We all associate tail wagging with love and happiness and it can be disconcerting when our pup does not get excited and wag their tail when they see us.
Is this something we need to get over or could there be more going on? Everything will be explained below!
9 Reasons Why a Puppy Doesn’t Wag Their Tail at You
There are quite a number of things that could be going on so it’s important to consider your puppy’s daily routine, environment, age, and health for a fair analysis.
Anxiety or shy behavior
If your new pup is nervous or perhaps just getting used to you, they may be unsure how to react in your presence. This is especially true in the first few weeks of them settling in with you.
We need to be patient with new arrivals, giving them the time they need to build confidence and flourish. For most pups, any reservation will be a thing of the past very soon.
To help form a strong and trusting bond, be sure to spend plenty of time with your pup and to train them frequently. Use positive-based reward training methods to keep them engaged and entertained.
Be sure you’re the one who feeds them and walks them: they’ll soon understand that you’re looking out for them.
Those pups who’ve been well socialized from a few weeks of age should be more comfortable around you. However, there will be puppies who are genetically more reserved. So, don’t take it personally if your dog takes some time to waggle that tail when they see you coming.
A need for something
If your pup has other things on their mind when they see you, they may not be focused on you. For example, a dog who is hungry or desperate to urinate may simply rush past you once you let them out of their crate.
Pay attention to what your dog is doing instead of greeting you and wagging their tail. This will be a good clue as to what is on their mind.
A puppy who has all of their needs met is one who is more likely to be calm and happy, and to give that tail a cute little wiggle.
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They are not well
There will be times when your pup isn’t feeling 100%. Perhaps they have a source of pain (such as an ear infection or broken tooth) or they’re nauseous. A dog who is not well may not have the strength or motivation to wag their tail.
Take a closer look at how your puppy is doing. Are they eating their meals and going on walks? Do they seem off color? If not themselves, a vet check is always sensible.
We also need to consider ‘Limber Tail’ in adult dogs. This is a medical condition that tends to occur after a dog has been swimming or exercising in cold weather. The tail can go limp and causes a good deal of discomfort.
Limber Tail usually resolves within a few days and can be managed with pain relief and anti-inflammatories. While it causes an uncomfortable few days, dogs will make a full recovery; and will soon be wagging that tail just like before!
While you may be energized and looking for some company, if your dog is low on energy or about to fall asleep, they may not be overjoyed to see you. Even the friendliest dog may pass up on a tail wag when they’re in a hazy state of slumber.
When your pup is catching some zzz’s, try to give them time to themselves. Rest is important and interrupting a nap can cause stress and irritation.
Additional Info: VCA Hospitals dog stress
Time of Day
Some dogs will wag their tail more at certain times of the day. For example, those who wag their tail in the morning are likely anticipating their breakfast and morning walk.
If they don’t wag their tail when you come in the room at mid-day, perhaps it’s because they know nothing ‘exciting’ tends to happen around this time.
If you think your dog may be getting under-stimulated, consider some fun new things you can do together; such as scenting games or hide and seek.
If you rely on harsh discipline methods, your dog may hold this against you. It is now generally recommended by canine behaviorists that we steer clear of punishments.
They can create resentment, especially when a dog is punished for not understanding something or for getting a command wrong when trying hard.
Rather than reprimanding bad behavior, we need to focus on lots of rewards for good behavior. Let your dog know when they’re doing well by heaping praise on them and providing tasty treats as rewards.
If you’re a strict disciplinarian, your dog may find it hard to trust you and to get excited to see you. Don’t damage your bond during training sessions; be patient and understanding.
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Separation anxiety from another family member
It can sometimes be the case that a dog is not so much sad to see you, but sad to not see someone else. If they’re longing to see their favorite person but you walk in instead, they may feel a little let down.
While most dogs love all of their owners, some can become overly attached to one, meaning they find it hard to bond with others. Some breeds are more prone to forming these attachments, including the Havanese and Bichon Frise.
Separation anxiety is something we need to work on with a canine behaviorist and it can be hard to treat. If you’d like for your dog to have stronger feelings for you, be sure that you’re the one doing the bulk of the feeding, walks and training sessions.
Simply put, some dogs are more exuberant than others. Breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers are far more likely to greet you with an energetic tail wag than, say, an Afghan Hound or Chow Chow.
Of course, every dog is an individual and you can get aloof personalities within every breed. If your dog is not one to get excited and likes to play it cool, try not to take it personally.
If your dog doesn’t wag their tail when they see anyone, they may not be a “wagger”.
As a dog gets older, they’re less likely to greet you with a waggy tail, licks and cuddles. There are many reasons for this. Oftentimes, they’ll be resting or asleep when you get home.
We also need to consider that their deteriorated sense of smell and hearing may mean they don’t realize you’re back in the house.
With age, dogs are more prone to joint disease, cognitive decline, and other medical conditions, which may make them less sociable and interactive. If you have noticed your senior slowing down, have a chat with your vet in case there may be some medicine that would be of benefit to them.
Extra info: Behavioral changes in aging dogs
Should We Be Concerned About This Behavior?
If your dog is always a quiet character who doesn’t wag their tail much, there’s no need to be alarmed.
Dogs can show their affection and admiration in other ways, such as obeying commands, laying near you, and protecting you from perceived threats.
If, however, your dog has suddenly stopped wagging their tail, this should be looked into. Given the many possible causes discussed above, a vet check is a good idea to rule anything more serious out.
Is There Anything We Can Do?
As an owner, understand that there are other ways your dog shows love and gratitude. They don’t need to wag their tail, and it may simply be their personality type.
If a medical issue is suspected, have them booked in to see their vet for a check-up.
In the long run, if something seems to be “off” about their behavior you could consider hiring a dog behaviorist. Although in most cases, this wouldn’t be necessary.