Dog’s tail movement: is it body language?


The dog uses his voice, scents and his body to communicate his emotions and state of mind. And when he uses his body, everything is called upon. The eyes, the mouth, the ears, the head, the legs and the tail! And we will see, the movements of the tail of your little companion are indeed part of the subtle body language of dogs.

The dog’s tail

A dog’s tail is an extension of its spine. It is made up, depending on the race, of 18 to 22 vertebrae, called caudal vertebrae Where coccygeal. It is a very sensitive and mobile organ, thanks to the joints and muscles that compose it.

Usefulness of the dog’s tail

Although he can live without this appendix, the tail is a very important organ for the dog. It is not only involved in his balance, when running, it helps when swimming, but it is also an attribute that is an integral part of his body language and which allows him to communicate with his fellows or with us.

Thus, the dog’s tail tells us about its condition emotional, but he also uses it for disperse pheromones in the air secreted by his anal glands, releasing into the air a wealth of information intended for his congeners.

Canine tail docking

THE’tail amputation of the dog, which is called “tail docking”, has long been performed, without any concern for animal welfare and the usefulness, however demonstrated, of this attribute in dogs.

Hunting, guard and defense dogs were thus mutilated for decades, on the pretext that this very sensitive organ was very exposed to bites or injuries. And for some breeds, it was very widely practiced, only for “aesthetic” reasons, so that they conform to certain LOF standards.

So, deprived of this attribute, the dog lost not only an organ physiologically useful, but also one of his natural means of expression.

French legislation

Although she is still legal in France, since the latter used a right of reserve, on this particular point, during the signing of the “European Convention for the protection of companion animals”, tail docking is today strictly framed.

Indeed, only veterinarians can perform it, it must be done within 5 days of the puppy’s birth and, fortunately, veterinarians are entitled to refuse such an operation (or to suggest it for medical reasons). .

The law put to the test

If this barbaric practice tends to decline, under the pressure of many veterinarians and a growing number of dog associations concerned with animal welfare, some breeders and hunters still practice it themselves, completely illegally.

The tail of the puppy is ligated, in order to deprive it of irrigation until it dries up and falls, for the “reasons” (zootechnical or aesthetic) mentioned above, subjecting proven suffering and totally unnecessary to the animal and sometimes even making it run significant risks for his health (hemorrhage, infection, problem with scarring, etc.).

Good to know : Canine tail docking is prohibited in almost all countries of the European Union, except France.

The movements of the dog’s tail

While everyone agrees that tail movements are indeed one of the dog’s means of communicating, there is relatively little scientific evidence on the issue.

In general, we tended to say that a dog that wags its tail is happy and that when the latter was not moving, it is because it was either neutral, attentive or aggressive. But the few studies that exist on the question have reshuffled the cards and we now have some details.

On the side of scientists

In 1872, Darwin already described, in the “affectionate” dog, a tail in low position, animated by beating. With the work of Scott and Fuller (Genetics and Social Behavior of the Dog – 1965), we learn that the movements of the dog’s tail are triggered from a certain level of emotion. And it has also been known for a few years now that dogs do not just wag their tails.when they are happy, but that they can also do it when they are tense, stressed or angry.

Sway lateralization

More recently, a 2007 scientific study showed that tail flapping of the dog had a different meaning, depending on whether the moving tail was positioned towards the left or to the right. According to the results of this study, the dog subjected to a positive stimulus would tend to wag its tail to the right, and conversely, to the left, during a negative stimulus.

This same study also shed light on the fact that dogs react and are able to understand this same phenomenon, when they observe it in their congeners.

Movements and emotions

More empirically, those who are fortunate enough to share their life with dogs know that the movement of the dog’s tail is closely related. related to his emotional state and that it is important to take into account the movement, its amplitude, but also the position of the tail, to decode this particular body language.

Ample and rapid swing

Characteristic when your dog greets you on your return home, the soft tail in a ample and rapid swing, to the point that it sometimes causes your dog’s hindquarters to wiggle, clearly indicates his joy and his excitation.

Short, jerky movements

In horizontal position, rigid tail, with brief or jerky movements, the dog indicates a stress, a hyper-vigilance or downright one threatening attitude.

As we have just seen, the body language expressed by the movement of the dog’s tail is not as basic as it seems. And it’s a safe bet that scientific studies still have a lot to teach us about the finesse of our companions in the expression of their emotions and feelings. Until then, let’s continue to listen to them and pay attention to the thousand small and large signals that they are sending us for communicate with us. As with our human congeners, it is the pledge of a fulfilling relationship!