Why do dogs put their tails between their legs? Part of the series: Dog Care & Training. Watch your dog along a narrow surface you will see the tail will be hard. Always exercise the utmost caution when you are in the presence of a scared dog. Just like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can manifest in humans as obsessive cleaning or counting, CCD in dogs can lead to compulsive tail-chasing, fur-licking, or fabric-sucking. Those dogs, whose activities include, climbing the various surfaces by using their tails, to balance uneven paths. He chases a tennis ball for hours on end and barks at every squirrel that enters his backyard. Interesti… On the other hand, submissive dogs will keep their seats down to go unnoticed. However, if he’s doing this frequently or whining, it may mean you need to spend more time with your pooch, giving him … But, it’s important to watch out for potential problems and intervene if you suspect it’s a symptom of something more serious. He may be feeling kind of uneasy and uncertain about things, and doesn't like it one bit. Dr. Steve Weinberg, DVM, is the founder of 911 Vets , an in-home pet medical service in California that provides on-call animal emergency services 24 hours a day. About the Author Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. As long as your pup isn’t being too aggressive (like snapping at you or barking loudly), this is perfectly normal. Dogs like greyhounds and whippets have long, strong tails that taper and curl under their bodies when they’re relaxed. Your veterinarian can help determine if behavior modification techniques will help treat your pet’s compulsion, says Hartstein, but sometimes a prescription pet medication may be required. Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails? Tail serves as a counterbalance on a regular basis. Animal Planet says that alpha dogs who hold their tails high can release more scent from the anal glands. When a dog keeps his tail down and concealed between his back legs, it often is a sign that something is amiss. If you feel like this might be the reason behind your dog’s sudden interest in his tail, make sure he’s getting all the activity and attention he needs. Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails? Scent marking through the air as well as on trees and bushes sends out different important messages. He also loves to chase his tail, an action that sends him spinning in dizzying circles. This meaning may also change in intensity if the dog modifies its tail position. They direct their tail to help steer . “It’s fun! Lastly, Nordic dogs use their tails as insulation. Why do dogs chase their tail? So Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails? In general, puppies are also more prone to playing and can turn practically anything into a dog chew toy, which sometimes includes their tail. Sometimes, a dog chasing their tail can just be a normal behavioral act. Oftentimes, dogs will chase their tails because they are a bit bored; it’s a way for them to have fun and expend some energy. This may help you and your veterinarian come up with some management techniques. If you notice your dog's tail tucked below his hind legs, then the poor thing is likely very frightened about something. Like fast dogs use their tails for stability on land, water dogs use it as a rudder when they are swimming. Dogs are social animals and need displays of love from their owners. In other words, when you just can’t get him to stop. The Best Friends Animal Society notes that a tail tucked below may mean that a dog is worried about something. The tucked positioning of a tail can signify everything from uncertainty to pure fear in a dog. The best type of toys for this are dog puzzle toys, like a KONG classic dog toy stuffed with something extra-delicious. Fleas may congregate on the tail, especially near the underside, causing sudden itchy fits. “It would be termed a ‘stereotypy,’ which is, by definition, a repetitive behavior without any apparent function,” Dr. Spano explained. As your dog’s primary caretaker, carefully observe your dog’s behaviors and try to pinpoint the root cause or trigger of your dog’s tail-chasing. This example of body language usually denotes a canine who is feeling unsure of himself, and rather anxious, vulnerable, weak and submissive, and defensive. Environmental allergies anything from pollen outside to household chemicals inside can give rise to allergic reactions. They also thought that removing the tail would strengthen the dog’s back and increase … According to Canine Journal, dogs also use their tails to spread their scent, which is a way to communicate. Tail-chasing can be caused by medical issues, such as allergies, fleas, and trauma to or diseases of the tail or spine. If you notice bristling hair down its back or down the dog’s tail this often suggests a sign of aggression. If you're an enthusiastic dog lover and your knowledge of canine body language stops at the wagging tail, then it's probably high time you sharpened up your facts. Perhaps you just brought his carrier from the closet and he's afraid that means it's time to go to the dreaded groomer. Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?. A dog’s tail helps them spread their scent. Obviously, they aren’t human and can’t verbally ask for affection, so this is their way of requesting it. Young puppies do it to help them learn balance and get a feel for all their body parts, and for older dogs, it can simply be a convenient, fun thing to chase. It's somewhat similar to when us humans curl up into the fetal position when feeling sad or sick. Whether the source of your dogs allergy is mites, mold or contact with other animals, the reactions are most severe in a dogs early years, between 3 months and 6 years old. Discover what it means when your dog has a wagging tail. Maybe you're pet-sitting for a close friend, and your pal's scared to death of her hissing Persian kitty. They also are learning about their bodies, and it is natural for a dog to explore their body,” says Russell Hartstein, animal behaviorist and founder of Fun Paw Care. When a dog is swimming, you’ll notice their tail straight out below the surface, but then as soon as you encourage them … In addition to creating a holy empire, ancient Romans gave us the unholy practice of tail docking. You can also ask your veterinarian about herbal dog supplements, such as HomeoPet anxiety relief animal supplement or VetriScience Composure behavioral health dog chews, which can be purchased over the counter. Your Dog May Sit At Your Feet to Guard the Pack When your dog is sleeping on your feet, it’s their way of bonding with their owner – who some believe they see as the leader of the rest of the pack. It provides gentle hugging pressure that may relieve dog anxiety. According to the ASPCA, a tail that is tucked under may also point to feelings of submission and vulnerability in canines. I have also consulted with some of my cat furriends (read: Instagram friends) to let you know why some others sit on theirs. When a dog puts its tail between its lets it is a sign of submission. An obsessive dog suffering from separation anxiety may chase his tail to help calm himself while his owner is gone. Or, your dog may chase his tail when he feels overcome with anxiety when a stranger approaches the house or during a loud thunderstorm. Teller County Regional Animal Shelter: Dog Body Language. However, genetics is only one aspect as to why dogs sit on us. Is it a normal dog behavior or the result of anxiety or something else? But as adults, tail chasing could be a sign of boredom or a sign of an underlying physical condition that needs to be addressed (Burn, 2011). Your dog never fails to make you smile with his silly antics. Even though we sometimes wish that our dogs could speak to us, dogs are great communicators and their tails play a … She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo. If your dog is feeling a little bored, he might just come up with a fun tail-chasing game to keep himself occupied. Dogs use their tails to communicate their mood and to spread their scent via their anal glands. A dog uses her tail for balance: when walking on narrow pathways, steering while swimming, making turns when running, and … You may notice your pet's tail tucked in this fashion when he's in the middle of unfamiliar and new situations. Your doggie is feeling like a nervous wreck about his present situation, and literally isn't sure of what to do with his body. Lap dog breeds include the Maltese, Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise and the Pug, but there are many. He probably realizes that he's powerless, and is basically communicating -- via his tail -- that he surrenders. Even while running, walking and sitting. A dog’s tail can include as many as 23 vertebrae. Teller County Regional Animal Shelter: Dog Body LanguageASPCA: Canine Body LanguageASPCA: Reading Canine Body PosturesASPCA: Canine Body Language. If you're packing your overnight bag and she associates that with being boarded at a kennel, she might tuck her tail and move away from you as you pack. Rather, it's a sign that your dogs are getting along well in the multi-dog household according to All Boxer Info. If your dog’s anxiety or compulsive behavior can’t be managed through puzzle toys or calming aids alone, Hartstein says your veterinarian might recommend a dog anxiety medication. He has to know that his tail is a part of his body, so what’s so interesting about it? Is It Just Normal Dog Behavior? Tail-chasing might just be a reflection of your dog’s fun and spunky personality. Wagging tails, however, do not always mean friendly dogs. Your dog will come sit on you, perhaps bringing a toy or showing his belly, when he wants some playtime and attention. Why Do Dogs Have Tails In The First Place? It’s easy to assume that your dog is spinning around in circles chasing his tail simply because he’s trying to catch the furry, wiggly thing attached to his butt. Since the dogs were bred to encourage companionship, many dogs are more likely to sit on their guardian's lap thanks to genetics. Dogs do have bones in their tails. Do dogs feel pain in their tail? They may appear pushed back slightly -- a surefire sign that something just isn't right. Your dog is also telling other dogs that he meets if he is a dominant force to be reconnected with, or just a meek and mild happy, sociable chap. Wagging contracts the area around the anal muscles, which spreads the dogs’ unique scent, due to which reason, dominant dogs keep their tails higher to make everyone aware of their presence. Tapeworms may cause anal itching that makes your dog bite the base of his tail to get relief. You might just find that the tail-chasing goes away completely with a little extra playtime. Perhaps you just threw a big weekend shindig and dozens of people he doesn't know are taking up space in his usually comfortable and private home -- a scary thought for any dog, indeed. If a dog's fear escalates into defense, he may suddenly expose his teeth to bite the other party. If you live with a puppy, you know how hilarious it is to watch them do zoomies around the house, spill their water bowls, step in food dishes, and chase their tails. Why we cut them off some breeds. For example, if your pooch gets anxious when you leave him alone, try to distract him by offering a dog interactive toy. The different movements and positions of a dog’s tail can tell you a lot about how the animal is feeling or what they are trying to communicate. A broad, smooth, sweeping tail (not tucked or high) means the dog is currently relaxed and comfortable Helicopter tail (the type that moves in circular motions) is normally reserved for people your dog knows and for their close doggy friends. Inflammation of the skin, or dermatitis, caused by fleas and ticks is not the only allergy that can lead a dog to chew at her tail. If your dog gets anxious when someone walks by the house or an animal comes into the backyard, Hartstein recommends diverting his attention with a rousing game of fetch with his favorite toy. This is especially true for puppies, who may not even realize that their tail is actually a part of their body, but see it as a toy. A happy dog will wag their tail and an angry dog will have an erect or fluffed up tail. Tail Variety in Dogs. Generally, as dogs age, this kind of play dies down. Puppies tend to partake in this behavior more than adult dogs, as they are still learning about their bodies. Dogs use their tails as a tool for social communication. Featured Image: iStock.com/Alona Rjabceva, dog becomes extremely anxious during thunderstorms or fireworks, Thundershirt anxiety and calming aid for dogs, HomeoPet anxiety relief animal supplement, VetriScience Composure behavioral health dog chews. Dogs Wagging Their Tails in Different Directions. “It is something to mention to your vet, just to run through potential medical causes and make sure your pet is not afflicted by those issues,” Dr. Liff says. Tails do serve to help maintain dogs’ balance, but communication is their primary purpose. Dogs keep their tails between their legs for a good reason: to make themselves look as small as possible. When the tail points forward between the legs it prevents the dog from releasing its scent. Stress. Dogs chase their tail to burn off energy. In some cases, tail-chasing may also be a form of idiopathic epilepsy, says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colorado. Make a regular habit out of taking him outside with his favorite dog toys a couple times a day, and take him on an extra-long walk a few times a week. Don't assume for even one second, however, that a frightened dog won't turn aggressive. A humans first instinct to a skin allergy is to scratch at it, and its the same for a dog. Sometimes, a dog chasing their tail can just be a normal behavioral act. Look at his ears for another clue that he's feeling this way. 8 – All right, let’s talk about a few more examples of how a dog carries its tail. Since dogs are domesticated, they also use their tails to communicate with humans. Romans believed that cutting a dog’s tail and tongue prevented rabies. If your pet is standing on the vet's table with his tail in this position, he may just be giving in to the whole situation. “It’s fun! Dogs require a lot of stimulation and exercise to keep themselves in peak physical and mental condition. Tail-chasing might also be caused by boredom or lack of exercise, says Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM and Medical Director of Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City. If both dogs are nonchalant about the behavior, it's no cause for concern. That’s because the tail DOES have pain receptors, but they do not react the same when relaxed as when excited. If your dog is a puppy sitting on an adult dog, this feeling of warmth and security is … But it’s not that harmless. Dog tails are the last section of the dog’s spine. Forget the myth that any kind of tail wagging from a canine is a sign of happiness, as your dog may be using their tail to send a warning message. However, excessive tail chasing can be a … Find out what your dog is trying to communicate with this common dog behavior. Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, and other Arctic dogs curl their furry tails all the way to the front of their noses to keep their nostrils from drying up and to protect their faces from the bitter cold. I don’t know why cats overall sit on their tails, because I am merely one cat amongst many, but I will definitely let you know why I like to place my left paw on my tail. This goes back to more primal days, when dogs had to rely on the leader – that’s, again, you – to keep them safe from predators. According to the ASPCA, a tail that is tucked under may also point to feelings of submission and vulnerability in canines. Compulsive tail-biting can also be caused by canine compulsive disorder (CCD), says Dr. Liff. If your pet is standing on the vet's table with his tail in this position, he may just be giving in to the whole situation. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. Most of the time, dogs chase their tails as a form of play. This dog behavior is considered abnormal when it interferes with your pet’s basic life functioning and is causing harm, according to Hartstein. If your dog becomes extremely anxious during thunderstorms or fireworks, for instance, consider using a Thundershirt anxiety and calming aid for dogs. Dogs may also keep their tails between their legs due to natural tail carriage which may vary from one breed and another. Your vet can also ascertain if your pet is stressed or anxious and can offer help with those issues as well. Reviewed for accuracy on March 12, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM. If your dog’s tail-chasing lasts for minutes on end, occurs very frequently, can’t be stopped with gentle redirection or leads to injury, or you notice other bizarre behaviors, immediately contact your veterinarian to schedule a visit. Something dogs to in order to mark their territory. Learning this language isn't difficult. This is because the tail helps dogs to balance herself by putting its weight in the opposite direction. This usually indicates he or she is feeling excited and particularly social. “Typically, dogs with compulsive disorders have [other] signs [too], such as high anxiety and hypervigilance,” says Dr. Liff. There are plenty of other ways that dogs send out messages using the position of their tails – both to humans and their fellow canines. If your dog's tail is tucked under and he also slowly steps away from someone or something, this may indicate severe stress. They also are learning about their bodies, and it is natural for a dog to explore their body,” says Russell Hartstein, … “There appears to be a genetic cause in certain breeds of dogs, like the Bull Terrier.”. When dogs are younger, the behavior may just be a fun game as they learn what their tail is. Even among dogs, no two tails are the same. Occasionally, other pesky parasites may cause bouts of intense tail-biting in dogs. Dogs get stressed in different situations, but a typical sign of stress is hiding the tail.

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