Dog Tail Between Legs: Top 9 Reasons & What to Do

Dog outdoor walking with his tail between legs

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably witnessed a dog’s tail in between its legs every once in a while. If you are wondering what it means, there are a number of possible reasons why this happens.

When a dog has its tail tucked between its legs, it usually means that something about its surroundings is making it uncomfortable. It might be anxious, scared, or submissive. In some cases, a tail tucked between a dog’s legs can also be a sign of infection, illness, or injury.

Due to these possibilities, it’s critical to understand the potential causes of tail tucking to keep your dog a happy dog.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top reasons why a dog tucks its tail, along with some advice for dog owners.

Why Do Dogs Put Their Tails Between Their Legs?

Dog with his tail between legs on grooming table

When your dog’s tail is between its legs, it is a clear indication that your dog is reacting negatively to a stressful or unfamiliar environment.

If you want to get that wagging tail again, you must make it feel safe and reassured. To do this, it is important to know the cause behind a tucked tail.

To help you on your quest, here are the top reasons why dogs put their tails between their legs:

1. They are feeling ashamed and want to apologize

When you catch your dog misbehaving, its bad behavior may make you want to yell at your dog or give it the evil eye. Either way, dogs immediately know they have done something wrong.

Because of this, most dogs will respond by slouching over, dropping their head abruptly, and gently curling their tails between their legs to avoid making eye contact with you.

This body language is saying, “I am truly sorry, and I apologize for being bad. I beg your forgiveness.” 

2. They are showing submission

When dogs do something wrong and their pack leaders are not pleased, dogs tuck their tails between their legs. This demonstrates not only their guilt but also their submission.

However, not all dog breeds will display this behavior.

Specific breeds, like French Bulldogs, have short tails, while others, including Beagles, Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, and terrier breeds, are highly independent and might not recognize you as the pack leader.

As a result, you might not notice them tuck their tails between their legs when they do something wrong.

3. They are feeling scared of their new environment

A dog will tuck its tail between its legs whenever it is in an unknown environment and is feeling insecure. This happens when it experiences anxiety, vulnerability, and confusion about the unfamiliar things around it.

Tragically, dogs from rescue centers often exhibit this tail behavior. They are more frightened and take longer to build trust in new surroundings for much longer than the average dog.

Other unfamiliar situations that could make dogs uneasy may include moving into a new home, meeting new dogs, visiting the dog park for the first time, or even staying at someone else’s home with other dogs.

4. They are expressing a lack of interest

Dogs sometimes want to be left alone and don’t like to be bothered, particularly when a female dog is in heat.

Female dogs may tuck their tails between their legs if they don’t want strange dogs sniffing their sensitive area.

This body language helps to prevent any unwanted male dog from lingering around and partnering with them.

So, if your female dog is in heat, keep them safe by ensuring no other dogs are bothering it, particularly male dogs that could attempt to mate with it.

5. They are infested by ticks and fleas

Ticks and fleas can be quite annoying to both you and your dog. These tiny, brown insects prefer warm temperatures and typically reside on the neck, belly, thighs, and even the anus of your dog.

Because of this, your dog might scratch or lick itself to eliminate the ticks and fleas. If this happens in your dog’s anus, it may tuck its tail in between its legs as a sign of stress after attempting to remove them.

The good news is that these parasites are only very active during the summer. Thus, you have to pay close attention to your dog’s body when that season comes.

READ NEXT: Dried Dead Tick on Dog: How to Remove It & What to Do (With FAQs)

6. They have a skin infection

If a dog keeps its tail between its legs, it could be a sign of a skin infection.

When a dog’s tail is cut or scraped, an infection is more likely to form, which it may try to hide from its owner by tucking its tail.

Pyoderma is one of the most frequent bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections. This condition typically has a white, pus-filled center and is red on the outside.

Dog breeds such as Bulldogs, Shar-Peis, and other dogs that are known to have wrinkles and deep skin folds are more prone to developing pyoderma.

7. They are suffering from tail fractures

Tail vertebrae are brittle like all other bones. A fractured tail develops when a dog is hit by a car, falls off a porch or bed, or has its tail smashed through a door.

If this occurs, your dog’s tail is often down, and it might be unable to wag or even lift it when going potty. It will most likely tuck its tail to protect it from any contact until it heals.

Bleeding skin, changes in gait, foul odors coming from the tail, and hair loss in the tail region are additional indicators to watch out for if you suspect your dog has a tail fracture.

8. They are giving a sign of limber tail syndrome

Limber tail is one of the many names for the illness recognized medically as acute caudal myopathy. Swimmer’s tail, cold water tail, and broken wag are the other common terms used to describe this ailment.

Dogs with the disease have weak tail muscles, which causes the tail to hang loosely between the dog’s hind legs.

Overexertion is one of the main risk factors for this illness. Therefore, it happens more frequently in working dogs such as the English Pointer, English Setter, Foxhound, Labrador, Vizsla, and Beagle.

9. They might have impacted or infected anal glands

Anal gland illness is more frequently linked with smaller dog breeds. This condition is often brought on by nutritional issues.

If a dog does not get enough fiber each day, it may not be able to have normal feces. As a result, the fluid accumulates, thickening and sticking to the anal gland.

If this is the cause of your dog’s tail between its legs, you will likely notice other odd habits as well. Scooting across the ground, licking the anal hairs, and strangely sitting down are a few examples.

What to Do When Your Dog Has Tail Between Legs

Scared dog with tail between legs

As a responsible dog owner, you must act immediately if your dog’s tail carriage changes. But the question is how?

Well, treating your dog will depend on the cause of why your dog has its tail between its legs.

If the reason why your dog is tucking its tail is due to fear, confusion, or a simple desire for peace, give it space and don’t force it to behave the way you like. Wait for it until it is ready to seek assistance.

When your dog is ready, you can gradually begin introducing it to training and socialization. These will help your dog feel confident and comfortable around other dogs and humans when you take it for walks.

Seek vet care if your dog has tail injuries or infections or if you are worried about it. After obtaining the necessary care, keep a close eye on your dog to ensure it is not doing anything strenuous.

You also should prepare a nutritious diet and provide a safe, clean environment for your dog. Doing this can surely make a big difference in healing your furry friend’s tail.

When to See Your Vet

Some of the reasons why your dog has its tail between its legs might not be alarming. However, it is highly advised that you take your pet to the vet on a regular basis, especially if there are any changes in its behavior.

With this, you will be able to determine whether your dog is suffering from a condition with no obvious symptoms.

Meanwhile, you should take your dog to the clinic as soon as you can if you suspect that it has limber tail syndrome, a fractured tail, impacted or inflamed anal glands, or any other alarming conditions.

This is crucial if your dog exhibits any agitation or indicators of pain, such as yelping. In this case, don’t risk the health of your canine friend and seek immediate medical attention for your dog.

Different Dog Tail Positions and Their Meaning

A playful mixed breed dog with playful tail position

A dog’s tail position can mean a lot of different signs. As a pet owner, you need to be aware of its emotions in case it needs assistance adjusting to a new environment.

Here are some typical tail postures and what they mean if you’re curious about the message your dog is trying to convey:

  • Tilted upward and high carriage: If your dog’s tail is elevated but not quite standing up straight, it is most likely displaying dominant and self-assured behavior.
  • Raised and curled over the back: When the tail curls slightly over the back, your pooch wants to show off how in control it feels.
  • Standing and fast wagging: This position of the dog’s tail tells a positive sign. It indicates that your dog is anticipating something exciting.
  • Standing and relaxed wagging: A dog commonly puts its tail high and wags in a relaxed manner when its pet owners finally return home. This only means that your dog is happy.
  • Relaxed and straight: If your dog’s tail is calm and straight or almost straight, it just signifies that it is observant of its surroundings.
  • Vertical and rigid: Your dog is approaching in a very careful manner when this position occurs. You’ll notice this tail position when your dog first encounters a new dog or human stranger.
  • Down and out: A lowered tail that is stretched out from the hind legs is something you want to see most of the time. This position simply means that your dog is content and comfortable.
  • Downward and still: When you see your dog’s tail in this position, your dog is experiencing some mental unease. Your dog can be feeling a little depressed and insecure.
  • Low and against the hind legs: If your dog’s tail is in a downward position, it can just be a sign of submissiveness.
  • Tucked slightly between their legs: Most dog owners don’t want to witness a tail slightly tucked between the legs because it indicates that a dog is scared and doesn’t want to be hurt.
  • Raised with slow wag: This often denotes your dog’s confusion. A tilted stare and perky ears may go along with the tail position.
  • Stiff tail with slight quiver: This tail position typically denotes tension in your dog. Perhaps they came across a hostile dog or an unwelcomed person.
  • Raised and alert: The last warning a dog will give before initiating an attack is usually a raised and alert tail. Typically, this tail position is accompanied by a lowered head and pronounced hackles.

When you’re first getting to understand the meaning behind the position and motion of their tail, it’s worth observing that different breeds have extremely distinct tail structures.

Some breeds, like Huskies, have long, curly tails when resting, while others have short, twisted tails. Others, however, may have their tails docked, such as the Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Boxers.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about dog tail positions and their meaning:

Interpret Dog Tail Wags: How to Understand Dog's Body Language

Frequently Asked Questions

White dog on the floor standing with tail between legs

Why Do Dogs Have Tails Between Their Legs and Acting Weird?

Dogs tuck their tail between their legs and may act weird for several reasons. The most commonly observed causes are infected anal glands, fractured tails, limber tail syndrome, and fearful emotions.

Bring your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup if your dog consistently or frequently displays this behavior.

Why Do Dogs Have Tails Between Their Legs While Walking?

Normally, dogs are excited about walks with their owners. If a dog keeps its tail tucked between its legs while walking, it is a sign that it is not confident in that particular environment.

Having said this, avoid taking your dog to places where it might feel vulnerable or threatened. You can also try to boost their confidence by gradually introducing new experiences.

Why Do Dogs Have Tails Between Their Legs While Eating?

Dogs typically tuck their tail between their legs while eating when they are frightened of their surroundings yet are also hungry.

This happens as a result of their instinctive need to protect their vulnerable areas, which are the abdomen and rear areas.

Why Do Dogs Have Tails Between Their Legs While Sleeping?

Dogs sleep with their tail between their legs because many of them enjoy touching their tails with their noses.

Wild animals frequently sleep in this position because it protects their internal organs and keeps them warm. However, some dogs simply like to sleep in that position, especially in the cold season!

Why Is My Dog’s Tail Down and Not Wagging?

A hanging, floppy tail that doesn’t wag normally is the most visible indication of a limp tail. This occurs as a result of the extreme pain at the base of the tail.

Generally, a dog with a limp tail will start showing signs of damage a few hours after engaging in vigorous physical exercise.

Final Thoughts

The way that dogs carry their tails can tell us a lot about them. If you see a tail tucked tightly between the dog’s legs, it usually, but not always, means the dog is scared or uncomfortable.

Most importantly, you should never overlook this body language signal since it could potentially be a symptom of an injury, a serious illness, or an infection.

But don’t forget to observe the rest of your dog’s body language. Despite the fact that the tail can reveal a lot about your dog’s emotions, it is merely one form of canine communication.

Have you recently noticed your furry friend tucking its tail between its legs instead of wagging it? Comment below and tell the reason why it tucked its tail between its legs.

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