A short conversation about wags

The phrase, “He just wants to play!”, has become quite the joke amongst experienced dog owners and trainers.

If someone feels the need to tell someone that their dog won’t hurt him or explain his or her behavior in that way, there is always a reason. If their dog was calm or simply polite toward others, they wouldn’t have to say, “He just wants to play!”, it would just be apparent. That is the phrase I always hear before crises hits. Every time. I have never heard someone yell that and then seen two dogs get along right after.

One important concept that more people need to understand is this: a dog wagging his/her tail, is not always a happy dog. It is not always a dog who wants to play. It is not always a friendly greeting. A wagging tail simply (and only) stands for a heightened level of excitement. This means that a dog could be wagging with ears forward, tail up and then suddenly attack aggressively.

A dog’s tail can tell us so much about her energy and dominace/confidence levels. What makes this more confusing, even for dogs amongst themselves, is how some dogs are bred. Many are bred with tails that stick up permanently, are twisted or even go between their legs all the time, as they do with Greyhounds.

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this Photo Found on www.dogtime.com

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this Photo
Found on www.dogtime.com

The dog in the above photo, a Greyhound, generally holds his tail between his legs. Other dogs will read it this as a sign of insecurity, and so, because of his breeding, he has difficulty socializing. This is one of the many factors new dog owners should ponder before buying a dog. What are the cons of the breeding (especially those that we can’t change, such as the physical appearance)?

Besides that, in what I could call a “normal” situation – where a dog’s tail hangs in a relaxed way and only lifts when feeling very confident or playful – it can be a useful tool to see what your dog is thinking and what his next move might be. I often find it works wonders to lift an insecure dog’s tail out from between his legs and hold it up high. To translate that into a human situation, it would be the equivalent to a sad/insecure person, lifting his or her chin up to keep going with a strong mindset or straightening their posture. It can make you feel much better about yourself.

Physical posture can change a lot. Hold it up and gently but steadily comb your hands outwards underneath it to build some confidence. Never feel sorry for him, just calmly be there for him – like a good leader does.

Does this change your view about your dog? Did you think a wagging tail was always a sign of friendliness? Tell me what you thought in the comments!

1 Comment

Filed under Behavioral musings, Dogs, Handling Emotions

One Response to A short conversation about wags

  1. I love this one Ti! It is an excellent reminder for me to stay attentive to the awesome subtleties of body language. Wow, who knew about grey hounds! Thank you for sharing lovely!

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