Movement of the dog's tail: is it body language?


Movement of the dog's tail: is it body language?

Movement of the dog's tail: is it body language?

The dog uses his voice, smells and his body to communicate his emotions and state of mind. And when he uses his body, everything is solicited. Eyes, mouth, ears, head, legs and tail! And we will see, the movements of your little friend's tail are part of the subtle body language of dogs .

The dog's tail

A dog's tail is an extension of its spine. It is made up, depending on the race, of 18 to 22 vertebrae, called caudal or coccygeal vertebrae . It is a very sensitive and mobile organ, thanks to the joints and muscles that compose it.

Usefulness of the dog's tail
Although he can live without this appendage, the tail is a very important organ for the dog. It not only intervenes in his balance , when he runs, it helps him when he swims, but it is also an attribute which is an integral part of his body language and which allows him to communicate with his peers or with us.

Thus, the dog's tail informs us about its emotional state, but it also uses it to disperse the pheromones secreted by its anal glands into the air, releasing a wealth of information into the air for its congeners.

Canine tail docking
The amputation of the dog's tail, which is called "tail docking", has long been practiced, without any concern for animal welfare and the utility, however demonstrated, of this attribute in dogs.

Hunting, guard and defense dogs have been mutilated for decades, on the pretext that this very sensitive organ was very exposed to bites or injuries. And for some breeds, it was very widely practiced, only for "aesthetic" reasons, so that they would conform to certain LOF standards.

Thus, deprived of this attribute, the dog lost not only a physiologically useful organ , but also one of its natural means of expression .

French legislation
Although it is still legal in France , since the latter used a right of reservation, on this particular point, when signing the "European Convention for the Protection of Pets", tail docking is now strictly framed .

Indeed, only veterinarians can perform it, it must imperatively be done within 5 days of the birth of the puppy and, fortunately, veterinarians are entitled to refuse such an operation (or to propose it for medical reasons) .

The law put to the test
If this barbaric practice tends to decline, under the pressure of many veterinarians and a growing number of canine associations concerned about animal welfare, some breeders and hunters still practice it themselves, completely illegally.

The pup's tail is tied up, in order to deprive it of irrigation until it dries up and falls, for the "reasons" (zootechnical or aesthetic) mentioned above, causing proven and totally unnecessary suffering to the pup. animal and sometimes even causing it to run significant risks to its health (haemorrhage, infection, healing problems, etc.).

Good to know: canine tail docking is prohibited in almost all countries of the European Union, except France.

The movements of the dog's tail

If everyone agrees that tail movements are indeed one of the means available to the dog to communicate, there is relatively little scientific data on the matter.

In general, we tended to say that a dog that wags its tail is happy and that when the latter was not in motion, it was either neutral, attentive or aggressive. But the few studies that exist on the issue have reshuffled the cards and we now have some details.

On the side of scientists
In 1872, Darwin already described, in the “affectionate” dog, a tail in a low position, animated by flapping. With the work of Scott and Fuller (Genetics and Social Behavior of the Dog - 1965), we learn that the movements of the dog's tail are triggered from a certain level of emotion. And we've also known for a few years now that dogs don't just wag their tails when they 're happy , but can also do so when they're tense, stressed or angry .

Lateralization of swing
More recently, a 2007 scientific study demonstrated that a dog's tail flapping had a different meaning, depending on whether the tail in motion was positioned to the left or to the right . According to the results of this study, the dog subjected to a positive stimulus tends to wag its tail to the right, and conversely, to the left, during a negative stimulus.

This same study also highlighted the fact that dogs react and are able to understand this same phenomenon, when they observe it in their congeners.

Movements and emotions
More empirically, those who are fortunate enough to share their life with dogs know that the movement of the dog's tail is closely linked to its emotional state and that it is important to take into account the movement, its amplitude , but also the position of the tail, to decode this particular body language.

Wide and fast swing

Characteristic when your dog greets you on your return home, the floppy tail in a sweeping, rapid swing , so much so that it occasionally wiggles your dog's hindquarters, clearly indicates his joy and excitement .

jerky and short movements
In a horizontal position, rigid tail, with short or jerky movements , the dog indicates stress , hyper-vigilance or a downright threatening attitude .

As we have just seen, the body language expressed by the movement of the dog's tail is not as basic as it seems. And it's a safe bet that scientific studies still have a lot to teach us about the finesse of our companions in the expression of their emotions and feelings. Until then, let's continue to listen to them and pay attention to these thousand small and big signals that they send to communicate with us . As with our fellow human beings, it is the guarantee of a fulfilling relationship!