What is a dog saying when his tail hangs low?

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There’s a myth that says a dog tucks his tail between the legs when he is feeling guilty; while this is untrue, as dogs lack the ability to feel guilt, a tucked tail with straightened hind legs does convey distress of some kind.

Here are some of the emotions and issue a down tail conveys:

  • Insecurity: If the tail is down but the hind legs are slightly bent inward, it conveys insecurity—you’ll often see this if a dog is introduced to a new environment or if a favorite family member leaves.
  • Fear: The stance can also indicate fear as a way of saying, “Don’t hurt me!” In this case, the dog is protecting their vulnerable tail from attack. He might also crouch and whimper.
  • Relaxed: If a tail hangs low but is away from the hind legs, it just means the dog is relaxed, and all is well!
  • Anxiety and Submission: Sometimes a dog will show immediate submission when he meets a new person. The tail will be low, the back slightly concave with the back-end higher than the front. The dog might also drool, bow their head or even emit a low moaning sound. Similarly, the dog might also wag its tail tentatively, to show that it means no harm and want to be friends.
  • Aggression: If the tail is hung low, but extended straight behind the legs, watch out! In this stance, the dog might be ready to bite. You’ll probably also see things like flattened ears, narrowed eyes and bared teeth.
  • Health issues: Sometimes a dog’s tail will be down when it is not feeling well. It can also be a sign of a sprain or other injury—remember, the tail is connected to a dog’s spinal cord. If you think it could be a health issue, check the tail for injury and then take your dog to the vet.

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