Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Ever wish you knew what your dog was thinking? You can — just watch his tail! Instead of using words, your dog uses body language to communicate. While a dog's message can only be fully understood by looking at his entire body, the tail end offers some significant clues to how he is feeling.
Here are some indicators to help you decipher what your pooch may be telling you with his tail.
Tail height can offer important insight into a dog's state of mind. In general, a dog who is holding his tail high may be feeling excited, alert or dominant, while a dog holding his tail down low may be afraid or submissive. The more anxious or submissive a dog is feeling, the more tightly he will tuck his tail close to his body.
Sometimes a tail held in a neutral or low position just means the dog is incredibly relaxed — this even happens to dogs with curled tails like Pugs, whose tails unravel and go straight when resting. A dog who carries his tail lower than usual can also be indicating that he is in pain, or exhausted from too much exercise.
It’s important to keep in mind that the normal tail carriage varies for every dog, since tail height is relative to the breed and individual dog. Chow Chows and Chinese Shar-Peis, for instance, naturally have a high, curved tail, while Whippets and Greyhounds have a lower tail carriage. Your knowledge of your dog's personality can help you determine if your dog is feeling happy or threatened, or if he's a little bit scared or just super relaxed.
A rigid, highly held tail shows a very aroused state; this dog is likely going to react to things around him, whether that’s the squirrel he’s spotted in the tree or a dog across the street. If a dog is agitated, his tail may also “fluff” up, with the hair standing up on end.
When the highly raised tail flicks back and forth rapidly, it’s called “flagging” and may indicate an imminent attack from a dog who is ready to defend his ground. Interfering with a dog in this state is a good way to get bitten.
In Pugs and other breeds with curled tails, a tense tail looks different: The existing curl in the tail simply gets tighter the more aroused the dog gets, eventually curling over itself again. In these dogs, a tensed tail doesn’t always mean aggression, and can simply indicate excitement.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Marine Corporal Seth Hill got the chance
to see Bbazy, a retiring bomb-sniffing dog
who served with him for three…
Dog bathroom issues can be frustrating
(and gross) to deal with. Thankfully, we've
got solutions to your…
We’ve all experienced it: the singularly
soul-crushing moment when someone
says they don’t like dogs.
First comes denial, then anger. The five
stages of flea-nial are tough to deal with,
but Dr. Andy Roark will get you…
An expert explains which protein sources are best for pets and how much of it cats and dogs need to consume.
The glamorous Siberian is an agile feline who wears a thick double coat with a neck ruff — perfect for keeping warm.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.