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where the tails wag
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Does a wagging tail always mean a happy dog?

For instance:

When my dogs are relaxed and/or in motion, a tail wagging about level with their back to me means a happy dog.

A wildly whipping tail with the whole back end in motion means absolute joy (ie; you just got home)

When my dogs are playing with each other a higher tail set is usually seen - still wagging but similar in height to where the tail might be when they are on alert, but their tails are in motion. Happy dog.

When my dogs are sitting and very coiled/alert (ie waiting for their dumbbell or a bird/bumper) they usually are leaning forward ready to launch and their tails tend to be very still - almost as though they do not want to divert any attention from the object of their focus - similar to when they see a squirrel. The tip of their tail may kind of squiggle, but I rarely see a wag.

However, when my dogs are expecting a 'Hey, what were you thinking' like a correction as I step in to correct a broken sit, they will sit there, perhaps lean a bit to one side and ther tail will start wagging in appeasement.

Have others experienced these different meaning for a wagging tail?
 

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I see very similar meanings in my dog's tail. My favorite is the total joy wag where I am afraid her tail is going to come flying off. :)

I have noticed one other thing though, that I am not sure if other dogs do:

When laying down to relax, Cookie always flits the end of her tail three times right before she flops down. Not technically a wag I guess, but maybe it is some communication?
 

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Kate
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You know it's funny, but I haven't really thought about the language of tail wags as far as my guy. Or what he does when?

I guess this is my best understanding of my goof...

He wags his tail when meeting people
- Usually it's a level or low wag. He's not a macho dog, so he generally makes himself look little and harmless.

He wags his tail when excited.
- He frantically butt-wags when greeting me. Tail held lower.
- If he thinks I'm going to be training him, tail is held higher than level or even like a flag, very happy wagging back and forth.

He wags his tail in response when he's tired.
- This is a very lazy flip-flutter of the end of his tail.

He wags his tail when he's nervous and trying to please.
- He holds his tail very low and wags it very hard. He does this if somebody else takes his leash and he's both trying to make them happy but also showing he's a bit nervous.

The rest of the time it's just posturing -

When he's alert - the tail is held way up like a flag.

When he's scared - he's practically tail-less because he has it so tucked.

When he's relaxed, he just holds his tail down (not tucked).

When we are training or heeling - I'm not really sure if he's wagging or just holding his tail in a relaxed, alert, or happy way. I think he wags sometimes? In the series of pictures in my signature he was wagging his tail while we were training.

**** I'm very happy to say I've never seen threatening/aggressive tail wagging from any of our dogs.

That's when a dog goes up towards a person or dog and has his tail up over his back and striking back and forth. This in addition to the intent and "big" headset is a warning... o_O
 

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Yeah I agree with most of the above.

I love it when he is absolutely overjoyed and his whole back end wags while trying desperately to put is butt on the ground so he can get his recognition from us.

The best, though, is when Jackson is laying on the couch. He can be relaxed and mellow, but as you get closer, his tail starts to twitch uncontrollably with excitement while the rest of his body is completely relaxed. :D Really funny
 

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I agree with you. Wagging does not always mean simple happiness. A slow wave with a high-up flag tail can be a sign of confidence in a questionable situation with other dogs and may even be accompanied by a warning growl.

It can definitely be used as an appeasing gesture too.
 

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There was a study done in Hungary, I believe, maybe Germany, where they put a dog in a dark chute with a hole on the wall and showed him various stimuli...when his owner was in front of the hole, the dog's tail wagged distinctly to the right...when an aggressive male dog was brought in front of the hole, the dog wagged his tail distinctly to the left, and a strange human produced an even wag...they concluded that a right-most wag meant happy, a left-most wag meant concern, and an even way meant uncertainty...very interesting stuff.
 

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I've seen stiffly wagging tails in dogs just before they lunged in attack - maybe they're happy to be fighting? In any case, I've learned not to trust a wagging tail on a strange dog.
 

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Knife Swallower
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Ranger wags just the very tip of his tail, like the last 2 inches only, when he's uncertain or hopeful. Like if he thinks he's going for a walk but isn't positive yet. He'll also do a distinct, slow, deliberate tail wag when he's concentrating on something. He wags his tail furiously when he's excited but overall he's not much of a tail wagger. No helicopter tails over here.
 
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