Dog tails are much more varied than most people assume. It can be shocking to people who aren’t overly familiar with canines and are considering getting one. Therefore, I thought it’d be informative/fun to dive into each type and offer insight.
Owners can then use this information to identify their dog’s specific tail type. I also look at how to decode tail movements to help people better understand their dog’s communication. But first, it’s time to look at all the primary dog tail types!
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8 Types of Dog Tails
Eight types of tails are found in dog breeds around the world. These variations range from being incredibly common to sought-after for appearance qualities. So let us see what category your favorite dog falls into with their tail.
Sickles refer to dogs with tails that curve back toward them without completing a full ring. Doing so makes it look like a sickle, used on farms to cut grain crops. If you ask me, it’s a rather ingenious name for such a phenomenon. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it.
But the shape is only one notable aspect of sickle tails. Owners can also expect them to offer more flexibility and softness than most tail types. As a result, it allows dogs to move more effortlessly and offers certain advantages.
For instance, dogs with sickle tails will use them to cover their face when sleeping. It provides another element of comfort to ensure they get the best sleep possible. Furthermore, it can help them stay warm in colder circumstances.
Notable Breeds With Sickle Tails:
Dogs with bobbed tails will have a small nub or almost be non-existent. It’s adorable to see a dog wag their small, bobbed tail back and forth when excited. These bobbed tails do pop up naturally on some canines, but sometimes it’s unnatural.
Some owners will have a vet chop a dog’s tail down to a bob for appearances. Luckily, this procedure (docking) has become controversial and even banned in some countries. It’s not something that should be done unless absolutely necessary.
This practice has a heritage back to Roman times. During this era, dogs who had docked tails would function as a signal that they were from a lower class. But eventually, people grew to like the look and started doing it for cosmetic reasons.
I can’t say I’m a massive fan of how it appears. Docked tails often look unnatural to my eyes as if the tail’s growth wasn’t allowed to reach its potential. But on the other hand, some work dogs get docked tails to perform their jobs. It can ensure they don’t get caught on something or suffer other problems on the work site.
Notable Breeds With Bobbed/Docked Tails:
This next type, curly tails, isn’t a difficult concept to understand. These tails will curl back on themselves to create an almost cinnamon roll-type shape. Of course, it’s been made famous by Pugs, the poster child of these tails.
But not all curly tails are the same. You can expect to find breeds with shorter versions or corkscrew ones that go beyond the ring’s closure. In either case, the curly variation has to be my favorite because of its adorable appearance and funny wagging motion.
Notable Breeds With Curly Tails
Saber tails are notable for having a long, slight curve while hanging low to the ground. The easiest way to picture this would be to think about German Shepherds. Their tails are the classic look for what are considered saber tails.
In most cases, saber tails are found on breeds who were herders. I’m not smart enough to figure out why this type of tail would help in those duties. But it must have provided some benefit because all herding breeds seem to have saber tails.
Notable Breeds With Saber Tails
- German Shepherds
- Cardigan Welsh Corgis
- Belgian Tervurens
- Petit Basset Griffon Vendéens
Another shorter type is carrot tails which start with a thick, round base. But it’ll begin tapering off into a tip located at its end, so it’s shaped much like its namesake of a carrot. It’s nice when a name for something actually makes sense.
Overall, this smaller tail type only ends up being only a little longer than a bobbed tail. You’ll often carrot tails on breeds with short coats, such as terriers or setters. It allows these breeds to maneuver more easily during hunting trips and similar activities.
But since their skills aren’t much needed, these dogs have carrot tails simply to look adorable.
Notable Breeds With Carrot Tails
- Scottish Terriers
- English Setters
- West Highland Terriers
Otter tails, also known as swimmer tails, often get mistaken for other types. For instance, I often make the mistake of confusing it with carrot tails. However, there are minor differences to look for when determining if a dog has an otter tail.
These rounded, thick tails will point down with a half-circle arch to them. So owners should look for this arch if they’re trying to tell if their pup has an otter or carrot tail.
You’ll also see this tail on dogs who spend significant time in the water. In particular, the most popular breed on planet Earth, Labrador Retrievers, has an otter tail. It’s a crucial piece to helping them navigate water as well as they do.
Notable Breeds With Otter Tails
- Labrador Retrievers
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
Tufted variations are identified by the hair on the tail’s tip. It’ll grow much faster than anywhere else and spread out, forming a tuft at the end. As a result, the overall shape of tufted types can vary greatly.
In any case, tufted tails have become a wanted commodity. Groomers will do magic to make a dog look tufted if asked by a dog owner. But natural tufted types are often reserved for only Poodles and Poodle mixes.
Notable Breeds With Tufted or Gay Tails
Our final type is called gay tails. It refers to how these options stick straight up in the air or how a dog’s tail reacts when they’re happy. Most of these variations are similar to tufted types with the classic white turfed tip but have a curve and aren’t as large.
They’re also known for staying the same thickness throughout their build. I happen to be very familiar with one of the breeds that often have gay tails, Beagles. But sadly, his was docked by a previous owner before I got him out of the shelter.
Notable Breeds with Gay Tails
- Wire Fox Terriers
- Border Collies
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
How to Decode Your Dog’s Tail Communication
Understanding your dog’s tail type is cool and everything. But it doesn’t help you decode what tail movements are trying to communicate. You’d be surprised by how much an owner can learn by knowing what specific actions mean.
Let us take a quick overview of a few positions. Doing so will ensure you become more capable of understanding your canine’s body language. You’ll soon have a new resource to help meet your dog’s needs and wants throughout the day!
- Straight out: A curious position indicating your dog is being inquisitive about what’s happening around them. They’re still gathering information and readying themselves to confront something that caught their interest.
- High and stiff: This position is a defensive one. So a situation has caught your dog’s attention and might require combat. It also may result in your dog asserting dominance or reestablishing a pecking order in your home.
- Between legs: It’s never a good sign when a dog has their tail between its legs. It’s an indicator of them feeling scared and stressed by their environment. For instance, my Beagle will assume this position whenever a thunderstorm occurs. It’s also possible this tail position is them trying to communicate they’re in pain.
- Slow, forced wagging: This type of wag shows a dog feeling anxious or insecure. It shouldn’t be too difficult to tell when you look around the area. If there’s a new object or person in their environment, this wag is probably a sign of them feeling unsure.
- High placed with quick movements: Get ready to chase your dog down, as this movement means they’re about to flee or attach something. If your pup is off-leash and this occurs, it’s a recipe for a disaster.
- Fast, long wags: A friendly movement that every owner loves to see. It indicates a happy dog who feels content with its position in life. It’s what we all strive to see as owners.
- Quick, short wags: This movement often occurs when meeting a new person. It’s a feeling of being unsure about a stranger or strange situation. In most cases, it’ll go away once they’ve established there isn’t a threat.
So overall, there are eight primary dog tail types: sickle, bobbed/docked, curly, saber, carrot, otter, tufted, and gay. You now should be more than capable of identifying your dog’s specific tail type. It’s just a simple matter of matching the description to what lies on their body.
Let me know what your dog’s type in the comment section. I’d also love to hear if my lessons about decoding tail communication have helped you better understand your dog. Thanks for reading!