The Tail Wagging Myth

3 min read
May 21, 2023

When your dog wags his tail, most pet owners assume it means happiness. However, this isn’t always the case. There are many variations of ‘tail wagging’- and they can each mean something different for your pup.

For example, a wagging tail in a young puppy may mean that he is hungry and needs his mother, or that he is letting his siblings know he’s done playing with them.

Body Language and the Tail

Before diving  into tail wags, it can be important to remember that a dog’s natural tail position varies by breed. Most dogs have their tail relaxed toward the floor when they’re in a neutral state of mind.

The position of your dog’s tail can mean one (or more) of the following: 

  • Diversion: Your dog may be attempting to ‘agree’ with another dog if his tail suddenly stops wagging and he freezes in place. This body language is common when your dog encounters someone he does not know for the first time.
  • Aggression: When your dog’s tail moves from a relaxed state to vertical or arched, this is a sign your dog is displaying aggressive behavior. 
  • Submission: If your dog is being submissive (AKA showing he’s not a threat), his tail will likely be tucked between his legs.
  • Curiosity: We’re sure you have seen your dog’s tail ‘light up’ when he hears or sees something he’s curious and excited about. Generally, the tail is in a horizontal position in these cases.
  • Happiness: Finally, the tail also does indicate happiness. A tail wag could simply mean your dog is happy.  

Be Aware

Make sure you are aware of your surroundings, of any triggers, and the situation you are in when reading your dog’s body language.

The tail is only one factor in your dog’s language, but it is certainly a great start when you’re learning about your dog’s behavior and moods.

Consider a Pet Insurance Policy

Looking for ways to protect your pets? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance.1 Pet insurance policies can help provide coverage for approved and covered expenses, and can help pet owners focus on what matters most. Their pets. Get a free quote below to see what a pet insurance policy might cost.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.