What is a dog expressing with a circular tail wag?

Tail wagging is one of the many ways a dog communicates. When a dog is happy or friendly, he often wags his tail, frequently in a circular motion. Also called the “helicopter wag,” this wag is indicated by the tail continually going around in a circle. Sometimes, a dog will even put his body into the movement, his entire body appears to be swinging back and forth.

A circle wag can happen whenever a dog is excited, such as at feeding time or when seeing a person that the dog loves or if he is engaged in play. It’s even been known to be used by some dogs to manipulate their owners. Circle wags register very high on the “cute scale,” so the dog, concerned about a forthcoming reprimand, will use it as a way to say to his owner, “I love you—please don’t scold me.”

Don’t be concerned if your dog doesn’t use a circle wag. Some tail shapes, such as that belonging to the Pug, whose tail is curved upwards, or a docked or clipped tail just can’t do it.

When you see a dog perform a circular tail wag, there’s usually no danger of aggression, but there is always the possibility of an overly excited and rambunctious animal knocking you over!

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