.

Usually, the faster the tail is wagging, the happier the dog is. Also, they may even start twerking up their whole hind part to express their joy. In this case, it is better to calm them down before they hurt themselves or others.

3. Up And Steady – Chill Pill

Up And Steady - Chill Pill
Image by Andrey_and_Lesya from Pixabay

This is the tail position that represents that the dog is relaxed and happy. The tails are held high but are not moving as wildly. Again, a nice and steady pace means a calm and content dog.

This may be a common position when you come back home after a long day at work, and your pup rushes to greet you. Similarly, when you offer them a treat, this may be their way of showing gratitude.

4. Parallel To The Ground – Undecided…for Now

Parallel To The Ground – Undecided…for Now
Image by Alberto García from Pixabay

When a dog has not yet comprehended whether to react negatively or positively to a situation, they keep their tails in a midway position. This is a neutral position and is best translated as anticipation of what is coming next.

Also, when your canine is eager to learn something new, they may hold their tails in this position.

5. Parallel But Stiff – Caution

Parallel But Stiff – Caution
Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

You may confuse this position with the last one. But if you pay a little attention, there is a slight difference. Here, the tail is held horizontally but has noticeable tension and stiffness in its stature. This may also be valid for the rest of the body language.

When your dog holds this position, it mostly signals alertness. They are ready to be aggressive if the circumstances call for it.

You’ll most likely witness this when they meet a new dog or are petted by a stranger, or are in a new environment.

It means they are waiting. If they sense a threat, they will consequently be ready to deal with it. But if all remains calm, you’ll see the usual tail wagging again.

6. Low And Away – At Ease

Low And Away - At Ease
Image by Eileen Stroup from Pixabay

This is the most common position you’ll find. The tail is lowered down and stretched out, away from the body.

Ideally, your dog should be in this position when they are walking around, just minding their own business without any drama going on. This means that they are peaceful and at ease.

Also, they may be feeling a little sluggish and lay down later to rest.

7. Down, Close, And Still – Getting The Creeps

Down, Close, And Still – Getting The Creeps
Image by Lino Lombardi from Pixabay

You should be concerned if your dog signals you his unease in this way. The tail is held very close to the hind legs and is quite tense. A tense tail is never a good sign, so you might want to do something to ease up your pup.

Meeting a new dog they don’t like or a human stranger they feel insecure around can put your dog in a bad mood. However, you should be careful not to increase the stimulants so they don’t tip over the edge completely.

Alternatively, get down on your knees and do what you need to do to make your pooch feel comfortable. Have a little talk, give a little belly rub, a pat on the back, or whatever makes them feel at home.

8. Brushing The Legs – Not On Top Of Their Game

Brushing The Legs - Not On Top Of Their Game
Image by Sciffler from Pixabay

Every dog has its day…but this may not be it. With their tails touching the hind legs, your dog accepts that he is not the alpha around here. Instead, they are submissive to other bigger or stronger dogs.

Additionally, you can see such behavior in front of humans. Around humans, it usually means that they are sorry or regret something they did. For example, maybe you forbade them to chase the birds or tip over their food bowl, and this is their way of apologizing to you.

Studies suggest that positioning the tail in this manner is a tactic to make the body appear smaller. This is because they want to avoid looking tough or big in an attempt to ward off any trouble.

9. Between The Legs – Terrified And Vulnerable

Between The Legs - Terrified And Vulnerable
Photo by sergio souza from Pexels

Loud noises, crowded areas, scary dogs, or people can cause your best friend to adopt this position. It is the most vulnerable a dog can be and wants to show that he is scared and just needs to feel safe.

Therefore, when you encounter a similar behavior, be quick to address their fears and make them feel secure and loved. Get rid of whatever it is that is scaring them, if possible. If not, do everything you can to make them feel more comfortable and less prone to being hurt.

Never force your dog into anything they are not okay with because an already scared dog is easily triggered and can do something that they (or you) will regret later.

10. Slow Wag – Confused

Slow Wag – Confused
Image by Mohan Nannapaneni from Pixabay

If there is something too complicated for their innocent brains to understand, your dog will slowly wag their tails till they get the hang of the situation. This slow movement means they are confused and are analyzing the situation to understand better.

The slow wag is usually combined with perked-up ears and skeptical eyes. In short, this is when a pooch looks the cutest!

11. Raised Tail With Erect Hair – Last Warning!

Raised Tail With Erect Hair - Last Warning!
Image by Lindasay from Pixabay

An alert dog with the tail held up high with the hair on the tail standing straight is the last sign you will receive before an act of aggression. That is your dog’s way of saying that he’s done and will now react severely.

This may proceed with a growl or bark, so you should quickly remove the aggressor if you want to avoid any unwanted violence.

The hairs on the tail and the back of a dog are called hackles, by the way, and they stand erect when a dog is alert and is ready to attack.

12. Wagging Right – They’re Happy, And They Know It!

Wagging Right - They're Happy, And They Know It!
Image by Lindasay from Pixabay

It is a common misconception that when a dog is wagging his tail, he is happy. You may want to look closely because this notion is true only half the time.

New behavioral studies have found that when wagging, if the tail is more inclined towards the right, a dog usually feels ecstatic and confident. Again, this is because they are comfortable and are around something or someone they know.

13. Wagging Left – Disapproval

Wagging Left – Disapproval
Photo by Cam Bowers on Unsplash

Similarly, if the dog moves his tail more to the left, he may not be very comfortable with his surroundings. The other dogs or the person close to him may be giving off negative vibes, and he wants to show his disapproval of them.

14. Not Moving At All – Injury Or Illness

Not Moving At All - Injury Or Illness
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

If you notice that your pup hasn’t moved his tail for quite some time, make sure to assess them for any injury or illness.

A tail can be broken, fractured, or severed at the nerves, just like other body parts. Moreover, an underlying health condition can also make your dog lethargic and limit his overall mobility, including the tail.

Make sure to get him checked with a veterinary expert and get appropriate treatment.

How Do Anatomical Differences Affect Tail Positions?

How Do Anatomical Differences Affect Tail Positions?

Tails come in all shapes and sizes. Hence, there can be anatomical differences among different breeds and different dogs of the same breed. The above tail positions will then, of course, vary with each shape and structure.

Spending some time with your pet will let you know them better and understand their emotions and signals with more fine-tuning.

Interpreting tail positions is the key to learning the doggie language. They may not be able to speak, but they have evolved to use their handy little tail to let you know how they are feeling.


Behaviorists have studied these positions to improve their communication with dogs and help them navigate around humans more comfortably.

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