Telling Tails: What Is Your Chihuahua Telling You With Her Tail Wagging?

Your chihuahua’s tail is a thing of beauty and tail wagging is a powerful way for your chihuahua to communicate her feelings and emotions. Unfortunately, us humans are not always very good at interpreting the message. This can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Getting to understand your chihuahua’s body language is an important step in interpreting your chihuahua’s emotions. 

Here is a quick guide to tail etiquette

When your chi’s tail is up in its natural position, which for a chi is the lovely scorpion curl, she is calm and happy. Different dog breeds have a different natural positions.

Tail upright, then she is raising her ‘flag’ to say ‘Hey I’m in charge’.

This is Macy all over, when she springs into action on a walk her tail pings up into a tight curl. The typical chihuahua scorpion tail. 

Flag up ‘I’m in control’

If the tail is curling between and under her legs then she is sending the message ‘I am not threat, please don’t hurt me’, or they are very unhappy with the situation they are in. Approaching a dog in this state of mind could result in you getting bitten. The dog is scared and may fear bite. Tail down but inert she is engrossed in what she is doing.


That should all seem easy to spot and seems to make sense, but it’s the wagging that can send out mixed messages to us humans.

We had a comment on an article about chihuahua behaviour, from a guy whose chi who would wag her tail but when you bent down to pet her she would snap.

This is mainly because as humans we have misinterpreted the message being wagged. We are brought up to believe that if a dog wags its tail then it is friendly, but it’s the way it’s being wagged that counts and friendly may not be the message the dog wants to convey at all.

Tail Semaphore

First, to get the full message from your chihuahua, you need to look at the complete situation and do an assessment of her body language. Is she stiff and rigid and her face pulled back taught? Then the wagging is not a message to approach and pet. If her face is loose and relaxed, then likely it is OK.

Dogs, like people, have right and left brain controls and each side controls the opposite side of the dog and therefore her tail wagging bias.

Right is more positive and left negative, meaning if her tail is wagging more to the left she is likely to be nervous, anxious or submissive. High to the left then avoid her.

Feeling cautious.

Speed is also something to look out for as well, the faster the wag the more heightened are the dog’s emotions, a fast wag that is low to the right then the dog should be approachable. A fast wag high to the left it might be best to avoid an interaction.

In general, if the dogs tail is slow and loose, whatever the position she is likely to be OK. Slow and stiff she is feeling tense. 

Take this away.

This is all a bit confusing and difficult to work out when confronted with a dog in a social situation, but the thing to take away from this is; a wagging tail does not automatically  indicate the dog wants to be approached or touched. So never assume. Assess the dog’s body language and context and if you are not sure then don’t’.