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How to Train Your Dog to Keep His Tail Up

How to Train Your Dog to Keep His Tail Up
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon5-14 Days
Fun training category iconFun

Introduction

If you’re entering a local dog competition you’ll want your canine pal looking his absolute best. That means he’s stood upright, looking lean, and standing to attention. That includes his tail! If his tail always drops then he doesn’t look happy and he’s not going to be able to strike the right pose. There is no room for mistakes if you want the perfect shot, so that big, bushy tail needs to get in line. Alternatively, if you’ve got friends and family over and you want to show them a giggle-inducing party trick, then making his tail stand to attention never disappoints. 

This type of training is about more than keeping his tail up, it’s about drilling into him discipline and control. Control that you can use to teach him a range of other commands to get him marching to your beat and signing to your tune.

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Defining Tasks

You might think training your dog to raise his tail is going to be a challenging, but it’s actually surprisingly straightforward. Once you understand that he raises his tail when he’s happy, you just need to find a way of triggering instant happiness and excitement. That way whenever you give the cue, his tail will quickly jump straight up. As you can probably imagine, nothing gets dogs excited more than some irresistible food. If he’s a puppy he should be eager to please and straightforward to excite. It may take just a few days before you see consistent results. If he’s older and his tail has been drooping for a while now, then you may need a couple of weeks to get the message across.

Training him to keep his tail up will help you get that perfect Snapchat story. It will also make him picturesque for any dog show you want to enter him into.

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Getting Started

Before you begin, you’ll need to collect a few bits. Find his absolute favorite food and break it up into small pieces. Alternatively, stock up on some tempting treats. You’ll also need a clicker for one of the methods below. 

You’ll need just 5 minutes a day for the next week or two. You’ll also want to conduct your training in a quiet room when you won’t be distracted by a noisy household.

The only other things you’ll need are patience and an optimistic attitude. Then you’re ready to begin!

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The Clicker Method

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1

Pay attention

For the first couple of days, simply play close attention to your canine pal. What causes his tail to jump up most? Is it meal times? Is it when you go out for a walk? Is it when you walk through the front door, or when you pick up his favorite toy?

2

Click

Now choose one of those triggers and click during them. Give a clear click close to him consistently. So if his tail jumps up when he eats a meal, you’d stand next to him and click just before he gets it and then every now and then until he’s finished it all.

3

Patience

You’ll need to do this every single time this activity happens. This is the time-consuming bit, but it will be worth it in the end. You also need to make sure you don’t have any lapses. If you’re consistent he will soon associate the sound of the clicker with mouth watering food.

4

Test

After several days, it’s time to put your work to the test. When it’s just the two of you and there are no distractions around, hit the clicker. You’ll probably see his tail instantly jump to attention. The mere sound of the clicker will bring back the smell and taste of food.

5

Reward

To make sure the clicker stays doing the job, hand over a treat once his tail stand upright. Over the next few days, leave his tail standing upright for longer and longer before you hand over the treat. You’ll now be able to lift his tail and keep it upright with a simple click.

The Verbal Cue Method

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Play time

You need to make one toy his absolute favorite. Opt for a toy that makes a sound, like a squeaky toy. The sound is loud, crisp and will immediately get his attention. Play around with it for several minutes each day. Talk in an animated voice throughout to really get him worked up.

2

Test

After a few days of consistent play, the sound of the toy should send his tail to the roof. He’ll be so happy and excited at the thought of playing with it that they’ll be no dampening his mood. So give it a squeak and once his tail is up, let him play around with it.

3

Increase the time

Now give it a squeak again, but this time wait a few seconds before you give him the toy. The aim is to gradually increase the length of time he’ll keep his tail up for you. Practice every day, adding a couple of seconds on each time.

4

Verbal cue

Now you don’t want to have to reach for an old toy covered in dog saliva each time, so you need to use a verbal cue. As you give the toy a squeak, say "attention". Or, you can use any word or phrase you like. Over several days, he’ll associate the command with the toy and you won’t need to squeak it at all.

5

Lose the toy

Once he’s got the hang of it, just issue the command and then throw him the toy afterwards. By now the command will send excitement through his body. Just make sure he keeps that tail up for a little while before you give him the toy.

The Encouragement Method

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Somewhere quiet

Head for a quiet spot with your canine companion and a pocketful of treats. You’re going to take a slightly different approach and encourage any signs of tail movement to start with.

2

‘Up’

Give an ‘up’ command in a clear but playful voice. He’s probably going to look at you like you’re a crazy person to start with, but that’s fine. To help him understand what you want, point at his tail, look at it, you can even touch it.

3

Reward

As soon as it moves, which may take a little while of waiting, give him a treat and some praise. At this point, any movement at all is progress. This first hurdle is the biggest, so don’t be alarmed if you’re waiting for 30 seconds before you see any movement.

4

Persistence

Spend a few minutes each day doing this, but as he catches on that the behavior you want is related to his tail, you can begin to make it harder. Don’t give him a treat as soon as it moves anymore, wait for it to rise up. It probably will anyway, because he knows food is on the cards.

5

Staying up

After several successful attempts of him bringing his tail up, you need to motivate him to keep it up. Simply wait a couple of seconds before you give him the treat. Then next time wait a couple more seconds, and so on and so on. Once he’s fully got the hang of it you can cut out the treats altogether.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/17/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Lady Bug

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Poodle

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One Year

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Our girl(s) are 'soft, relaxed, quiet, difficult to excite. They play with each other and hold their tails up, but put them in the ring and they are all business, with tails down or out, and heads down and out (not what you want from a standard poodle). Help, we need to jazz them up, but still keep control in the ring.

July 26, 2023

Lady Bug's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start by figuring out what each dog loves - cheese, real chicken, liver paste, freeze dried liver, a squeaky toy, old sock, ect... Find what that dog loves, then find a calm area to walk pup around in a circle and act silly, dancing around and being bouncy as you walk pup in your pretend ring, give occasional treats or licks or bites at the toy as you circle in your ring. Keep this session short and fun with upbeat energy. Practice this several times a week, keeping it shorter and really fun, until those circling walks start to be associated with fun things and you see body language changing overtime. When pup is noticeably happy in that location with the rewards, choose a location with a little bit more foot traffic and do the same thing regularly, keeping things fun and happy with the rewards, until you notice body language changes over time. Slowly increase the external distractions as you practice this in new locations, with the goal to be being able to practice this with a decent amount of other people and dogs around, only moving onto another distraction level when you see that body language is consistently happy at the current location. When pup can do this in a field next to a fenced dog park (not in the dog park but just overlooking it) or busy park and feels happy, then see if you can find ways to practice this in class settings at clubs or venues before an actual show, to help pup generalize these new feelings to an actual show, with all of it's pressures, dogs, noise, and people. During a show, even though the pressure is of course felt by you, you will need to let go of some of your desire to win temporarily, in order to keep your attitude fun and relaxed enough for your dogs to take their cues from you and also have fun. Make it your goal to have fun as much as you can to help their energy too. Practice heeling and obedience still of course, but watch your attitude and re-introduce things like treats if needed, to keep practice sessions happy still. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 3, 2023

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jumbo

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Lagotto Romagnolo

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1 Year

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hiii, so my dog came to me when he was 7months old and nobody before worked with him for show he is wagging his tail at home but when we out of yard and house and on the show he doesnt wag his tail, do you have advice??? (sorry for my english not my first language)

July 12, 2021

jumbo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Roja, Pup's tail is usually an expression of how he is feeling. The best way to get a dog to carry their tail happily and confidently is to build that dog's overall confidence and level of happiness around the type of distractions often found at dog shows. I would spend intentional time taking pup to lots of places with dogs and crowds of people, like farmers markets, outside mall areas, parks, dog clubs, and other local events where pup is welcome. While there work on pup's obedience but also make the experience really fun for pup. Use pup's favorite treats, like real chicken or freeze dried liver. Keep your enthusiasm and energy high and excited. Act silly and animated, confident and very happy yourself! You should feel silly you are so enthusiastic and fun. When pup gets a bit worried about something, do a little dance and get pup excited with you. You want pup to begin to associate groups of people and dogs with things they love to build confidence and enjoyment, so that confidence and happiness will show in the ring as well. Pay attention to your emotions and energy at shows too. Shows can be high pressure for you, and mean long days. If you are stressed, pup is going to emulate that too many times. If pup can tell that you are enjoy yourself, they are more likely to relax too. The more the two of you practice around crowds and get comfortable with that, the less pressure you will probably both feel at shows also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 13, 2021


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