But first, why do dogs have tails?
There are three main reasons why dogs have tails:
For balance and movement
The tail allows the dog to counterbalance its movements in tight places and during jumps. It also serves as a directional device during quick turns.
To keep warm
Some breeds, especially long-haired breeds, use their tails to protect their nose and face from the cold.
To communicate (with animals and with you!)
Dogs' tails can be compared to our eyebrows, their movements showing our emotions.
Dogs can totally control the movement of their tails, although most of the time the movements are simply driven by animal instinct.
Not sure if you are interpreting your dog's movements correctly? Here's what many dog behaviorists have deciphered to recognize your dog's signs.
Tail and full body wagging
You probably notice it as soon as you arrive home from work or the grocery store. Your dog greets you by wagging his whole body, his tail circles and wags in all directions. The mouth is slightly open.
Some professionals say that the more the dog wags at the head, the nicer he is.
Tail wags rapidly and shakes
If you recognize this movement, take it as a sign of tension or hostility. It's best to stand back until the dog calms down.
The tail wags slowly
In most cases, the dog is planning his next mischief. Pay attention to the environment around you (presence of animals, people, etc.) and consider your dog's personality before jumping to conclusions.
On the other hand, if you don't know the dog in question, it's best not to interact.
The tail is high and stiff
This is going to be an alert and excited dog.
In the presence of other animals, it may also show dominance.
If the high, stiff tail is accompanied by an open mouth and visible teeth, this is your cue not to intervene.
Tail wagging to the right
Some researchers have interpreted wagging to the right as a sign of friendship and security.
Your dog is more likely to wag his tail to the right when approaching you, while he will wag his tail to the left when approaching a stranger, or an animal he doesn't know.
The tail is pulled down
In this situation, your dog is not totally comfortable, but not totally afraid. He may be feeling nervous or fearful.
Tail tucked between the legs
As you've probably all noticed, this happens when your dog feels threatened or scared by the situation he's in.
The animal's primal instinct takes over and covers his genitals for his own safety.
The tail is curved upwards
Depending on the breed of dog, this may be completely normal and the dog may be totally relaxed.
If this is not the natural position of your dog's tail, it may mean that the dog is totally overexcited.
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