I feel like writing another dogtorial. So this is body language part 3. In the first two parts I described what the position of our ears tell about our state of mind. This time I will focus on the tail. We canines have all kinds of tails: short, long, furry, fluffy or slick like a whip. I personally prefer my own tail, which is in between furry and sleek. Just right!
The way we hold our tail tells a lot about our mood. There are three basic positions:
1. Alert and tense: our tail is high into the air. It can move (which means we are excited) or be very still (which means we are focussed). Some humans call this dominant, but I already wrote that dominance is a misconception. It is not dominant.
Dogs who feel very sure of themselves usually hold their tail high up in the air. When two dogs of this kind meet, their tails are going even higher. There is a reason for this: when we hold our tails high, we smell stronger. From behind. And a dog that is smelling strongly tells the world HERE I AM SHOW SOME RESPECT MAN. Something like that.
When two dogs meet with their tails high up in the air, they usually end up measuring forces. Which is fine. It is not fighting, that is something entirely different.
2. Fear: dogs who are unsure or scared hold their tail tightly between their legs, pushing it towards their belly. This is about scent, too: when you do this, you limit the way you smell from behind. That is exactly what you want when you are scared. A strong smell will tell everybody that you are there. It makes you look bold. When you want to be shy, you hide your smell. It may seem simple, but for us dogs it works perfectly.
3. Relaxed. This looks like:
There are a lot of positions in between these three. I for instance have a position in between relaxed and alert:
There are dogs that have very odd tails. Some have no tail at all, only a short stub. Something horrible must have happened to them to have a tail like that! Anyway, even then you can read their mood. They press the stub downwards when they feel scared and stick it high up in the air when they are alert.
Some dogs are bred with tails in an odd position. Some have their tails in a curl high up their back, which makes them look alert when in fact they are relaxed. You have to take this into consideration when you want to read our tails. Although even dogs who are bred with tails in curls on their back can very well push their tails between their legs. I know from experience: in our puppy class there was a cocksure maltese. He was only three months old and thinking he was the pack leader. Of course I could not let that happen, as the senior dog in the group (I was five months old at that time). So I disciplined him. His tail went right between his legs. After that we became friends.