A dog’s tail is a perfect communication device. Since dogs don’t speak Mother English, their tails are their primary communication. Once you figure out their body language, you’ll know a lot more about them. That’s important if you don’t like dog bites.
No. 1, dogs, unlike humans, do not tell lies. Their tails are a strikingly honest window to their souls.
There’s a lot of tail research happening. Really. Check out Psychology Today. Sophie Collins’ book “Tail Talk” cracks “the secret language of dogs.” Or ask your letter carrier. Carriers are dog experts, given their years of coping with them at nearly every house.
The studies even have a name, “tail reading.” That makes them official.
OK, here’s the overview. And yes, we have most of it wrong.
We think a wagging tail means a dog is playful and happy. That’s only partially true and can be dangerous. A stiff wagging or moving in slow motions means “Warning: I’m in attack position.”
I noticed this with our doxie Lily. When she does her guard dog thing, her tail is wagging. I thought she was having fun, but no, that’s a preparation for attack.
We often think a lowered tail indicates a dog is ill or sad. Most often it means Fido simply is relaxed.
Our concept of “tail between the legs” is true. Fido is retreating from something he fears or he is shy. He probably has been abused. In extreme cases, it means “don’t hurt me.” If you see this, be aware. If the dog feels cornered, an attack may result. Let the dog come to you, not you to him.
We rescued our dog Amber. We were certain she was taken off to the pound on a leash. That’s why her tail went between her legs when we wanted to walk her, and she refused to leave the safety of our house.
Our Lily was rescued from a terrible life in a puppy mill. Dogs don’t forget these sort of things. When humans are beasts, dogs begin believing all humans are beasts.
When somebody comes into our house, Lil goes into self-protection mode. He tail wags stiffly. She’s barking and we believe she’s saying, “You’re not taking me away from here.” It takes her quite a while to be convinced this is not true.
Now we get to the good part. A happy, friendly wag is unmistakable. The whole rear end wags, too. A big dog then may knock you down in his unbridled joy to see you. Down boy.
Lily has no concept of time. She greets us the same way if we’re gone 10 minutes or eight hours. Her tail goes supersonic.
Page 2 of 2 - She wakes us up in the morning often with a tail in the face. Then she does her “I’m so happy to be here” tail dance. Amber did the same thing, except she chased her tail, probably to give it maximum emphasis.
Dog owners can be glad the Code of the Tail is cracked. It’s easy to understand and as obvious to humans as it is to other dogs. The United States is the only nation on earth where owners amputate the tails of some breeds. To a dog, that’s like losing a voice. What price vanity?
Contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.