Why Does My Dog Have a Tail?

Have you ever wondered why in the world your dog has a tail?  Thick or thin, long or short, tails are an interesting canine body part.  They’re also really fun the chase, according to Rosie.  I, however, would never stoop to such foolish behavior (besides, my tail is too short to catch!).  Besides being a lot of fun for dogs, though, why are tails there?

Tails = Communication

This pup is happy!

Flapping back and forth to show joy and tucked under legs to show shame, a dog’s tail helps him communicate with humans as well as other animals.  Here a few different tail behaviors your dog might do and what they mean:

  • Simple wagging of the tail shows that your dog is happy.  However, a slow wag can also mean that your dog is nervous.
  • Tails held straight up like a flagpole mean your dog is telling someone that he’s the boss.
  • Tails held down or between legs show fear or shame
  • A very rapid wag means that your dog is super excited!

This dog’s tail is helping him turn

Balance

Your dog is running and wants to make a quick right turn.  His front legs turn right, but his back legs continue forward.  Your dog’s tail, however, turns right, helping his back legs get on track.  Thanks to his tail, your dog was able to make that quick right turn smoothly and efficiently.  Tails are a wonderful asset for dogs when it comes to turning, running, and even walking, giving them better balance.

Swimming

For dogs bred to be in the water, a tail acts as a wonderful rudder.  If you ever see a water dog in the water, notice his tail.  He will use it sometimes to help propel him as well as to turn.

Why Doesn’t My Dog Have a Tail?

Breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer and Corgi don’t have tails.  These breeds have what’s called “naturally bobbed tails.”  They’re just born with it.  Other dogs, however, have theirs cropped.  Cropping of tails dates waaaaay back: Ancient Romans thought that it could prevent rabies, and people in the 18th century had to crop their hunting dogs’ tails or be taxed.  The practice has been handed down since those times, some thinking that it will prevent injuries as well as get rid of a nuisance.  A study done in Great Britain, however, determined that a cropped tail doesn’t help a working dog and that injuring of tails is very, very unlikely (0.23%).  I would highly suggest that you not have your pup’s tail cropped.  The procedure could be very painful (have you ever stepped on your dog’s tail?  They’re sensitive!) as well as unnecessary.  Also, your dog needs his trusty tail for communication and balance!

Don’t worry if your dog was born without a tail.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing, and he will still wiggle when he’s happy!

About Sissy

Hi! I’m Sissy, a Toy Poodle. On Doggy Times I share articles about dog training, socialization, care, and health. Check out the Trick and Dog Breed Pages to learn more about your furry friend and how to train him/her.

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