Why do dogs wag their tails?

Most of the time, it's because they are happy or excited. This has been the traditional answer, but it is not correct in all situations. Tail-wagging is a form of communication by the dog: it is broadcasting its emotions. In the wild, this would be to other dogs, because dogs are social animals and communicate through expression and posture more than through vocalization. In the wild, it happens for several reasons. The biggest one is submission: dogs wag their tails to other dogs that are higher up in the canine social structure. Generally, submissive dogs will have their tail wagging and positioned down low, nearly tucked into their legs.


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However, this isn't always the case. Dogs sometimes wag their tails when angry, too. Usually it looks a little different - it will be wagging more at the tip, and it will be held higher in the air. It shouldn't be hard to mistake the two - don't look at the tail, and instead look to whether the dog is baring its teeth, barking, or generally acting aggressively. Don't take it to be friendly or playful just because the tail is wagging.

Also, different breeds wag differently. Some don't wag their tails very much at all. Others don't really have much tail to wag. Generally, however, they all do it for the same reason.

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