Most of us know that a dog’s tail can be a fairly good indicator of mood. We can observe whether the tail carriage is low, medium, or high and whether it is loose or stiff. Whether and in what manner it is wagging. We can often draw some pretty good conclusions from those observations, keeping breed in mind.
A dog wagging her tail loosely at a low angle is possibly friendly. A dog holding her tail upright, wagging it stiffly from side to side is one to watch out for. A dog with her tail hanging straight down or tucked between her legs is usually afraid or unhappy.
Except when she’s not.
I have a popular YouTube movie called Kongs for Beginners, in which I show how to make very easy Kongs for puppies and inexperienced dogs. All four of my dogs from that time demonstrate. A viewer commented that Zani looked unhappy because her tail was tucked. I hadn’t noticed. I agreed and put a note in the video description about it.
But over the years I’ve changed my mind. I’ve noticed that Zani tucks her tail in certain situations in which I know she is not unhappy. She does it when she is working with a food toy, when she is digging, even when she licks a plate. It seems to happen when she is very focused on a task in front of her.
Take a look.
I’m letting this be a reminder to me to look at the whole dog and the whole situation and not just one obvious aspect. And don’t forget: breed can make a big difference in tail carriage and other aspects of body language.
Zani’s tail may be tucked in those situations, but the rest of her body is not spelling out “misery.” She is animated and her ears are forward, and in two of the clips, she is eating.
Here’s a photo of Zani with a tucked tail when she was scared and upset for comparison. In this photo, you can see a lot of other stress signs.
How about the rest of you? Anybody else’s dogs tuck their tails when they are probably not upset? The reason I finally published this is that I did find one other person whose dog does the same thing. Thank you to Johnna Pratt, who also has a dog who tucks her tail when working hard on something. We’d love to hear about some others.
Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016