A Dog’s Tail Wagging Means It is Happy, Right?
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As a trainer, I cannot tell you how many times I come into someone’s home and they tell me their dog doesn’t listen. I hate to break it to you, but your dog does not know spoken languages such as English, Spanish, Mandarin, etc. Yes, they may understand queues or commands that you have taught it through its life, but it does not understand you when you say, “Stop barking!” “Be quiet!” “Don’t jump on them!” or “Get in the house!”
Dogs speak body language and every position your dog moves into is intentional; they are speaking to you, the other dog, the stranger across the street, or the stick of which they are afraid.
Example 1: Your dog jumps on you, you take your dog’s paws and say “No jumping.” The dog just got the attention it was looking for because you responded vocally and touched them.
Example 2: Your dog keeps nudging you, puts its whole body on you, then shoves his toy in your face. You may reply saying, “I don’t want to play,” then throw the ball. You just gave your dog what it wanted. Attention by responding vocally and throwing the ball.
So here is one of many posts talking about dog body language because I find it fascinating, beautiful, and I feel every dog owner should know what their dog is trying to tell them.
Dog Myth #1
My dog’s tail is wagging, so that must mean they are happy.
This can result in confusion when the dog barks excessively at your neighbors or things of which they may be afraid, but like every body part of the dog, it is telling you something. The way your dog wags its tail, the position of your dogs tail, and the stiffness of your dog’s tail is telling you what they are thinking and feeling (although it has not been scientifically proven that dog’s have feelings, but that’s for another post!).
Below is a diagram that will illustrate what your dog is trying to tell you through their tail movements and position.
Canine Behavior: A Photo Illustrated Handbook by Barbara Handelman, M.Ed, CDBC