Professional poker players look for a thing called a “tell” when trying to figure out what the other players are thinking.

If you want to TELL what a dog is thinking… look at their tail.

It’s long been known that the soft brush coming out the back of your dog is symbolic of the state they are in.

Turns out that if you can understand just a few of the most common tail wags so much of a dogs behaviour starts to make sense.

More important it can help you cater to them when they are trying to tell you something.

But what do the different tail wags mean?

The table below hopes to illuminate some of the most common things you will see your dogs tail doing, and how you can use them to become a better pet parent…

Tail Behaviour

What it means

A broad, smooth, sweeping tail. Dog is relaxed and comfortable
Helicopter tail (moving in circular motions) Feeling excited and particularly sociable
If your dog’s tail wags slightly to the right Indicate that they know or recognise the person
A tucked tail, or a tail that is a lot lower but wagging slightly Means the dog is slightly worried
A tail clamped between their legs Dog feels very worried
A high tail that’s wagging fast Indicates arousal and excitement
Move their tails from side to side Usually indicating that they recognise a scent


Although the chart above can differ between dog breeds – it’s been found to be very consistent with most breeds.

Speed of the movements or lack thereof can also indicate the intensity of the emotions. For example a fast wag indicates more excitement than a slower one.

Feel free to print this chart out and tick them off each time you see your dog displaying a specific wag.