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10 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Your Dog's Tail
By Darlene Stott
Published: 08/15/2017, edited: 09/24/2021
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From short to long, from barely there 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 their tail to let everyone know they are happy. But that same appendage can be used to indicate far more than just happiness. Did you know your dog uses their 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 Alone
In a research study published by Animal Planet, it was noted that while your dog might wag their tail when happy, they only do so 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 dogs chase their 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. If stress is the problem, the habit can be remedied through fun activities like extra walks and games of fetch.
3. Your Dog's Tail Can Talk
Have you ever noticed that your dog wags their tail in different directions? Experts agree that if your dog is waving their tail to the right, they are happy or relaxed. But on the other hand, if they are wagging their tail to the left, they 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 With 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 as 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 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 the anal glands. At the same time, if your dog is scared or feels threatened, they will tuck their tail between the legs so as not to release any scent. They may also use the tail like a fan to spread their scent in the air.
9. Your Dog's Tail is Special
Have you ever noticed that your furry companion's tail is unique and fits their body just right? The long and straight tail of the German Shepherd follows the distinct lines of their stance and gait. Another good example is, the tail of the Beagle is perky and active just like their personality.
10. Dogs Without Tails Are Expressive, too
We know what you are thinking - what about dogs without tails? Breeds that are tailless, like the English Bulldog or the Boston Terrier have other ways of communicating that are just as cute and expressive as the tail-wagging wonder. Think large ears, or eyes that convey a special feeling. Not to mention these dogs have butt-wagging down to a science!