Studying the dog tail can help determine what breeds make up your pup if you have a mutt.
Even though everyone says, “Oh, they’re just a mutt,” you know you have the best dog in the world. But let’s face it; you are a tad curious about just what breeds co-mingled to come up with your unique canine companion.
An excellent place to start is at the end, the tail end.
Why do dogs wag their tails?
Most, but not all, dogs have tails.
Some breeds, such as Australian Shepherds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis, are born with nubby little flaps of fatty tissue, where the tail should be happily waving.
Most experienced dog owners know dogs use their tails to communicate.
Learning to read your dog’s tail is key to successfully communicating with your dog.
Tails held high are usually a sign of an aware, alert dog.
Tails tucked low or between the legs usually indicate a dog feeling threatened or is a frightened, nervous dog.
Bristled tails are usually a sign a dog is on defense.
Why do dogs wag their tails, and does the wagging direction mean anything? Some behaviorists even believe how a dog wags their tail from left to right or vice-versa indicates their familiarity with who they are meeting or greeting. Wagging from the left side to the right side means a stranger. Right to left means the dog recognizes you.
Dog tail positions
The tail’s setting, shape, and size are markers of your mutt’s intriguing gene pool. Combinations make it even more fascinating.
One position is a high set, where the tail is a natural extension of the dog’s back or topline.
Sometimes the tail is set low, and the tail appears to begin below the top line.
Like many dogs that hunt in packs, Terriers, Beagles, or Foxhounds have a high set tails.
Sighthounds like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Afghan Hounds have low set tails.
Is your dog’s tail low set, whip-shaped with a slight curve? They could be Whippet, Wolfhound, or Ibizan Hound.
A high-set tail, a natural extension of your mutt’s body, could hint at a scent hound ancestry. Perhaps your dog has a touch of Beagle, Fox Hound, or Airedale.
Dog tail shape
The length and shape of the dog’s tail can give you a hint of their ancestry.
Tail lengths can be long, medium, short, or bobbed. Tails are straight, screw/curled, gay, saber, taper, whip, plum, otter, brush, sickle, snap, carrot, and tuft.
Here are a few clues that you may find helpful when doing detective work on your mutt’s diverse pedigrees:
- Curled tail — Northern cold-weather breeds including the Akita, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Spitz, Shiba Inu, Keeshond, American Eskimo Dog, Swedish or Swedish, or Finish Lapphunds, and Chow Chow, to name a few, have brushed or sickle-shaped tails that curl forward. The tail helps keep the dog’s face — especially the nose — warm as the dog curls up into a big C to retain as much body heat as possible when sleeping. Oddly enough, Chihuahuas also have sickled tails.
- Swimmer tail — Otter tails work like rudders for water dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and other sport-class dogs. Their tails are, as a rule, thick, medium to short compared to body size, heavily furred, and taper to a blunt tip. This tail style helps swimmers.
- Carrot tail — Does your mutt have a carrot tail? That would be identified as reasonably short, thicker at the base, and tapering to a stumpy tip. That tail shape helps a farmer grab a dog and pull it out of vermin holes. If your dog’s tail is carrot-shaped, chances are somewhere in their gene pool is a West Highland Terrier or two.
- Tufted tail — If your mutt has a tufted tail, there is a likelihood it’s got some Poodle in it! Poodle tails are set high on their back, straight and well furred with a tufted end.
- Snap tail — Also known as a tightly curled tail, they are also shared with Northern breeds and colder climates. You’ll find mutts with Alaskan Malamute, American Eskimo Dog, and even little Pomeranian ancestors commonly share this shaped tail.
- Swordtail — The regal tail is generally associated with Great Danes, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, and many Pointers.
- Bobtail — Old English Sheepdogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and some Australian Shepherds have a tiny nub of fatty tissue rather than a full tail.
- Gay tail — Beagles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Border Collies, and Wire Fox Terriers have thick tails with a small white tuft at the tip that they hold horizontally with a slight curve.
- Saber tail — Certain herding breeds, such as German Shepherds, Collies, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Tervurens, have saber-shaped tails. They are long and held low. Those impish Cardigan Welsh Corgis also wear their tails low.
- Tapered tail — Your mutt may carry a gene or two of some Terrier, such as Manchester, Border, or Airedale, if they have a pointed tail. Those tails typically are thicker at the base, set high on the back, and are held straight up or out. Dachshunds also fit in this tail category, as well as Dalmatians and English Setters.
- Corkscrew tail — Dogs with curly tails that resemble a corkscrew include Bulldogs and Pugs.
- Plumed tail — Dogs with plumed tails could be Belgian Tervuren, Saluki, or even Borzoi.
Working breed dogs often have docked tails to reduce injury risk. Many are members of the Spaniel or Terrier breeds.
Dogs with docked tails include Airedale Terrier, American Cocker Spaniel, Boxer, Brittany Spaniel, Cane Corso, Doberman Pinscher, English Springer Spaniel, Giant Schnauzer, Hungarian Vizsla, King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Rottweiler, Standard Poodle, Toy Poodle, Weimaraner, and Yorkshire Terrier.
Breeding has created some dog breeds that are born without tails. Those breeds include Australian Shepherd, Brittany Spaniel, Danish Swedish Farmdog, Jack Russell Terrier, Schipperke, and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
The tail, as a rule, gives clues about a dog’s breed pup’s lineage. Docking tails can confuse the issue.
But let’s face it, does it matter what assortment of pedigree secrets are swimming around in your Heinz 57 gene pool?
Your pup will always be the best dog in the world to you.
But, you must admit, it could be challenging and fun to embark on the adventure of figuring out where they came from! And even more so to understand tail-wagging meanings.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.