Often times we are fooled by a happily wagging tail on a dog - we automatically assume that if the tail is wagging, the dog is happy. Did you know that may not always be the case? The position that the tail is being held and even the speed with which the dog is wagging it can tell us a lot more about how that pet is actually feeling. Let's take a moment to explore the happy tail :
The height at which the dog holds its tail can alert us to its state of mind - a tail held high may signal that the dog is feeling alert, excited or confident. A tail held in a lower or tucked position may be feeling afraid, submissive, tired or painful
Just because a dog's tail is up doesn't mean you should approach it! A tail that is held rigid or stiff, or even one upon which the hair is standing up, can indicate an aroused or agitated dog. This pet is more likely to react negatively towards anything catching its attention whether that be a person, another animal or a toy.
Dog's with naturally curled tails - think pugs or bulldogs- will become even more tightly wound when they are tense. When a curled tail is relaxed, it will unwind and even appear straight. A loose tail may indicate the pet is tired or not feeling well.
Dog's can change the speed and style with which their tail wags - tails that are sweeping from side to side at a normal height generally belong to happy, relaxed dogs. Those dogs who are overly playful and happy will energetically beat their tail back and forth with gusto. If you are my boxer, your entire butt will wag when you get excited!
A friendly dog will not always wag their tail however an unfriendly dog MAY wag their tail at you - this does not mean you should approach to pet him. Nervous dogs will often hold their tail low and flick it back and forth slowly - resembling a slow wag. Dogs who have their tail held very high, stiff and who flick the tip back and forth are generally very aroused and may bite easily
Learning to interpret body language of your dog, including how they are wagging their tail, will provide you with lots of insight on how they are feeling in that moment. A wagging tail does not equate to a happy dog!