Wolf Lingo

Active Submission: approaching a dominant wolf and licking or nipping its muzzle. Pack members often greet the alpha male in this manner.

Alpha: the dominant member (or pair) of a group such as a pack.

Beta Male: the male wolf second in rank to the alpha male of a pack.

Bond: an attachment that an individual human or animal forms to another. Many animals such as wolves have difficulty forming strong bonds to another individual or species when they are no longer infants.

Canine: a member of a family of animals that includes dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes.

Den: an enclosure in which wolf pups are born and where they spend the first four weeks of their lives.

Dispersal: the process in which young wolves leave their families to form new packs.

Dominant: being in charge of, or leading, others. A dominant wolf holds its tail up, pricks its ears, and stands tall around a submissive wolf.

Pack: a group that gathers together to make hunting and other ways of surviving easier.

Predators: animals that hunt and kill other animals.

Raised-leg urination (RLU): urinating with one hind leg raised. The dominant wolves in a pack make scent marks with RLUs.

Rendezvous site: a spot within a wolf pack's territory where pups are left when they are too young to join the pack in hunting.

Scent Marking: using urine or other strong-smelling substances to mark the boundaries of a territory.

Territorial: to consider an area of land as your own and to keep strange members of your species out by using warnings of fighting, it needed. Animals such as deer that are not territorial are said to have home ranges. This means that they have certain areas where they live but they don't defend them.

Wolfers: hunters who were hired to kill wolves in the United States during the last half of the 19th century.


How a Wolf Communicates
through its Tail and Body Posture.

Tail Postures

This high tail position indicated the wolf is the dominant wolf, most likely an alpha male or female (the ones that lead the pack).

This horizontal stiffly held tail position indicated the wolf is going to attack or is hunting.


The wagging of a wolf's tail in this manner indicates that the wolf is relaxed.


This somewhat drooped tail position indicated the wolf is relatively relaxed.

This drooped tail position indicated the wolf is even more relaxed.

This half tail tuck along with a partially arched back indicated that a wolf is humbling itself to a more dominant wolf and is a form of submission.


This fully tucked tail along with a highly arched back shows that a wolf is extremely in fear of something (a more dominant wolf) and is another form of submission.


Body Postures

This body position is of a wolf when it is attacking.

This body position is of a wolf when it is defensive or is feeling threatened.

This body position is of wolves fighting with the top wolf pinning the other wolf to the ground.

The body position of the wolf laying down is an example of a wolf being passive submissive.

This type body position when running indicates that the wolf is playing.

This type body position when running indicates that the wolf is running in fear.

The wolf on the left side of this illustration demonstrates the way a wolf looks when it is in active submission.

This wolf is simply playing.

This shows how a yearling would submit to a fully dominant wolf.

This body posture indicates that the wolf is feeling both fear and aggressiveness.


By Karyln Atkinson Berg