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Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Posted on November 10, 2010 by noncon
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This morning I greeted my dog Sadie (a mixed race mut, believed to be staffy and German Shepherd) in the usual way. I said “Hellooo!” in that special sing-song voice reserved only for animals and toddlers, and she returned the greeting in her own wag-tail way.

It made me think that I’ve probably never been as nice to humans as I am to dogs. Is that terrible? Or is it a blessing, seeing as I would probably be arrested if I was? What if we stroked people’s hair (personal hygiene standards permitting)? Or if we gently rubbed people’s hands if we think they are nice, whether or not we actually know them? God – the thought is making me feel sick.

Amazingly, dogs have their own versions of social etiquette by use of their tails. Most people think they only wag their tales when they are happy. Not so. All the dogs I have known (a lot) have wagged their tails when they were:

  • happy
  • guilty
  • not sure what you mean, but are willing to appear as if they do

which makes me convinced that a tail wag is a dog’s equivalent of our smile, which, don’t forget, we also do when we are embarrassed and uncomfortable. So there you have it. That is why dogs wag their tails.

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