My puppy rarely wags his tail, what’s wrong?

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my puppy rarely wags his tail, what's wrong?

Learning how to communicate with your dog is one of the most important things you can do. If your new puppy only rarely wags his tail, you might be wondering whether he’s happy—and how to tell if he is.

Here are all the answers you’re looking for.

Is a wagging tail a sign of a happy dog?

One of the things we know best about our dogs is their tails!

The sight of a dog so happy to see his human that his tail is going a mile a minute is a heart-warming one.

If your dog is wagging his tail, that could be a sign that he’s happy. That said, it does depend on what kind of wag your dog is doing.

Your dog’s tail is one of the main ways that he communicates with those around him. Happiness and excitement aren’t the only things he’ll convey with his tail.

If your dog is holding his tail neutrally or slightly upright and it’s wagging moderately quickly, that’s a sign he’s happy. But if he’s holding his tail down low and it’s wagging slowly, that could indicate that something is making him feel stressed.

So it’s important to understand the different ways that your puppy uses his tail to communicate.

Before we get into why your puppy rarely wags his tail, you might have some other questions first. Make sure you take a look at these puppy behavior articles for more info on your puppy:

Puppies—and dogs—wag their tails for plenty of reasons!
Puppies—and dogs—wag their tails for plenty of reasons!

Do dogs wag their tails on purpose?

Since your puppy’s tail is such an important way to communicate, you might be wondering if he wags it on purpose. And, if your puppy rarely wags his tail at you, if he is telling you something.

Your dog does indeed have control of the muscles around his tail. But when it comes to actually determining how he’s going to wag his tail, that’s where things start to get a little more complicated.

For the most part, your dog’s wagging tail is probably instinctive. His tail works in a lot of the same ways that our facial expressions do.

It’s totally possible for you to smile or frown on purpose. But if you end up in a situation where you feel happy or you’re displeased with something, it’s an automatic reaction to make a facial expression.

The same thing is probably true for your dog’s tail! He can probably wag it if he wants to for some reason, but for the most part it’s an instinctive reaction.

And just like some people just don’t laugh very often, you may simply have a puppy who wags his tail only rarely.

What does it mean when a puppy wags his tail?

Dogs will wag their tails for different reasons. Depending on how your dog is wagging his tail, it could indicate happiness, anxiety, or reactivity.

The speed of an adult dog’s wag will help to indicate how he’s feeling. The more excited a dog is, the faster his tail is going to wag!

The same thing is true for your puppy. And since he’s so young—and excitable—you’re probably going to see his tail wagging pretty quickly most of the time!

There’s so much that your puppy is learning and discovering at this age. And all of these cool things to check out and learn about is exciting. So your puppy’s tail might wag pretty fast.

But, again, if your puppy only rarely wags his tail, don’t worry just yet.

An excited puppy is fun and adorable, but an overexcited puppy can be a bit of a problem. Here are a few related articles on overexcitement in puppies:

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What does it mean when a dog never wags his tail?

Your dog uses his tail to communicate what he’s feeling. But what if your dog never wags his tail—or suddenly stops? Could that mean that something is wrong?

Ultimately, it comes down to the individual dog. Some dogs don’t wag their tails because they have a medical condition. Many people refer to this as “limber tail.”

Limber tail means that your dog’s tail is limp and never or rarely wags, even when happy or excited. It’s usually a symptom of another condition.

For example, some dogs get limber tail because they’ve strained a muscle in their tail from overuse. Or your dog might have a tail fracture, a problem with his intervertebral discs, or he might have impacted anal glands.

A vet will be able to take a look at your dog and determine the source of the problem.

It’s also worth noting that this could simply be your dog’s personality! As long as your dog doesn’t seem to be in pain and a vet gives you the all-clear, your dog is probably totally fine.

Speaking of the vet: Have you ever thought about getting pet insurance for your dog? No? Then check out my article on the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?“. Or go straight to PetAssure for a cheap alternative to get 25% off each vet visit!

Why does my puppy rarely wag his tail?

A dog’s tail can be pretty confusing for us humans. We don’t have tails, so it can sometimes take a little extra work for us to determine what your dog is communicating with his tail.

Here’s a little more info on why your puppy might not be wagging his tail.

Is your puppy rarely wagging his tail at you? That doesn't mean he's unhappy!
Is your puppy rarely wagging his tail at you? That doesn’t mean he’s unhappy!

When do puppies start wagging their tail?

When puppies are still super young, it can take a while for them to figure out their little bodies. They’re still working on understanding all the different ways they can move around!

It’s the same reason why dogs chase their tails when they’re young. Your puppy doesn’t fully understand yet that his tail is a part of him!

But over time, your puppy will gain more control over the muscles in his tail. He’ll start wagging it to show you and other dogs what he’s feeling in the moment.

It takes different puppies and breeds different amounts of time to start using their tails properly. But most puppies will start wagging their tails at around 3 to 4 weeks old.

Do all dogs wag their tails?

A dog’s tail is an important way for him to communicate and express his feelings. Your dog uses his tail to tell others what kind of mood he’s in and how he feels about the world around him.

So if you have a dog that wags his tail a lot, you’ve got a super communicative dog!

On the other hand, you might be confused if your dog doesn’t wag his tail much. You might even be worried if your puppy only rarely wags his tail!

So do all dogs wag their tails? At some point in their lives, almost all dogs will express a feeling they’re having by wagging their tails.

But there are dogs that aren’t as expressive as others. If your dog seems happy and not in pain, then it’s probably nothing to worry about. Your dog might simply not be as open about his feelings as other dogs around you!

Tail wagging? Nope. Looks happy and excited anyway? Check!
Tail wagging? Nope. Looks happy and excited anyway? Check!

Can dogs be happy without wagging their tail?

Since your dog’s tail is such an important pointer to tell what he’s thinking and feeling, you might rely on it a lot. And if your dog’s tail is indicating that he’s happy, that’s a super easy way to know you’re keeping your dog in good spirits!

But your dog’s tail isn’t the only way he communicates with you, and so it’s not totally reliable. He uses his whole body to try and tell you what he’s thinking and feeling.

That’s why you can’t only rely on a dog’s tail to try and determine his mood. You have to look at the rest of his body.

For example, a dog can be perfectly happy without wagging his tail. Wagging tends to indicate excitement more than anything else. But a happy dog will show you he’s happy through other aspects of his posture.

A happy dog is going to look relaxed, with his ears held neutrally and gaze calm.

If, on the other hand, your dog is feeling stressed then he’ll show that in his posture too. Stressed dogs will stand stiffly with tails held lower or higher than usual.

Dog tail wagging FAQ

Still have questions about your dog’s tail? Here are a few answers!

My dog wags his tail while lying down, what does that mean?

It might look pretty silly to see your dog trying to wag his tail while he’s lying down. You might wonder why your dog is doing that.

Most of the time, it just means the same thing as when he’s wagging his tail while standing up. Something might be happening that’s making your dog happy or that’s causing a little bit of stress. Pay attention to the way your dog’s tail is moving as well as what’s happening around him.

If your dog is wagging his tail while he’s just lying down, it could also mean that your dog is just trying to make himself comfortable.

A dog’s tail can be pretty sensitive, and he might need to spend some time moving it around if he’s trying to get comfy.

As long as your dog seems calm and relaxed, your dog’s tail wagging while he’s lying down probably isn’t anything to worry about!

This little guy's tail is wagging because he's trying to get it into a comfortable position.
This little guy’s tail is wagging because he’s trying to get it into a comfortable position.

My rescue dog never wags his tail, is that normal?

Rescuing a dog from a shelter is a wonderful thing to do. When you rescue a dog, you’re giving him another shot at happiness and at a wonderful life.

But as wonderful as rescuing a dog is, there’s no denying that there can be struggles that come with it.

Depending on your dog’s history, there may be some things that have affected his ability to feel entirely safe and comfortable. This could mean that your rescue dog or puppy wags his tail only rarely.

To help your rescue dog, you might want to check out this article: How to Get a Scared Dog to Trust You—12 Tips and Tricks.

You can also work on building up your bond by doing things like training and having fun together. These articles will give you a little inspiration:

What does it mean when a dog wags his tail side to side?

When dogs wag their tails, their tails tend to move from side to side. But did you know that the direction your dog’s tail travels in when he wags it can tell you about his mood?

There is some evidence that when a dog wags his tail to his right, he’s feeling more relaxed. When the tail moves more towards the left, the dog might be feeling stressed out.

This has to do with the hemispheres of your dog’s brain. The left side of your dog’s brain controls the right side of his body, and vice versa.

Another interesting thing to note is that dogs can interpret the direction in which other dogs’ tails are wagging. There are a lot of little nuances to your dog’s tail!

Swishing to his right—this dog’s wag might mean he’s relaxed rather than stressed.

My dog never stops wagging his tail, is that normal?

Does your dog have happy tail syndrome? If your dog is constantly wagging his tail, you might be wondering if that’s okay.

Some dogs just tend to be really expressive! Your dog might be one of those dogs. He’s always got something on his mind, and he wants you to know how he feels about it.

That said, some dogs tend to wag their tails a little too much. Larger dogs especially might end up hurting their tails by over-wagging.

If your dog’s tail seems to be a bit of danger to himself or to the objects in your home, you might want to talk to your vet. They’ll be able to help you arrive at a solution.


Knowing what it means when a dog is and isn’t wagging his tail will help you better understand and communicate with your dog. It’s normal to see puppies wagging their tails often as they learn about the world around them.

And as he gets older, you’ll continue to be able to determine what he’s thinking and feeling now that you understand his way of communicating.

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