What’s her tail telling me?

My dog’s tail says a lot. A couple of weeks ago Puck and I were hunting in Maine and we got into a bunch of grouse. Over almost 2 hours Puck had 6-7 solid points (not including follow ups).

I snapped a few pics of her and later as I was thinking back on things I wondered what Puck’s tail and body position were telling me about each point and situation.

A couple things about the scenting conditions: It was about 40 degrees out, no real air movement, and the ground was moist to wet; there had been a hard frost in the AM and the sky had been cloudless all day; we were hunting the last few hours of the day.

A little more sure?
4-5 grouse, 20 yards ahead

In this first pic, Puck’s pointing a group of 4-5 grouse. The birds were about 20 yards ahead of her, feeding under some apple trees. While it looks Puck caught the scent high in the air, her tail is showing some diffidence. She’s not 100% sure of the situation, and I’m not sure why.

Single grouse, moving right to left

This next point was a single bird, located on low ground in a mix of poplars, cedars, and spruces. The bird seem to be running to Puck’s left, and from the time I spotted her to the time I took this pic, her head turned 45 degrees. This time, her low, crooked tail shows even more diffidence. I released Puck and she relocated this bird after a few minutes. The second point was fifty+ yards away from the first.

The third pic is of a single grouse in cover crowded with poplars and cedars. Again, Puck’s tail is low and hooked. Her head, ear and body indicate a positive contact with solid scent, but for some reason she’s not 100% sure of it. This bird flushed pretty far out — 40+ yards — so maybe the scent was dissipating and this caused her to loose confidence in it?

Single grouse, straight ahead 30 yards

Overall, I’m thinking that these grouse/points had a one big thing in common. The birds were moving away from Puck. This may have caused the scent to diminish, or  shift. Maybe that’s why she wasn’t 100% convinced of the grouse’s location.

Anyone else have any ideas? I’d love to hear them.

BTW: if you’re wondering how many birds we killed, the answer’s zero. I’m a shitty shot.


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3 thoughts on “What’s her tail telling me?

  1. 40+ yards in those woods is a tough shot for anyone. I don’t have experience with long tails (mine are Brittanys) so I can’t comment on the partially raised, crooked scenario. If the tail is consistent with a certain set of conditions, though, I’d say you’re on to something. It’s kinda like a tell in a poker game, subconscious but pretty reliable.

  2. Yeah – her high head and upright body position is another sign. There must of been body scent high up in the air.

    Her woodcock points are much different – nose close to ground, body tipped forward and low, tail high. I wonder if that’s because there’s less scent, or less of a cone of scent. I think most the woodcock she points are resting, so they’re not moving around much and spreading their smell.


  3. As a person who has done research in Semiotics, I’d say, of course, you’re probably up to something here, since it’s a proven fact that dogs use body language to communicate with other dogs, people, etc. So it is an instinctive thing for a dog to indicate different states of its mind with different postures. However, I don’t think you have a statistically valid corpus of observations yet. Off top of my head, I’d say you need at least 50 points to make the observations relevant – and of course, you’d have to record the details of each point somehow.

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