Studying the dog tail can help you 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 how to read dog tails is key to successfully communicating with your dog.
Tails held high are usually a sign of an aware, alert dog.
Tails tucked low or tucked between the legs usually indicate a dog that feels threatened or is a frightened, nervous dog.
Bristled tails are usually a sign a dog is on the 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-verse indicates their familiarity with who they are meeting or greeting. Left to right means a stranger. Right to left means, they recognize you.
Wagging in circles usually means the dog is happy or excited. When your dog wags his tail while lying down, it means he’s content. When your dog holds his tail up and still, it means he’s wary.
Dog tail positions
The setting, shape, and size of the tail are markers of your mutt’s rather intriguing gene pool. Combinations make it even more fascinating.
One position is a high set, where the tail appears to be a natural extension of the dog’s back or topline.
The other is low set, where the tail appears to begin below the top line.
Like many dogs that hunt in packs, Terriers, Beagles, or Foxhounds have a high set tail.
Sighthounds, such as Greyhounds, Whippets, and Afghan Hounds, have low set tails, which start lower than the top line.
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, sort of a natural extension of your mutt’s body, could be a hint to a scent hound ancestry. Perhaps your dog has a touch of Beagle, Fox Hound, or even 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 categorized as 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 such as the Akita, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Spitz, Shiba Inu, Keeshond, American Eskimo Dog, Swedish or Finish Lapphunds, and Chow Chow, to name a few, have tails that are brushed, sickle-shaped, and 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 a sickled tail.
- 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? If so, the odds are that tail was designed to be grabbed by a farmer to pull the dog 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 tuft on the 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 — A little nub of fatty tissue rather than a full tail is naturally found on Old English Sheepdogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and some Australian Shepherds.
- Gay tail — Is held horizontally, thick, with a slight curve, and has a small, usually white tuft at the tip. It is found on Beagles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Border Collies, and Wire Fox Terriers.
- Saber tail — Certain herding breeds, such as German Shepherds, Collies, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervurens, carry 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 their tail is tapered. They are normally 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 examples of 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 really matter what assortment of pedigree secrets are swimming around in your Heinz 57 gene pool?
Your pup is and always will be the best dog in the world to you.
But, you do have to admit, it could be challenging and fun to embark on the adventure to figure out where they came from! And even more so to understand tail-wagging meanings.
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