Your dog's tail is a huge part of who they are. You can often tell a lot about a dog's personality based on how their tail moves. You can even tell what kind of mood they are in by the movements and the positions of their tail.
Since their tail is important to their identity, you may also be wondering how the tail functions and if they can even feel their tail at all? Can they move their tail? Can they feel their tail? What is the structure of your furry friend's tail? We will answer all of these questions below!
Signs of a Dog Using & Feeling Their Tail
There are many different ways and positions dogs use their tails to help them communicate with you and other dogs. Different tail positions mean different emotions. A wagging tail is often associated with your dog being happy and joyful, but this is not always the case. Most commonly, a dog will show signs of being happy with a wagging tail and upbeat emotions. However, a tail wag can also mean your dog is just willing to interact with you, another person, or dog they meet when you are out and about.
If your dog's tail is held high and upright, this is a sign they are feeling confident and engaged in whatever situation they are currently in. This can mean your dog is ready to interact with someone or something, and that can either be in a positive or negative way.
If your dog is wagging their tail to the right, this means that your dog is feeling happy and positive and there are no signs of aggression. If this is coupled with the whole backend area of your dog moving side to side as well, this is a sign they are extremely happy and joyous.
If your dog wags their tail to the left, they are likely feeling frighten, scared, and apprehensive about the situation they are in at the moment. If the tail is very stiff while this is happening, they are particularly uncomfortable.
Tucking their tail is a sign that they are trying to keep themselves safe and protected against any threat they are detecting.
History of Dogs and Their Tails
Tail wagging in dogs evolved from their ancestors, wild dogs and wolves, as a way to communicate with their pack and other animals. Tail wagging could be spotted from a distance and help others in the pack understand what was going on. As time went on, the evolution of tail wagging also developed more and became more complex and exaggerated.
For instance, the tails on some dogs became longer and fluffier, which increased the visibility of tail wagging communication to even farther away. Some tails also became lighter on the underside of the tail, which could make it easier for their pack members to spot while the tail was wagging and moving around. Furthermore, some dogs also developed a black or white tip on the end of the tail to help with contrast.
From a close distance, tail wagging also releases special pheromones, which produce certain scents to other dogs. This is another way to communicate different information and emotions from dog to dog.
Today, dogs use their tails in much of the same way as they did many years ago, but instead of communicating with other members of their pack in the wild, they use their tails to communicate with you, their family, and the other dog friends at the park and while they are out on walk. Humans have learned to read the different signs and communications from a dog's tail through evolution as well.
Science Behind a Dog's Tail
A dog's tail is the caudal terminal appendage of the vertebral column that continues out from the main part of their body. It is located at the base of the backbone on your dog. The tail is made up of anywhere from 6 to 23 different moveable vertebrae and they have a very large range of movement.
The vertebrae are surrounded by a musculature that makes it possible for your dog to move their tail in very specific ways like holding their tail up, wagging it from side to side, tucking it between their legs, etc. The tail is also filled with nerves and tendons that allow your dog to feel their tail. If you have ever accidentally stepped on your dog's tail, they will cry out and wince in pain because their tails have nerves and this will give them the sensation of pain if it is hurt of injured.
Training a Dog to Wag Their Tail
You cannot train a dog to wag their tail because they already know how to, and it is a biological and physical trait your dog has known to use since the moment they were born. Just as your dog knows they need to eat, drink, and how to stand and walk from the time they are very little, the same goes for tail wagging and using their tail in other ways to communicate with dogs and humans.
You would not want to train your dog to not use their tail because it is an integral part of who they are and how they communicate. It is not offensive or a bad habit that you would want to stop your dog from doing.
What you can do is train yourself to understand what your dog is trying to communicate with you and other dogs when they are using their tails in different situations. Keep a close eye on your dog's body language and how their tail moves when they are in different environments. Take notice of how your dog's tail moves when you come back home from being out. Observe how they are when they are experiencing a new situation, like going to a new dog park or walking in a new location.
How are they when they interact with dogs they know versus dogs they have never come into contact with before? You will likely notice a difference in their body language and the way they move their tails or hold their tails.
It is also important to know how your dog reacts when they are in aggressive and stressful or scary conditions as well. Take note if their tail is upright and still or if they hold it in between their legs in an attempt to protect themselves. This is an important body language sign to recognize in your dog so you can remove them from future situations that make them very aggressive or fearful.
By a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo
Published: 04/03/2018, edited: 04/06/2020