If you want to know what your dog is trying to say, look at his body language signals. Instead of using words, your dog uses body language to communicate, so pay attention to their behavior when you want to pick up on what they’re saying. Look at his tail, for example… is it pointing away from his body, help upward or even tucked between his legs? A dog’s tail is an important indicator of many things, such as nervousness, defensiveness or relaxation. Here’s what you need to know about dogs walking with their tails down and what your pooch may be telling you with their body language.
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The Root of the Behavior
The way your pup carries his tail while walking points directly to their current social standing as well as their mental state. In general, dogs who portray this type of behavior are most likely afraid or upset about something. But this also depends on the dog’s breed and personality. For instance, Chow Chows and Chinese Shar-Peis carry their tails in a high and curved manner, whereas Whippets and Greyhounds have a lower tail carriage. The same applies to West Highland White Terriers and Golden Retrievers. In general, a dog who is holding his tail high may be feeling excited, alert, or dominant, while a dog who walks with their tail down may be fearful, submissive or stressed. He probably also feels frightened and intimidated by another individual or animal, which he perceives to be stronger and superior to him.
You need to observe your dog closely and know what type of personality he has before jumping to any conclusions. If your dog’s tail is carried downward and closer to its hind legs it can mean they are either depressed, not feeling well, or insecure. If the dog’s tail is tucked between his legs, it often means they are very frightened or defensive. Typical signs of defensiveness also include shivering of the tail, growling, rigid-looking ears, and exposed teeth. Remember that if your dog's tail is dangling down in a loose manner and is not hidden between the back legs, you don’t have anything to worry about. It could simply mean they are feeling calm, cool, relaxed, or content. On the other hand, if you notice your pup’s tail is lowered, but not pushed in between his rear legs, you should consult your vet for a possible bellyache or an injury somewhere on his body. You will also notice him walk with his tail down when he’s generally uninterested in the surroundings or just feeling shy and timid, periodically flipping out his tongue and keeping his ears pushed back.
Encouraging the Behavior
The first thing you need to take into account is the frequency of the behavior. If his reaction is a sudden one then you need to think about paying your vet a visit, so that it doesn’t become a part of his personality later on. New and temporary situations could lead your pup to tuck his tail until he figures out what's going on, like a house full of people or unfamiliar dogs approaching him. You need to look at your dog’s overall body language to truly decipher what he may be feeling. Pay attention to the context and situations that trigger him to become defensive and discuss the matter with a professional. If your dog is shy or fearful, keep him away from "noisy neighbors" and let him check them out at his own pace. This way, he won’t feel cornered or pressured to do anything he doesn’t want to do. A fearful dog may explode if he feels cornered so you also have to take into account other people’s safety. By watching his tail and other body language signs, you can figure out when the time is right for him to make new friends.
Other Solutions and Considerations
What do you do if your doggie keeps walking with their tail down, even though the physical examination results came out perfect? It might be possible that your pup is suffering from soft tissue trauma (a sprain or strain) to the tail. What does this mean? If a dog wags too hard or strikes a solid object with his tail, he can suffer from pain or cramping that will cause the tail to hang limply between the legs. However, there is no need to get too worried… let him take it easy for the next few days and his tail will probably be back to normal very soon.
Dogs communicate with us and with each other through body language signals. Learning how to decipher your pup’s behavior will help you respond to their needs in the best way possible. With a little practice and patience, you will learn the difference between walking in confidence and walking in fear, and so will your furry companion.