Why Dogs Put Their Tail Between Their Legs?

Reviewed By Kyoko •  Updated: 10/01/21 •  7 min read
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Dogs Put Their Tail Between Their Legs

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If you’re like most pet parents, you’ve observed your dog putting his tail between his legs. But what does this position mean?

If you’re curious about what your dog may be trying to tell you, then read on! We’ll take a look at why a dog puts his tail between his legs and what this may mean. Let’s get started!

The Position of a Dog’s Tail Has Says Quite a Bit

Dog’s tails have evolved over time to be a form of communication with other dogs and us. The position a dog holds in his tail can tell you quite a bit about how he’s feeling. For instance, if your dog holds his tail up and it’s wagging, this is a general indication the dog’s happy! However, when a dog’s tail droops and his body is hunched, this is an indication that something’s wrong or the dog is very sad.

However, what does it mean when a dog puts his tail between his legs?

Tail Between the Legs Meaning

If your fur baby holds his tail between his legs, it can mean he’s scared or showing submission. It can also mean the dog has been traumatized in some way, or they’re adjusting to a new environment and are unsure.

The tail between the legs first developed in wild canines. For instance, wolf puppies will use this as a sign of submission when they begin interacting with the whole pack. They may put their tail between their legs in submission for something they did wrong.

You may notice the same behavior in your dog when he gets in trouble for doing something wrong. Perhaps he’s chewed up your favorite shoes and is trying to apologize when you find the chewed-up remnants!

In addition, a dog may put his tail between his legs to protect vulnerable areas such as the genitals and abdomen. A dog may do this when he meets a new dog or one that is definitely the alpha in the neighborhood. Your dog is then protecting himself and showing submission by putting his tail between his legs.

Other Meanings for a Tucked Tail in Dogs

A tucked-in tail can also mean other things, including:

Wagging tail held more up: the dog is showing happiness by his tail wagging back and forth, sometimes quite fast!

Tail tucked tight between the legs: the dog may be scared and feeling vulnerable. This may be a sign of submission.

Tail pointing down, close to the legs: the dog may be feeling insecure, scared, or stressed.

Keep in mind these are generalities and that not all dog breeds use the same methods of communication with their tails. For instance, some dogs, such as the French Bulldog, don’t have long tails. This makes it much more challenging to discern what the dog may be feeling. The tail is simply too short to convey much information.

What is My Dog Trying to Tell Me With His Tucked Tail?

If your dog is putting his tail between his legs, he may be trying to tell you the following:

He’s sorry: your dog may be saying he’s sorry for chewing up your favorite shoes. That’s an apology! If you got angry and scolded your dog, then he understands he did something wrong. And then he puts his tail between his legs and looks at you with sorrowful, large eyes. Your dog may also drop his head or turn away from you. In other words, your dog knows he did something wrong and that he’s in trouble. He’s trying to say he’s sorry for what he did.

Your dog made a mistake: your dog may also tuck his tail between his legs after he’s been caught taking meat off the counter! He knows he’s not supposed to do that and will act guilty when you find him in the middle of eating that meat! Your dog will probably hunch up a bit and put his tail between his legs.

He’s showing submission: another reason your dog may be putting his tail between his legs is to show you he’s showing submission to you. In other words, he’s acknowledging that you’re the one in charge of the pack, which is the family. If your canine companion has done something wrong, and knows it, and knows you know it, then he may show submission by tucking his tail between his legs. Your dog may put his tail in between his legs when you scold him, showing he’s apologizing and that you’re in charge.

Feeling insecure in a new environment: if you take your dog to a new place or move to a new home, he may start putting his tail between his legs. This is because he’s unsure about the new environment. He’s feeling vulnerable and is trying to protect himself. This can happen around new dogs, too. Your dog may also put his tail between his legs when he knows it’s bath time, especially if he really hates getting a bath!

Dog may not want to mate: female dogs, who are in heat but are not wanting to mate, may put their tails between their legs. She’s trying to protect herself from a dog that’s somehow not desirable. A female dog may also put her tail between her legs if there are too many male dogs trying to mate with her at the same time.

Other Reasons a Dog May Tuck His Tail Between His Legs

In addition to the above, there are other reasons a dog may tuck his tail between his legs, including:

Sickness & pain: if a dog is feeling sick and/or in pain, he is feeling vulnerable. He may put his tail between his legs and under his body. You may also notice other symptoms, including:

If you notice these symptoms, then it’s time to call the vet to have your dog checked.

Tail injury: a dog with an injured tail may also put his tail between his legs. This can also be the case in dogs who have injured their back in some way. You may notice the tail has become swollen and/or that your dog is licking his tail or chewing it. The issues could be a fracture, nerve damage, prostate gland problems, anal gland problems, or a skin condition.

Constipation: can also cause a dog to put his tail between his legs. Constipation can develop in dogs that don’t have enough fiber in their diet.

These are some of the main causes for a tail between the legs, but there are others.  The important takeaway here is that if you notice your dog is tucking his tail between his legs and he has some other symptoms, then it’s time to call the vet. Your dog may have some medical condition that’s making him hold his tail in this way.

So, there you have it! A tucked tail can be normal in dogs, and it can mean several different things. As a pet parent, it’s essential to pay attention to your dog. If he seems to be holding his tail down more than normal, then it’s time to have him checked by the vet. The earlier you get him treated, the sooner your fur baby will be feeling better and holding his tail high and wagging once again!

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Kyoko

Kyoko is from a family of 3 and moved to New York with her parents and siblings when she was 13. Kyoko is fond of spending a great amount of time with pets, specifically her beagle Luna and cat Missy. Her boyfriend often complains that she spends too much time giving attention to their animals. Kyoko has written dozens of articles concerning pets and is aiming at owning a pet shop one day!

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