Tail Tales – How You Can Read Your Dog’s Emotions in the Direction They Wag

Large Black Dog

Why does everyone insist I learn to be calm around dogs? I'd rather be home sleeping.

A tail held high is a sign of arousal and a fast, short wag could mean trouble. But did you know that the direction of your dog’s wag can tell you how he’s feeling?

A study completed in Turin, Italy in 2007 demonstrated that dogs feeling comfortable wag more to the right than to the left. And that a dog is less likely to approach another dog if they are wagging toward the left.

Since my current wagger has a big, sweeping tail that generously wags for just about anything, I was skeptical. But I’ve been watching Honey.

Calm moments at home show a definite slow wag to the right and back to the center. Honey wags toward the right when she sees the neighbor’s Golden Retriever. But Honey wags ever so slightly toward the left when she sees a new dog across the street.

It’s hard to see the bias during a big sweeping wag. Especially without a video camera. That’s why you’ll want to check out the video provided with NatureNews’ story on this study.

Golden Retriever Puppy Greeting a Terrier Puppy

She's not a stranger. She's my friend. Can't you tell by my tail wag?

Looking at dozens of pictures of Shadow (who was reactive toward dogs on leash) I found a definite left bias in the early pictures that faded as she got to know some of the dogs.

I looked at dozens of pictures of Honey at puppy play time and found only one picture that captured her tail left of center.

Now this is hardly a scientific survey. But it’s fun to have new information to understand what our dogs are trying to tell us. I’ll be watching every dog I meet with a new eye.

Do you watch the direction of your dog’s tail? Do you see a bias to the right when they say hello? Or does your dog’s vigorous helicopter heinie make it impossible to read anything?

Welcome to the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.

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  1. Found you from today’s bloghop-love the title of your blog! You’re obviously a very literate pooch:-)
    I tried to officially follow your blog, but couldn’t find a follow button, so I “liked” you on Facebook. When you get a chance, hop over to Bocci’s Beefs-we’d love to have you as a follower!


  2. Hi Y’all,
    I’ve referred my Human to this article. I hope she takes it to heart so she doesn’t misunderstand me so often.
    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  3. Kim Clune says:

    Wow. I’ll have to remember to watch for left vs. right side tail wags. Our Newf has a horse tail that he tends to sway pretty evenly but our hound curls his entire body around to one side with his wag. I just can’t remember which side. I’ll be disheartened if it’s the left. lol.

    Thanks for sharing, Pamela! Grreat blog! I “liked” you on Facebook so I can keep up with your updates. Happy blog hopping!

  4. Oh, my. Mom is watching my tail now. I have a very furry tail and sometimes it curls over my back. I wonder what that means…..

  5. Thanks for the great information; glad I found you on Blog Hop. I wonder if they studied the greeting thud, when the dog’s lying down, sleepy, and thuds his tail against the floor a few times to say “hi” when you walk in. Maybe right and left don’t matter at those times!

  6. Just popped by to say hello, I am a new follower and I hope to get to know you better, you have an interesting blog thanks for sharing the tail info.

  7. That’s really interesting! I don’t know much about that study, but I had a friend with a therapy dog who could wag left or right on command!

  8. How interesting I will have to keep an eye on which way the tails wag! I would like to thank you for your comment on my blog. I appreciate your thoughts. It is much easy to show grace to my dogs than myself, but I keep trying. Thank you again for your comment.

  9. I read something about this recently too but was a little skeptical because my dog’s tail tends to wag from side to side, super-fast, in circles, up and down, pretty much all at once. But maybe I should start paying more attention to how it wags when she is around strange dogs. I am normally so focused on keeping her by my side in those instances that I don’t notice the little details.