There are a lot of wagging tails in this household, and Otis has just upped the ante.
He has a big, loose, 180-degree+, constant wag. His tail can make circles or figure eights. I’m fascinated by its repetoire.
Mia’s tail is also constant, and mostly back and forth, with her hips going just as fast.
Fanny’s tail is hesitant before becoming a windshield wiper, but it will freeze at the slightest alarm. Gracie’s is slow, strong, upright, over-her-back motion. What does it all mean?
I decided to do a cursory search on the internet for articles about tail-wagging to see if I could figure out why one wags differently than another.
The first article I read was from VCA Animal Hospital and had several explanations for the motion I see most from Otis and Mia:
- Friendliness. A dog that is very friendly may wag his tail more freely and even wiggle his hips at the same time.
- Excitement. The faster the wag, the more excited the dog. A tail wag may range from very slow to extremely rapid (known as flagging). Sometimes the dog’s tail wags so fast that it appears to vibrate.
Here is something fascinating I found on The Spruce Pets site:
Researchers found that dogs had different emotional responses depending on whether another dog’s tail was wagging to the left or right. Dogs observing another dog wag to the right seemed to become relaxed. Dogs watching another dog with a left tail wag exhibited signs of nervousness, stress, or anxiety.
I discovered that Otis’ circle tail wag is a ‘helicopter tail’ and usually indicates a very happy and friendly dog. He is definitely both of those things.
Both Mia and Otis are very friendly, but only Mia has that super-fast wag that looks like a blur and does appear to vibrate, which makes sense as she is one excitable pup.
I have to confess that Otis’ laid back personality is one quality that drew me to him. While I absolutely enjoy an excitable dog and have fostered more than my share of them, my life is about to get pretty transient and we have two dogs who are not simple, so a dog who can go-with-the flow will likely be happier (and easier) in our lives in the next few years.
Mia’s high happy energy is fun, but it can also make Gracie bark more and Fanny stress more. Everyone asks why we don’t adopt Mia, whom we clearly love, and this is why. She is just about the coolest dog I could wish for, but with the current make up in our house (grumpy dog and extremely shy, anxious dog), a high energy dog does not help the chemistry. A friendly, easy-going puppy has definitely helped, though. (and Otis loves Mia too!)
One of Otis’ siblings’ adopters had a DNA analysis from Embark done on their pup. The percentages of each breed will vary some between siblings, but here are the breeds found in Otis’ brother’s genes:
The best part of this was discovering that there is likely a bit of Husky in Otis. My son Ian loves Husky’s. He begs us to foster them (we have fostered one to date, and Siobhan WAS amazing). He always tells me he’s certain that our Gracie has some Husky in her.
When I saw the DNA analysis for Otis’ brother, I immediately texted it to Ian and said, “See? I got you a Husky!”
He was doubtful and disappointed in Otis’ representation of the breed. Every time I tease him about it, he scoops up Otis and looks him in the eye, perhaps checking to see if there really is a Husky in there.
Otis’ potential Husky-ness, inspired Ian to purchase a DNA analysis kit of his own (from Wisdom Panel) to test Gracie so that he can prove his point. We are all holding our collective breath, although I’m a bit doubtful that he’ll be able to get a mouth swab from our most uncooperative dog.
Of course, now I’m weighing whether to have a DNA analysis of Fanny Wiggles. I hadn’t planned to because I truly believe that breed doesn’t matter, whatever she is, I love her beyond reason. My best guess is pit bull and Viszla, but who knows what lurks beneath that beautiful exterior.
It would be fun to know, but I’m not sure that a DNA analysis would be worth the expense. I often wrestle with why it matters so much to us. Too often breed can be the deciding factor between a life of luxury and death in a shelter.
On Sunday we took Otis and Fanny over to Edith Wharton’s house to watch the puppy bowl. There was probably more puppy bowl activity going on off the screen than on it.
Otis tried to get in on the action, but Fanny and Edith scrambled right over him most of the time, so he spent a fair amount of time smooching his hosts and raiding the food table.
All of the participants in the Puppy Bowl get their DNA analysis done and more than once the results were quite a surprise. It was also fun to see so many OPH puppies in the puppy bowl. Three of them even scored, although my favorite part was when Milky Way wouldn’t give up the ‘ball’ and her competitor had to drag her across the turf. Someday I hope I’ll have a pup in the Puppy Bowl. The closest I’ve come was two years ago, when my Frankie was on the pregame show.
Mama Mia Update:
Mia continues to wait. I still find it incredibly hard to believe this girl hasn’t been adopted. She is just the best pup—loves EVERYONE she meets, is crazy-smart, and embraces life with a contagious joy. Beyond that, she’d make a first-rate running buddy and an equally great couch-snuggler. Throw in the fact that she’s crate-trained, house-broken, and knows basic obedience, and I’m simply stunned that we’ve had her nearly a year.
Yes, she is excitable and yes, she does have a wild-walrus yell when she sees new dogs, but as those are her worst traits, she should have found her forever home months and months ago. My heart breaks a bit for her—I know she thinks she’s our dog and she can’t be. She deserves her own people, her own home. It’ll happen, I know, it’s just hard to wait. Hard for all of us.
Thanks for reading!
For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com where you can also find more information on my book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020) and my latest novel, Blind Turn (Black Rose Writing, Jan 2021)
If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.
And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the link to our podcast!
Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.
If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. It’s available anywhere books are sold.
I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact: email@example.com.