Does a Wagging Tail Always Mean Happy?
Did you know a wagging tail doesn't always mean happy?
It's a common misconception in the dog owner world, that if your dog is wagging it's tail - it must be happy. I very often hear, oh when he sees another dog he wags his tail so his must want to play - but unfortunately this is not always the case. A waggy tail means that a dog is excited, that there is adrenaline coursing through the dog’s veins. A wagging tail goes with both happy and unhappy emotions.
Think of the tail as an extension of the spine. You can usually find out what goings on from the type of wag, height of tail and the rest of the dogs body language. A wag that extends through the body so the whole back end is moving is a good sign. A stiff body with tail wagging is normally a 'back off' sign. The tail is part of the spine so stress = tight muscles. Tight muscles = higher tail.
Grisha Stewart has a great analagy of this;
'Imagine someone threatens you, you puff your chest out, your spine arches a little and your tailbone moves out. If you had a tail attached it would have gotten higher. If you were frightened and someone was about to hit you, you'd crouch and hunch over to avoid the blow, your tailbone tucks in....'
High tail - I want to fight
Low tail - I'm frightened
Now imagine you won the lottery and do a happy dance, your whole body moves, not just your tailbone!
This will be different for different breeds as some dogs carry their tails naturally high (Huskies) or low (Greyhounds) so it's important to look at your dog as an individual.