As dog guardians, we love to see those happy tails wag. But how many have wondered about dog tails and their many shapes and sizes? There are names for tails and their shapes, similar to the names we give haircuts. Every dog is one-of-a-kind, and their wiggly waggly tails are one of their most adorable features.
A dog’s tail is actually an extension of their spine. It has vertebrae, muscles, and tendons, all of which make the tail flexible and help it move. The ways tails move are a form of nonverbal communication that we are only beginning to understand. A wagging tail doesn’t just mean a dog is happy. We have to be able to pick up on subtle clues and movements to translate the intricacies of dogs and their communication, including their body language and tail vocabulary.
A dog who is born with no tail is called a bobbed tail, rather than tail-less. It’s a cute little nub and wagging their tails often just means they wiggle their butt. However, there’s no shortage of understanding. They are still able to communicate with us and with other dogs, although perhaps they come across a bit muted.
Some breeds that are commonly born without a tail include: Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Australian Shepherds, Brittany Spaniels, Jack Russell Terriers, and Schipperkes.
Some breeds are born with a bobbed tail. Some dogs go through a procedure to remove their tail. In this case it’s called a docked tail. Docked, or amputated tails began in ancient Rome as a way to identify dogs that belonged to the poor, and as a misunderstood effort to prevent rabies. Over time docking became a cosmetic tradition that continues for purebreds and dogs shows today. Some working dogs are also docked for safety. It is thought that docking will minimize injury.
Breeds that often have their tails docked are: Dobermans, Boxers, and English Pointers.
Ring, Curly, Corkscrew
A ring or curly tail is one that curves around in a ring shape. It’s typically held up and can look like the curl is sitting on the dog’s rump. A ring-shaped tail is often a shorter tail, giving it the look of being a single ring. Corkscrews are typically longer tails that extend past the closed ring.
Dog breeds best known for ring, curly, or corkscrew tails include: Pugs, Bulldogs, and Basenjis.
A sickle tail is one that curves back towards the dogs back and points towards the head of the dog. This is very similar to curly tails, but without quite so much curl. It’s more of a curve or an upward semicircle, hence the ‘sickle’ reference. Also, the sickle tail tends to be more soft and flexible .
A dog with an otter tail is one that has a thick, rounded tail. This rounded look is usually because of a thicker coat. The tail is pointed down, usually with a small c-shape, or it remains fairly straight. This is a great tail for water-dogs because they use it as a rudder while swimming.
The most common dogs with an otter tail are: Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Otterhounds.
Whip or Carrot
A whip tail is similar to the otter tail, but tends to be thinner and often belongs to short hair breeds. It tapers off at the end and looks like, you guessed it, a whip. It is also called a carrot tail, for similar reasons. It is shaped this way because these breeds with this tail would be used to hunt underground. The farmer would grab them by the tail to pull them out of a hole, if necessary.
Common breeds with whip or carrot tails are: Manchester Terriers and Border Terriers, Dachshunds, Dalmations, and English Setters.
There are more, but these are the most common and represent the majority of common dog breeds. Which kind of tail does your dog have? Send us a picture on Facebook or Instagram and use #VetOrganics. We would love to hear from you.