4 Reasons Dog Has Tail Between Legs and Acting Weird

Being a dog owner is much more challenging than we often think. We forget that dogs are complex creatures and have their own kinds of body language and ways of communicating

If you notice your dog displaying body language you’ve never seen before, it’s a good idea to learn about it and what these signals might mean.

How bad is tail tucking? Why is my dog tucking his tail between his legs?
How bad is tail tucking? Why is my dog tucking his tail between his legs?

Different Reasons a Dog Has Their Tail Between Legs and Acting Weird    

Body language is crucial with dogs. We all know dogs tend to wag their tails when they feel friendly or happy. But what if a dog has its tail tucked between its legs? The fact is, there’s not just one potential reason for a dog having their tail between their legs and acting weird.

Below is a list of reasons your dog may be acting like this. Take a look so you can figure out what is happening with your canine companion. 

1. Fearful Emotions

The most common cause of a dog putting its tail between its legs is that it might be feeling fearful or anxious. So if you see your canine companion suddenly put their tail between their legs, and there is some kind of circumstance of stimulus around that could be making them scared, they’re probably doing this because they’re fearful.

If your dog is scared, you’ll probably notice he’s also a bit stopped over and has a worried look in their eyes. Dogs use their tails and body language as their most important method of communication

Have you ever heard of the expression, “they went off with their tail between their legs”? That means that the person in question felt insecure and worried. And this expression we apply to humans came from canine behavior. 

However, if you see your dog acting strangely with their tail between their legs, it probably means that they are feeling extremely anxious and frightened. Take this seriously and attend to your pet, giving them reassurance and comfort. 

black labrador stares at camera
A Labrador with a rich black coat looks mournfully at the camera

2. Fractured Tail

This point is something not many pet owners think about, but there’s a possibility that your dog’s tail may be fractured. Have you noticed your dog seeming distressed or in pain, and have they been acting strangely with their tail? Can you think of anything your dog may have done that could have ended up in a fractured tail? If so, bring your dog to the vet right away. 

Your vet will examine your pet’s tail and determine whether they have a fractured tail. If the tail is fractured, this veterinary medical professional will know how to treat it. And this is essential, as you cannot ignore any kind of fracture. 

3. Limber Tail Syndrome

Limber Tail Syndrome is another potential cause of a dog keeping its tail between its legs and acting strangely. You may hear other pet-owners referring to this syndrome as frozen tail, swimmer’s tail, broken wag, cold-water tail, and even sprung tail

So, what causes Limber Tail Syndrome? It’s usually the result of a tail strain or sprain. Examples of activities that can cause injuries leading to Limber Tail Syndrome include:

  • Excessive exposure to cold temperatures
  • Too much confinement to a crate
  • Swimming
  • Too strenuous exercise (without having the proper conditioning beforehand). 

Have you brought your dog swimming in colder waters? It can be risky, and one of the potential consequences is a limber tail. While all breeds can end up with a limber tail, specific breeds tend to be at greater risk because of their typical lifestyle. Some examples include Setters, Beagles, Hounds, Retrievers, and Pointers. In other words, hunting breeds of dogs

chiahuahua swimming cold
Watch out for wind chill after swimming, especially for small dogs.

Symptoms of Limber Tail Syndrome 

There are specific symptoms to look for when it comes to Limber Tail Syndrome. But, remember, you cannot know for sure that your dog has Limber Tail Syndrome until you have them examined by a veterinarian. 

Why? Well, your dog may have a fracture or other condition instead. So make sure to get a vet exam before coming to any conclusions. 

  • The top edge of the tail has raised fur.
  • The tail is partly limp and is horizontally held (with the remainder hanging downwards)
  • No or little wagging
  • Signs of pain or discomfort on tail movement
  • Chewing or licking the tail area
  • Signs of tiredness or lethargy

4. Impacted or Infected Glands 

Another common cause of dogs putting their tail between their legs might be impacted or infected glands. If this is the issue causing your dog to put their tail between its legs, you will probably see other strange behaviors, too. Examples include scooting across the carpet, licking the anal glands, and suddenly sitting down for no reason

Bring your dog to the vet as soon as you can if you suspect impacted or infected anal glands. It is a painful problem, so you don’t want to put off treatment. Also, if there is an infection, it could end up in a dangerous situation. 

Certain circumstances can make your pet more likely to develop anal gland impaction or infection. These include: 

  • Anal gland duct obstruction
  • Incorrect muscle tone in the anal sphincter
  • Constant yeast or bacteria infections
  • Food allergies and hypersensitivities
  • Diarrhea caused by conditions such as illnesses or diet change
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Dermatitis in that area of the body 
labradoodle vs wall
Labradoodle Max looks at a toilet paper wall obstacle

What Should You Do When Your Dog Has Their Tail Between Their Legs and Acting Weird?

If you think your dog has Limber Tail Syndrome, a fractured tail, or any other of the conditions listed above, you must bring your canine companion to a veterinarian as soon as you possibly can. If there are signs of pain, this is especially important. Don’t take a chance with your canine companion’s health. Get your dog medical attention soon. 

dachshund check by a vet
A Dachshund with a veterinarian.

Dog Tail Tucking FAQ

Why is my dog’s tail between his legs?

A dog placing its tail between its legs often indicates fear, anxiety, or submission. There could be various reasons:

  1. Fear or Anxiety: Something may have scared or startled your dog, causing them to feel insecure or threatened.
  2. Physical Discomfort: Pain or discomfort, potentially from an injury or health issue, can cause a dog to tuck its tail.
  3. Submission: In the presence of a perceived dominant entity (human or animal), a dog may tuck its tail to show submissive behavior.
  4. Uncertain Situations: New environments or unfamiliar situations can make some dogs nervous, leading to the tail-tucking behavior.

Why do dogs tuck their tails?

Dogs tuck their tails as a form of body language to convey emotions or reactions. Tail tucking can indicate:

  1. Fear: It’s a natural response to want to protect vulnerable areas, like the underside.
  2. Submission: By tucking the tail, a dog is indicating a submissive or non-threatening stance to other dogs or humans.
  3. Pain: If there’s an injury to the tail or surrounding area, a dog might tuck its tail to protect it.
  4. Stress or Anxiety: Uncomfortable situations or environments can cause a dog to tuck its tail.
A sad looking dog
A sad looking dog

Why is my dog’s tail always tucked?

If your dog’s tail is consistently tucked, it could indicate:

  1. Chronic Fear or Anxiety: There might be ongoing stressors in the dog’s environment causing continuous anxiety.
  2. Past Trauma: Dogs with traumatic pasts or negative experiences might default to a tucked tail posture.
  3. Physical Discomfort: There might be an ongoing health issue or discomfort causing the behavior.
  4. Behavioral Habit: Sometimes, a dog might develop the habit of keeping its tail tucked, especially if they’ve been in submissive roles frequently.

If the tail-tucking behavior is persistent and not situation-specific, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

Why does my dog put his tail between his legs when he eats?

This specific behavior during mealtime might indicate:

  1. Food Guarding: Some dogs feel the need to protect their food and might show submissive behavior to convey they don’t want a confrontation.
  2. Past Negative Experiences: If a dog was previously reprimanded during mealtime or had to compete for food, they might feel anxious when eating.
  3. Discomfort: Physical discomfort, perhaps from dental issues or an internal problem, might be causing apprehension during mealtime.
  4. Environmental Stress: Distractions, loud noises, or other animals nearby can make a dog feel uneasy while eating.

Observing any additional behaviors during mealtime, like pacing, growling, or reluctance to eat, can provide more clues about the cause of the tail-tucking.

dog has tail between legs and acting weird
4 reasons a dog has a tail between its legs and acts weird.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen here, there are several potential reasons why your dog is putting their tail between its legs and is acting weird. If your dog is showing this behavior frequently or all the time, it’s even more important to bring your pet to the veterinarian for an examination. 

Even if you think emotional issues are causing the behavior, these also may need medical attention.