Medically Reviewed

Why Is My Dog’s Tail Hanging Down?

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Joanna de Klerk
Reviewed by: Dr. Joanna de Klerk, BVetMed (hons) MScTAH
You're used to your dog wagging its tail all the time and suddenly - nothing? It's just hanging down? What does this mean? This is a question we get a lot so this article will give you an answer!

Why is my dog’s tail down? Dog owners as well as dog lovers love seeing happy dogs, wagging their tails.

After all, tail wagging is something that indicates that a dog is happy, and who doesn’t love seeing a happy dog?

Dogs use their bodies to communicate with us. When their tails are up wagging we know that dogs are happy, enthusiastic, or excited as they are about to get a meal.

This is something that even non-dog owners are familiar with. With that in mind, when a dog’s tail is down it usually indicates that something is off. What is the meaning behind a dog’s tail set down?

If you want an answer to the question – why is my dog’s tail down, this article is for you.

Why Is My Dog’s Tail Down?

In most cases, a dog’s tail down is a sign of submission or a sign that your dog is nervous.

However, a dog’s tail down doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is nervous or submissive. If the tail is hanging down it can just mean that Fido is very relaxed!

Important: If the dog’s tail is tucked down between the legs it’s not a sign of a satisfied dog.

It can signify anxiety but it can also be something less serious – nonetheless uncomfortable for your dog!

It can mean that your dog is trying to avoid another dog who’s trying to sniff his butt or mount him!

However, a dog’s tail doesn’t have to be hung down because of psychological reasons.

If you notice that the tail is set down or is unusually limp all of a sudden it can be because of a condition called “limber tail”. This is what we’re focusing on today!

SUMMARY: When a dog’s tail is hanging down and is tucked between the legs, several things could be causing it: anxiety, avoiding other dogs or a condition called “limber tail”.

Limp Tail In Dog Introduction

If a dog’s tail is down all of a sudden, the chances are that he got this condition.

Limber tail is also known under the names “cold water tail”, “limp tail”, “swimmers tail”, “rudder tail” and “broken wag”.

Limp tail in a dog may be a new term for you; in fact, many dog owners don’t even know that this could happen until they see it on their dog!

To get a better grip on this we’ve prepared some common questions and answers that will clarify everything!

Limp Tail In Dog Symptoms

Symptoms of a broken wag are quite obvious.

The tail will be limp and your dog won’t wag it as it usually does.

In some cases, the first part of the tail is in a horizontal position, while the rest of the tail is vertical.

Limp tail in a dog can also happen when a tail extends a few inches from the body and then drops.

Pain and swelling usually accompany the limp tail, particularly at the base.

SUMMARY: Symptoms that indicate a limp tail are: no tail wagging, swelling, or pain.

Is Limp Tail In Dog Painful For Dogs?

The level of pain depends from dog to dog and can vary a lot, but it’s usually a rather painful condition.

To show you the pain your dog can wimp, whine or lick and chew the tail. Most dogs are also lethargic when they suffer from this condition.

Dog Breeds Prone To Limp Tail

Can all dogs be affected by the limp tail? Yes, all dogs can be affected by this condition.

However, some breeds are more prone to this condition than others, especially sporting and hunting dogs.

Some of these breeds are:

If one of these breeds caught your eye, but you want to know more about the breed’s health use this compare dog breeds tool to get the breed that will suit your lifestyle the best.

Good to know: Younger dogs tend to suffer from limp tails more often than older dogs.

When it comes to the difference between males and females – there’s not a visible difference. That being said, you can expect to see both male and female dogs’ tails down, even at different ages.

Why Is My Dog’s Tail Down – Causes

It’s still unclear what causes the tail to be hanging down all of a sudden, but there are certain situations after which it tends to develop.

Usually, that’s the case after swimming, hunting, chasing, or other forms of excessive exercise. Thus, overexertion is the most common cause.

To avoid overexertion make sure that you know how much exercise dogs need at different life stages.

Other causes behind a “broken wag” are climate changes, inappropriate crate sizes or too long crate time, sudden cold shock, warm or cold baths, or overuse of the tail.

Even though the exact cause isn’t clear, it’s certainly a muscle injury. Even though the tail looks broken, it’s not the bones that are causing problems, but the muscle.

More precisely, your dog is keeping its tail down because the coccygeal muscles near the base are damaged. This is similar to a sprain of the muscles.

Of all the situations mentioned above, swimming seems to be the occasion where most limp tails happen. This is why this condition is called “swimmer’s tail” as well!

This is probably explained by the fact that dogs use their tail more than usual when they’re swimming. Plus, the water dogs may swim even in very cold waters, which might contribute to this problem.

If your dog is a great swimmer, or loves water be mindful of this.

Why? If you are searching for ‘why is my dog’s tail down meaning’, or what are the most common causes of a limp tail in dogs know that it just might have something to do with the dog’s swimming practice.

SUMMARY: The most common causes of a “limber tail” are swimming, excessive exercise, climate changes, inappropriate crate size, and too much crate time.

Limp Tail In Dogs Diagnosis

If you suspect that your dog has a limp tail, the first thing you should do is take him or her to the vet. Once there, a physical examination will be done.

To rule out fractures, your vet may order an X-Ray.

Blood tests also have to be run. If they show an increased level of a muscle enzyme named “creatine kinase”, shortened “CK”, it usually means that muscles have been damaged.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that veterinarians are not familiar with this condition and thus they mistake it for something much more serious.

Now that you’re informed, make sure to rule out broken bones and fractures by asking for an X-Ray.

Can A Dog’s Limp Tail Heal On Its Own?

Yes. Fortunately, treating limber tail is pretty easy when diagnosed correctly.

Most dogs recover on their own after a couple of days, but certain treatments can speed up the process.

It usually consists of the following:

  • Warm packs at the base of your dog’s tail
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs specifically for dogs, prescribed by your vet
  • Rest

Results can be seen pretty quickly. The worst pain usually goes away within 24 to 48 hours. However, sometimes it can take up to 2 weeks for the problem to disappear completely.

If you suspect that your dog has a limp tail, try to establish how much pain he’s in.

If it doesn’t seem too bad, let your dog rest for a couple of days and wait for the problem to solve itself.

However, if your dog seems to experience a lot of pain go to your vet and ask him or her to prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain.

In the worst-case scenario, the tail never returns to its normal position.

This is very unusual though and isn’t something that normally happens.

Also, if you notice that your dog’s tail is a bit on the side during the recovery – don’t worry – this goes back to normal pretty soon.

SUMMARY: Fortunately, the limp tail is easy to treat when diagnosed correctly. A dog will usually heal by himself after a couple of days.

Limp Tail In Dogs – Prevention

You can’t prevent it completely, but there are certain things to think about if you want to reduce the chances of a limp tail.

Many cases of limp tails happen when your dog isn’t used to exercise and then suddenly is exposed to excessive and tiring work out.

Therefore, always be sure to introduce activity slowly and ease your dog into it.

If the problem lies in the crate, make sure it’s the right size and don’t have your dog inside it for too long.

Choosing the right crate is essential for so many reasons, this being only one of them!

SUMMARY: The only way to prevent a limp tail is to ensure that your dog’s crate is the right size and that he doesn’t spend too much time inside it. Also, dogs that aren’t very fit should not be exposed to excessive workouts.

Have you heard about dead tails in dogs? This is a rare condition that may appear in dogs due to different reasons.

Let’s learn more about dead tails in dogs.

Dead Tail In Dogs

The answer to the question “Why is my dog’s tail down?” doesn’t always have to be a dead tail, but sometimes there could be more serious reasons behind it.

Conditions that could easily be confused with a dead tail in a dog are:

  • Trauma to the tail
  • Cancer of the tail
  • Tail fracture
  • Impacted anal glands
  • Problems with the prostate
  • Diseases of the lower spine, such as diskospondylitis

To avoid confusion, take your dog to the vet and ask for as many tests as possible, including X-Ray.

SUMMARY: X-ray will best determine if the cause of a dog’s tail hanging down is not a “limber tail”, but something else.

Now that you know what a limp tail is, and that dog’s tail down doesn’t have to be necessarily a bad sign, let’s learn more about the philosophy behind a dog’s tail.

What Can A Dog’s Tail Reveal?

As you know, there are a lot of different types of tails. The ability to express feelings is limited by the type of tail a dog has.

Most breeds have a natural tail that hangs down somewhere near the hock.

Some breeds, like the pug, have curly tails that go over their backs.

Others have naturally short bobtails or docked tails. Naturally, not all tails can express feelings the same way.

When your dog is relaxed the tail will be in its natural position – whichever it is.

When happy, he may wag it from side to side slowly. Really happy – he’ll do it with more force.

If your dog is holding its tail higher than normal it probably means that he’s very aroused about something.

If it’s completely stiff he may be threatening someone or standing his ground.

Last but not least, if your dog’s tail is down it can mean that he’s nervous or submissive.

He might even tuck it between his legs. If he’s scared, he’ll tuck it up against his belly.

SUMMARY: The easiest way to determine a dog’s mood is by looking at his tail.


A dog’s tail can reveal a lot about its emotions so if you see that your dog’s tail is hanging down try to figure out if your dog is anxious or scared and how you can solve it.

However, a limp tail can often be a consequence of a condition called “limber tail” and no emotion lies behind it.

The cause of this condition is usually overexertion, most likely after swimming, hunting, or chasing.

Some breeds are more prone to it than others, but all dogs can be affected.

This is not uncommon and usually goes away after a couple of days of resting, but other forms of treatments can speed up the recovery.

If you suspect your dog to have a “dead tail” don’t panic!

You’re not the only one who has gone through it. Take your dog to the vet to get a diagnosis and try establishing the exact cause behind it.

You’ll see – your dog’s tail wagging again in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions On Why Is My Dog’s Tail Down

1. Why Is My Dog’s Tail Down All Of A Sudden?

Dogs will choose to set their tails down when they feel nervous or anyhow submissive. This is commonly seen when surrounded by other dogs.

When a dog is showing submission you will see his tail going in between his rear legs.

This posture might also be a sign that your dog is scared or anxious for different reasons.

The tighter the body is tucked the more submissive or fearful the dog is.

2. Why Is My Dog Walking With His Tail Down?

Dogs will usually put their tails down and sit, or they will be still in one place.

In some cases, they might walk with their tails set down. This posture can be a sign of anxiety, fear, or stress of submission.

In these moments, your Fido is somehow upset, due to other animal presence, or by an individual.

In other words, dogs will walk with their tails down if they perceive other animals or individuals as stronger or superior to them.

3. Why Does My Dog Not Wag His Tail Anymore?

To get the right answer you need to be well aware of your dog’s age.

If your Fido is a senior citizen his tail set low may be a sign of cognitive decline, stress, or even arthritis.

In younger dogs, it may be a sign of a limp tail, while in some rare cases, it may be an indicator of a dead tail.

To determine why your dog’s tail is set low it would be best to take him to the vet’s office.

4. Why Is My Dog Walking With His Tail Down?

If your dog’s tail is down it can mean several things. Your dog just might be sad, there has been a tail-related injury, or your dog just might be scared.

If you see that your dog cannot move a tail at all, or that the tail is set low for days, contact your veterinarian.

5. Why Is My Dog Not Lifting Her Tail?

This sign is usually a condition of a limp tail in dogs. Younger dogs tend to suffer from this condition more often than senior dogs.

Why do limp tails in dogs occur? A limp tail often happens due to a muscle sprain or even a strain in a dog’s tail.

6. Why Do Female Dogs Tuck Their Tails?

Both female and male dogs tend to tuck their tails as a sign of submission. This sort of behavior is common in dogs, as it’s their way of communication.

Tucked tail in female dogs is a dog’s way to communicate what they want and how they feel.

7. Does Limp Tail Heal On Its Own?

In most cases, a limp tail in dogs does heal on its own. This may happen when an injury is small.

In other cases, when a limp tail in a dog is diagnosed, the treatment might include enough rest, and healing in a period of a few days to two weeks.