One of the most recognizable attributes of a dog is it’s tail. More specifically, how a dog wags it’s tail. Tails come in all sizes and shapes and forms, yet they have many functions. Let’s explore those functions and their meanings today.
First of all, why do dogs have tails?
I think it is safe to say, just from observation, that the reason why dogs have tails can vary. It depends on the breed. Some tails are used for balance while running or maneuvering. Other tails can be used for swimming. And yet other tails are used for insulation during cold weather.
One of the most common question people have is, “is there bone in a dog’s tail”? Well the short answer is yes. Dog’s tails are an extension of their spine. The spine is made up vertebrae and the tail’s bones are called tail vertebrae. Of course the number of vertebrae in each tail depends on the dog’s breed and size. But typically, dogs can have anywhere from six vertebrae to 23 vertebrae. Here is a fun fact. Scientists believe that short, curley tails are a genetic deformation. As cute as they can be, apparently those tails suffer from hemivertera. Or otherwise known as ‘half of a vertebra’.
So now to the actual question at hand.
Why do dogs wag their tails.
Well there are many ways a dog communicates with it’s tail. Body language in dogs is as important as it is in humans. Dogs communicate intent, emotion, and attitude to other dogs and with humans. We have seen this all the time. For example, when a tail is tucked behind it’s legs, a dog is most likely communicating fear, or is suspicious of something or someone. They may also be showing that they are socially submissive. When a tail is carried horizontally, a dog is expressing what we humans wish we could be more of. They are expressing being even-tempered, indifferent, or even relaxed. And next, a dog with a tail straight up conveys being excited or alert. Tails can wag in all three positions, behind it’s legs, horizontally, or straight up.
Finally, you would be interested in knowing that since 2010, a lot of research and study has gone into finding out more about dogs and their wagging tails. The research has been done mostly in Italy.