The Tail-Wagging Truth: Why Dogs Do It

“Wag more, bark less” – that’s the motto of tail-wagging dogs everywhere. But have you ever stopped to ask why our furry friends wag their tails so much?

It’s not just because they’re happy – although, of course, they often are!

Dogs wag their tails for several reasons, including excitement and happiness, fear and anxiety, attention-seeking behavior, and communication with other dogs and humans.

Let’s dive in and uncover the truth.

Understanding Tail Wagging in Dogs

There are different types of tail wags, believe it or not! A wag to the left or right can mean different things, and even the speed of the wag can convey a different message.

For example, a slow wag can indicate uncertainty, while a rapid wag often signals excitement.

Tail-wagging behavior is a complex mix of emotions and communication. It’s a way for dogs to express their feelings, just like humans use facial expressions and body language.

But unlike humans, dogs can’t just come out and say “I’m happy” or “I’m scared”.


Your dog’s tail is controlled by nerves and muscles, which are connected to the spinal cord and brain. So when your pup’s tail starts wagging, it’s because its brain is sending signals to its muscles to move.

Just like humans, different parts of a dog’s brain are responsible for different actions, and tail wagging is no exception.

It’s a fascinating fact that in all animals, the right side of the brain governs the left side of the body and vice versa …

Why Do Dogs Love to Wag Their Tails?

There are several reasons why dogs wag their tails, but here are a few of the most common:

  • Happiness and excitement: They’re feeling joyful and excited. It’s their way of expressing happiness and enthusiasm.
  • Fearful Flickers: On the other hand, a tucked tail with nervous wags can signal fear and anxiety in dogs. Pay attention to body language to better understand your pup’s emotions.
  • Attention Grabbers: This is often a sign that a furry friend wants to play, go for a walk, or simply be petted.
  • Communication with other dogs and humans: For example, a slow wag to the side might mean “I’m friendly,” while a rapid wag to the right might signal “I’m feeling playful.
  • Dominance and aggression: It can be a sign of dominance and aggression in dogs. A stiff, rapid tail wag can indicate a dog is feeling threatened or aggressive, while a slow, sweeping tail wag can be a sign of dominance (warning).
  • Love and Greeting: Finally, it is a way for dogs to greet and seek affection from their owners and other dogs. A wag is a sign of love and friendship.

Sarplaninac’s Tail Language: Decoding Their Wags

When encountering a Sarplaninac for the first time, it’s important to take note of two key features: the head and tail. Why?

These are considered the defining traits of the breed and what sets it apart. As I don’t wish to suggest ignoring other elements, the head and tail are particularly crucial! This is an unwritten rule but let’s see what the breed standard says.

“The tail is long and reaching at least the hock joint. The topline of the croup is sloping gradually and evenly into the tail. Strong at the root, tapering to the tip, with feathering along the lower side.

Carried in a slight curve like a sabre; when the dog is excited, the curve is accentuated and the tail may be lifted above the line of the back.” [¹]

I recommend closely observing the next photo as I will be highlighting the Sarplaninac’s ideal tail carriage, attack posture, and frightened demeanor.

Final Word

It’s clear that tail wagging is not just a simple gesture, but a complex and multi-faceted language that dogs use to communicate with each other and with humans.

From expressing happiness and excitement to communicating fear and anxiety to seeking attention …

Don’t make assumptions just based on the tail movement. Instead, take a moment to observe the dog’s body language and approach with caution.

And, most importantly, always ask the owner for permission before attempting to pet a strange dog! Trust me, avoiding a nasty bite is worth the extra effort!

Last update on 2023-10-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


My name is Alen Stefanovic, and I am the founder and administrator of the website "Awesome Sarplaninac". As an economist-trade manager, and web designer, I have a passion for the Sarplaninac breed (number 1 dogs for me). My father has been breeding these dogs since 1990, and through the website, I aim to share valuable information about nutrition, care, and training for both puppies and adult dogs. Whether you're a new or experienced owner, you'll find plenty of helpful tips and resources on the site. Welcome to "Sarplaninac FCI 4302", and I wish you a pleasant stay.

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