10 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Your Dog's Tail

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From short to long, from skinny to full, straight to curly, every dog has one and they are all different. What are we talking about? Your dog's tail, of course! We all know (or at least we think) that a dog wags his tail to let everyone know he is happy. But that same appendage can be used to indicate far more than just happiness. Did you know your dog uses his tail for more than just a communication device? Consider these fun facts about your dog's tail as you learn that it is not just a handy accessory.

1. Never When He Is Alone

In a research study published by Animal Planet, it was noted that while your dog might wag his tail when he is happy, he only wags his tail in the presence of people or other animals.  You can leave their favorite toy in the room or a tasty snack and that tail stays put--it only wags when there are others around.

2. Tail Chasing Can Indicate a Problem

We all love to watch our dog chase his tail in circles from time to time. Let's face it, this can be fun for a few minutes. But the reality is that constant tail chasing can be an indication of a deeper problem such as OCD. Yes, that's right, your dog can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, which may be treatable by your vet.

3. Your Dog's Tail is Trying to Tell You Something

Have you ever noticed that your dog wags his tail in different directions? Experts agree that if your dog is waving his tail to the right, he is happy or relaxed. But on the other hand, if he is wagging his tail to the left, he may be feeling anxious, nervous, or threatened. As humans, noticing these subtle messages can be hard, but you can bet other dogs understand them very clearly.

4. It's a Balancing Act

Animal experts believe that the tail evolved as a way to help dogs keep their balance when walking along narrow ledges or paths. While they may no longer need this type of assistance, that tail has found numerous other uses.

5. Tail-Wagging is a Learned Behavior

Dogs do not start wagging their tails the minute they are born, it is a skill they need to learn. Most puppies will start wagging their tail around one and a half months after they are born as they try to "communicate" with their siblings and their mother.

6. Go Paddle Your Dog

Most dogs love to swim, but what you may not know is that there are a number of breeds, such as retrievers, who use their tail like a paddle or rudder to help them move through the water.

7. An Extension of the Spine

Your dog's tail is literally an external extension of the spine. It has its own discs, muscles, and anchors. Being more exposed than the remainder spine, the tail is far more susceptible to injury, but in most cases will recover fully.

8. Marking His Territory

Alpha male dogs hold their tails high when marking their territory. By being able to hold their tail high, your dog can release more of scent from his anal glands. At the same time, if your dog is scared or feels threatened, he will tuck his tail between his legs so as not to release any scent. He may also use his tail as a fan to spread his scent in the air.

9. No Docking Allowed

While many breeders and owners in the U.S. have their dog's tails docked, there are many countries around the world such as Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Greece, Norway, and Turkey have outlawed this practice.

10. Hair of the Dog

We have all heard the term "Hair of the Dog", but did you know this phrase was coined in approximately 23 A.D? Roman naturalist and author Pliny the Elder was said to believe that the best way to cure rabies was to take the ashes from the burnt tail hairs of the dog responsible for the bite and rub them in the wound.


So now you know more about your dog's tail and the many ways your dog uses it. Your dog's tail is as unique as your dog is and serves a wide range of uses.  From saying "Hi, I am happy to see you" to indicating "I am trying to let all the other dogs know this is my territory", it is an important part of his body.