What is a dog saying when he tucks their tail?

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When a dog tucks his tail, it’s almost as though he is trying to make himself as small as possible, or trying to disappear. The message the dog’s trying to send is, “Ignore me, I’m no threat.”

Here are some specific reasons for a tucked tail:

  • Fear: Whether the threat is real or imagined, a dog might tuck his tail between his legs and will often combine it with a crouch or lowered haunches to decrease overall size. When you see this, it means the dog is afraid of something in the surrounding environment; it could be a child, another dog, or something else entirely.
  • Submission: Dogs are pack animals. They recognize the leader and will show their submission. One way of displaying this is by tucking the tail. Very often, a dog will even do this if it is concerned that you’ll reprimand it for something. It’s a way of acknowledging your dominance. The tail tuck is the dog’s way of making himself look smaller, conveying to you that he is friendly and means no harm.
  • Aggression: Sometimes, with a lowered haunch, it means the dog is ready to attack. Here’s where you’ll really need to use your skills in determining a dog’s mood: The dog may be snarling or even baring teeth. You may see the whites of the dog’s eyes, and the ears may be standing up, conveying confidence. The tail may also be swaying slowly back and forth.

What should you do if your dog is tucking his tail? For one thing, don’t approach the dog, especially if the canine is exhibiting other signs of aggression. You also don’t want to approach it if he’s feeling threatened because that will cause more stress and anxiety.

Instead, sit down so you’re on the same level as the dog, and offer a treat to show that you are friendly and mean well. Don’t stare, because eye contact is perceived in dog language as a threat. Speak quietly and soothing and show the dog that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Soon, the dog will relax and eventually approach you again.

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