When someone says that you “walked away with your tail between your legs”, it’s far from being a compliment. It means that you went away feeling defeated and embarrassed.
This saying was probably taken from the behavior of a dog that has been scolded or acting fearful.
If your dog has its tail between its legs and acting weird, this shows that your dog is being fearful about something. It could also be due to an injury, health problem or even a flea infestation.
In this article, we will delve into this behavior by dogs and when should it be a cause of concern for you.
Why Is My Dog’s Tail Suddenly Between His Legs?
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.
When it comes to dogs, their tails do paint a vivid picture of their current emotional and physical state.
It is universally understood that a dog with a wildly wagging tail is a happy pooch. But what about a dog with a tail tucked between its legs?
The most common reason that can cause a dog’s tail to be positioned between its legs is fear or anxiety. This gesture can also be accompanied by winning or whimpering by your dog.
There is an external trigger or stimuli in the surrounding environment that has activated your dog’s fear sensor, causing it to have a tucked tail.
Here are some common reasons that can cause a dog to become fearful or anxious all of a sudden.
Similar to humans, dogs too can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD in dogs can be caused by:
- Being abandoned
- Natural disasters
- Loud noises
- Physical or animal abuse
- Loud noises
- Dogs that work in the front line (military/police dogs)
- A bad accident
Let us take for example a dog that was involved in a car accident that resulted in serious injuries.
Even though it has made a 100% physical recovery, it can still be spooked by car noises or the car horn.
When exposed to such triggers, it will set off a bad association that the dog has towards the trigger which in turn will evoke a fearful response.
Dogs with PTSD can also exhibit other symptoms like:
If you suspect that your poor pooch is suffering from PTSD, it is best to seek treatment from your vet or pet behaviorist.
There are effective methods like systemic desensitization that will try and neutralize the bad association with the trigger/s.
Dogs with very bad PTSD might have to be put on medication to help with their anxiety and fear while going through behavioral training
Presence Of Another Animal
Some dogs might not have PTSD but can be rather timid in nature. My dad used to have a dog that was generally fearful of other dogs.
Dogs do not have to visually spot another dog to be affected by their presence. Given how sensitive their sense of smell is, they can probably smell the dog walking nearby.
And if your dog gets scared easily, it might have its tail tucked between its legs.
It doesn’t always have to be due to the presence of another dog. If you live in an area that can have wild animals roaming about, it can also cause the same response in your dog.
Limber Tail Syndrome
We all have days where we pushed ourselves to the limit be it at the gym or at work. We then come back feeling somewhat ‘deflated’.
The same thing can happen to our dogs as well.
Limber tail in dogs is usually due to a muscle sprain or strain in their tails.
Here are some causes of limber tail syndrome in dogs:
- Too much swimming
- Exposure to cold temperatures
- Confined in a crate or carrier for too long
In humans, we tend to call this issue a cramp or bad muscle ache without having a tail.
In dogs, a limber tail is also known as broken wag, cold-water tail, swimmer’s tail or frozen tail.
If your dog has been swimming in cold chilly waters for prolonged periods of time, don’t be surprised to find your dog’s tail tucked between its leg when it is out of the water.
A dog uses its tail to steer and balance in water so it does get a pretty good workout.
Here are some classic symptoms of limber tail syndrome:
- Absence of tail wagging
- Totally limp tail
- Pain or discomfort when tail is touched
- Whining or whimpering
- Excessive chewing of its tail
Most hunting dog breeds like Pointers, Retrievers and Hounds are more prone to having limp tails due to their lifestyles.
There are other tail injuries that can also mimic liber tail syndrome in your dog. So bringing your dog to the vet for a check might be a good idea.
The most effective form of treatment for limber tail syndrome is rest and lots of it. Your poor doggy’s tail has been overworked.
If the discomfort is severe, the vet might prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxers as well.
The dog owners can also use heat and ice packs to reduce swelling and promote recovery.
Happy Tail Syndrome
Despite what the name of this syndrome suggests, pet owners won’t be too happy knowing that their dog has happy tail syndrome.
There are some dogs that are compulsive tail-waggers and can result in injury to the tail when knocked against the wall, furniture, trees, etc.
This can develop into bleeding ulcers that can’t heal properly due to the constant tail wagging. These ulcers can cause your dog much pain and require medical attention.
If you notice the ulcers on your dog’s tail which alternates between a tucked tail and happy tail, get your dog to the vet asap.
In very serious cases whereby the tail wagging is incessant which causes the ulcers to worsen, the best way to resolve this might be to shorten the dog’s tail surgically.
It might seem like a cruel procedure to some dog owners but it can save your dog’s life in the long run.
Dogs with a docked tail can still wag their tails furiously but it doesn’t knock into things now. Some dogs can even start wagging their butts too.
A case of ‘lose some, win some’.
If your furry friend has its tail between its legs accompanied by biting and chewing of the tail. there is a high chance that it’s caused by a flea infestation.
These darn parasites survive by feeding on the blood of their host.
Dogs are more prone to catching fleas than cats since they do spend more time outdoors.
Fleas like to hide in grassy areas and will hop onto the new dog a.k.a your dog when it’s near.
Once the fleas are on your dog, they tend to set up camp at the base of your dog’s tail. A flea infestation can get out of hand very quickly as a female flea can lay up to 40 eggs in a day.
Here are some common signs of a flea infestation in dogs:
- Biting and chewing of its tail and body
- Sore and red skin
- Hair loss
- Visible flea dirt (it is actually flea poo which is your dog’s dried blood. Eww)
Having a flea infestation can be very itchy and uncomfortable for your dog and this discomfort can make it feel stressed out which can be seen in your dog’s body language.
The first thing that you need to do if you notice your dog’s tucked tail and excessive chewing is to check your dog’s body for sores and flea dirt.
Upon confirming the presence of fleas, here are some methods that you can use to get rid of them.
How To Get Rid Of Fleas In Dogs?
As a dog owner myself, having to get rid of a flea infestation on my dog was challenging. But it can be done with a fair amount of patience and know-how.
Use A Flea Shampoo
Flea shampoos are medicated shampoos that are aimed at removing the fleas on your dog’s body.
As the chemicals in the shampoo enter your dog’s skin, it is ingested by fleas as they feed on your dog’s blood and start to neutralize them.
One application of dog shampoo is usually good for 28 days. Do not use it like normal dog shampoo as it is too harsh for frequent use and can cause skin irritation.
Use A Flea Comb
Flea shampoo won’t be enough to totally get rid of all the fleas on your dog. Another method pet owners can employ is to use a flea comb that is dipped in dawn dish soap.
A flea comb is a very fine-toothed comb that can remove fleas from your dog’s fur. By putting the fleas in the soap solution, they will suffocate and die.
This combing has to be done over a few days to get rid of as many fleas as possible.
Use A Flea Medication
If your dog’s flea infestation is very severe, it is best to fight it from the inside out by giving it flea pills.
Flea pills contain active ingredients that enter your dog’s bloodstream and get ingested by the fleas. Once ingested, these fleas will start to die and fall off your dog.
Nexgard is widely used as a flea pill for dogs but make sure to speak to your vet before administering such medication as they contain strong active ingredients.
Isolate Your Dog
If you have more than one pet at home, be quick to isolate and keep them apart until the flea infestation is eliminated.
It is very easy for fleas to start infecting your other pets if given a chance.
So please keep them apart.
A fractured or dislocated tail can also cause your dog’s tail to fall between its legs. Dogs with tail fractures will usually be acting weird and in pain.
The tail is an extension of the dog’s spine and is made up of many bones which get smaller as it approaches the tip. The tail also consists of muscle and nerve endings.
The longer the tail of the dog, the higher the risk of getting into an accident. You’ll know what I mean if you have ever seen a golden retriever and bulldog side by side.
Here are some ways that a dog can fracture its tail:
- Vehicle accident
- Getting accidentally stepped on
- Crushed by a heavy object like a rocking chair
- Caught in the door
A dog that has a broken tail will be whimpering in pain, have its tailed tucked between its legs, avoiding human contact and walking funny.
Treating a broken tail in your dog isn’t something that you should try to treat at home. You need to get your dog to the vet right away.
If the fracture or dislocated bone isn’t set properly, it could result in a permanent kink in your dog’s tail.
The location of the fracture will also determine how serious the injury is.
If the injury is situated at the tip of the tail, it can heal on its own with minimum treatment.
If the bones have been badly crushed, the best option for the dog might be partial amputation of the tail.
The most serious type of tail injury is one that occurs near the base as it is very close to the spine. This can result in nerve or spinal damage that can affect the mobility of the dog.
Regardless of which part of the tail is injured, your dog should be resting as much as possible and with as little aggravation to the tail as possible.
This can take a few months or a few weeks depending on the seriousness of the fracture.
Impacted Anal Glands
If your dog has been going around with its tail between its legs, abruptly sitting down and scooting across the floor, that looks like a problem with your dog’s anal glands.
Your dog’s anal sacs are located at the entrance of the butt and it accounts for all the butt sniffing that goes on when dogs meet.
The anal sacs contain a chemical signature that is unique to each dog. Dogs will use this scent to mark their territory and it also serves as a fact sheet with the dog’s info.
The liquid in your dog’s anal sac isn’t the most pleasant thing to smell. It is dark in color and has an oily texture to it.
When dogs smell each other butts or poo, they are trying to decipher the scent signature that comes with it.
If a dog doesn’t express its anal glands regularly it can become infected or impacted. Infected anal glands will become swollen and distended thus causing pain to the dog.
The fluid within the anal sac can become bloody and filled with pus.
A dog that is suffering from infected anal sacs needs immediate medical attention. The pain can turn your dog aggressive which isn’t something you want happening.
The vet will have to empty out the anal sacs by expressing it to drain out all the blood and pus.
Sedating your dog might be required if it is painful and your dog is struggling too much.
The vet might also put your dog on a course of antibiotics to ensure that the infection is completely cured.
It is important for you to also know how to express your dog’s anal sacs after an infection.
One expressing session at the vet might not be sufficient to fully brown out the infected fluid.
Truth be told, it isn’t the most pleasant of tasks but it needs to be done.
Get your vet to show you how it’s properly done.
Dog Has Tail Between Legs And Shaking
If you find that your dog has its tail tucked between its legs and is shaking or shivering, it could be that your dog is being fearful or in pain.
Take some time to observe your dog’s body language as it might give you clues as to what is triggering your dog.
There are also certain health conditions that can cause your dog to shake and shiver.
- Old age
These are just a few examples that can cause your dog to behave in such a manner. The best way to figure out what is causing your dog such distress is to bring it to the vet for a proper examination.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is In Pain?
As dog owners, it is important to know when your dog is in pain so that we can take the appropriate action.
Many dogs suffer in silence because they can’t speak therefore it is up to us to learn how to read our dog’s body language.
- Sudden aggressive behavior
- Change in its usual routine
- More vocalization
- Heavy breathing
If your dog appears to be behaving like the above, there is something that is bothering it. It could be due to severe pain or mild discomfort.
Have you just given your dog an injection and it’s limping? That’s another sign that something isn’t right with your dog.
Do not attempt to treat your dog with pain medication without consulting your vet first.
Seeing your dog with its tail between its leg and acting weird might not always be a sign of something severe.
However, it still pays to have peace of mind by having your dog checked out by the vet just to be sure.
Sometimes, the cause could be more mental than physical.