Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Read time: 3 mins

10 May 2023

For the longest time, we have associated tail wagging with meaning that a dog is happy and overjoyed. Whilst this is true a lot of the time, there are some other rather interesting reasons behind why your dog’s tail is generating enough power to light-up a small village.

What is Tail Wagging? 

Tail wagging is the side-to-side movement of the tail, at differing speeds. It is a behaviour most often associated with dogs, but that doesn’t mean other animals such as cats, foxes, and wolves don’t like to get involved too.

Can Dogs Control Their Tails?

Yes, dogs can control their tails to some extent, but not entirely.

The wagging of a dog's tail is often an involuntary reflex in response to certain situations, such as excitement, happiness or fear. Pay close attention paw-rents. As dogs often use their tails to communicate, it can be an effective way to understand how your dog might be feeling.

Dogs have a complex set of muscles in their tails that allow them to move them in different ways, including wagging, tucking and holding them high or low.

However, not all tail movements are intentional or within a dog's control.

Some dogs may have medical conditions or injuries that affect their ability to move their tails, while others may experience involuntary tail movements because of neurological or behavioural issues. Poor pooches. Certain dog breeds may have naturally short or curly tails that limit their range of motion. 

What Does it Mean When a Dog Wags Their Tail?

In dogs, tail wagging can have different meanings depending on the situation and the way in which the tail is wagging. 

For example, a relaxed and loose tail wag might suggest that a dog is friendly and happy, while a stiff tail wag can indicate that a dog is experiencing agitation or tension. The speed and direction of the wag can also convey different emotions or intentions.

Some of the most common reasons behind why your dog may we wagging their tail include:

Happiness or excitement

The tail will typically be held high and wag quickly from side to side. They might even look like they could take flight at any moment.


This might look like a relaxed, loose tail motion to indicate that they are approachable. Bonus wags if you give them a head scratch. 


A tail that’s held high and stiff with a slow wag suggests a dog is on look out for any potential dangers. Think MI5 agent. The names Bone, James Bone. 

Anxiety or nerves

The tail will likely be held low and tucked between their legs or wag with a stiff but rapid motion. A timid little soul needs time and patience, so ensure that you are calm as a cucumber around a dog like this. 


If the tail looks high and stiff with a rapid wag, be wary that the dog may be prone to aggression. Avoid approaching a dog that is displaying this kind of behaviour. 

Butternut Box Will Get Your Dog’s Tail Wagging

A sure way to set your dog’s tail to hyperdrive mode is to feed them a delicious, nutritionally complete meal that will leave them feeling satisfied.

At Butternut Box, when you sign up we will ask you a few details about your dog, such as their breed, age, weight and activity level. This helps us to work out exactly what meals your dog will love, in perfectly-portioned pouches.

Are they a golden oldie? Our Wham Bam Lamb with a dash of turmeric is perfect for supporting their ageing joints. Or maybe they’re a playful pup with an unknown source of never ending energy. In which case, we would suggest Tuck In Chicken with protein-packed quinoa, it’s also nice and easy to digest so it won’t upset their sensitive tums.

Frozen to lock in the goodness, with no added preservatives or fillers. We provide only the best for your precious pooch.