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Southlake Animal Hospital
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How to Read Your Dog’s Tail Language

December 1 2015

Since dogs can’t talk, they must rely on vocalizations and body language to communicate with us. Have you ever wondered what exactly your dog is saying with his tail? Read on below as your Crown Point, IN vet gives you some insight.

Standard Positioning

Just about every dog has a standard tail position that they keep their tail in most of the time. This means your pooch is relaxed and comfortable. Of course, thanks to the enormous variety of tails, dogs, and canine personalities out there, your dog’s standard position won’t be the same as every other dog’s! Observe your pooch when they’re in a normal, relaxed state, and you’ll be able to determine what their standard position is.

The Alert Pose

When a dog’s senses have been alerted by something—a sound, another dog, a stranger, a quick movement, or almost anything else—you may see the tail go into the alert position. Usually, the tail is held straight up in a rigid manner. You’re likely to also see perked ears and widened eyes along with this tail position.

The Flag Pose

The flag pose is an extension of the alert position. The flag means that your dog holds the tail straight up in the air, then waves it stiffly back and forth. This occurs when your dog perceives a threat; the tail movement is his attempt to make himself look bigger and more threatening to ward off any danger. In many dogs, you’ll see widened eyes and, possibly, bared teeth and growling accompanying the flag position.

Tail Wags

It’s commonly thought that a wagging tail means a dog is contended, happy, and excited. While this is true many times, experts now know that a wagging tail can indicate various other emotions. Even fear or aggression could be indicated by a wagging tail! Don’t assume that a wagging tail means a dog is feeling friendly, especially if you’re approaching an unfamiliar canine.


Everyone’s heard the expression about tucking your tail between your legs. Our canine friends are the masters of this—a tucked tail indicates fear, nervousness, or submission. A slinking posture and flattened ears may accompany the tail-tuck.

It’s important to remember that these are not universal tail movements—some dogs’ tails aren’t even long enough to accomplish these positions! For more information on your particular pooch’s tail and body language, contact your Crown Point, IN veterinarian.