If you're an enthusiastic dog lover and your knowledge of canine body language stops at the wagging tail, then it's probably high time you sharpened up your facts. The tucked positioning of a tail can signify everything from uncertainty to pure fear in a dog. Learning this language isn't difficult.
If you notice your dog's tail tucked below his hind legs, then the poor thing is likely very frightened about something. Maybe you're pet-sitting for a close friend, and your pal's scared to death of her hissing Persian kitty. Perhaps you just brought his carrier from the closet and he's afraid that means it's time to go to the dreaded groomer.
Don't assume for even one second, however, that a frightened dog won't turn aggressive. If a dog's fear escalates into defense, he may suddenly expose his teeth to bite the other party. Always exercise the utmost caution when you are in the presence of a scared dog.
According to the ASPCA, a tail that is tucked under may also point to feelings of submission and vulnerability in canines. If your pet is standing on the vet's table with his tail in this position, he may just be giving in to the whole situation. He probably realizes that he's powerless, and is basically communicating -- via his tail -- that he surrenders.
The Best Friends Animal Society notes that a tail tucked below may mean that a dog is worried about something. He may be feeling kind of uneasy and uncertain about things, and doesn't like it one bit. Look at his ears for another clue that he's feeling this way. They may appear pushed back slightly -- a surefire sign that something just isn't right. You may notice your pet's tail tucked in this fashion when he's in the middle of unfamiliar and new situations. Perhaps you just threw a big weekend shindig and dozens of people he doesn't know are taking up space in his usually comfortable and private home -- a scary thought for any dog, indeed.
If your dog's tail is tucked under and he also slowly steps away from someone or something, this may indicate severe stress. Your doggie is feeling like a nervous wreck about his present situation, and literally isn't sure of what to do with his body.
By Naomi Millburn
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.