Why do dogs have tails? Did you know your dog’s tail is more than just a signal for happy greetings? It has other uses, too. Dogs use their tails to balance, communicate and mark territory. They are therefore very important for dogs.
Tails to help them balance
Tails are great for helping your dog stay balanced and active.
Dogs use their tails to help them change direction while running. As a dog turns, his front legs go in a new direction and back ones stay where he starts out from with the tail helping him course correct for any sudden movements or obstacles along the way. Dogs use their tails to help them walk on narrow surfaces just like you would balance with your arms.
Dogs use their tails to communicate with people, other dogs, and animals. The way that it moves can say a lot about what the dog is feeling or thinking at any given time. “Dogs are largely nonverbal communicators, which means that they use their bodies, including their tails, to communicate. The position, speed of wagging, and even direction of wagging all communicate something,” Dr. Wooten, a veterinarian, and veterinary journalist said.
As puppies, dogs use their tails to communicate with one another. “Puppies learn to wag their tails around 1 month of age. They learn from their mother, and they use it to communicate with their mother and siblings,” Dr. Wooten said.
A wagging tail can be an indication of a variety of things, and not all times the dog’s happy. “Sometimes it means that the dog is agitated, submissive, or aggressive,” Dr. Wooten said.
Tail language can be a very telling sign of what your dog is trying to tell you. Here are some signs that they might show:
Happy: The dog’s tail will be held in a neutral or slightly raised position as he wags it.
Scared: Your dog will be wagging its tail and tucked away.
Submissive: Your dog will wag its tail to the ground and hold it low.
Aggressive: A dog’s tail will be higher than a happy one and may even arch over its back.
Wants to be left alone: If a dog’s tail freeze in place.
Curious: The dog should have a straight and flat tail.
High alert: Your dog will maintain its tail in the air and not wag it.
Dogs have a variety of neutral tail positions. Some naturally hold their tails high, while others typically keep them lower to the ground.
Marking their territory
Tail wags are an important part of dog communication. Not only do they provide visual clues about what your pup is feeling, but also help him spread his scent.
A dominant dog may release more scents than a less assertive pet. “This position also releases pheromones from the scent glands located at the base of the tail that marks the dog’s territory,” Dr. Wooten said.
Dominant dogs will make their presence known with a strong scent, while submissive ones try to avoid drawing attention.
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