Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

In the world of dogs, tails are far more than just a decorative appendage. They serve several purposes and are often a vital form of communication. Let’s dive into the reasons why dogs have tails.

1. Communication

If you’ve ever noticed your dog’s tail wagging in excitement or tucked between their legs in fear, you’ve witnessed a form of canine communication. Dogs use their tails to express a range of emotions, from happiness and excitement to fear and submission.

  • Happy: When your dog is happy or excited, they might wag their tail vigorously from side to side.
  • Relaxed: A relaxed dog often has its tail in a natural position, neither raised nor lowered.
  • Nervous: If your dog is nervous or submissive, they might tuck their tail between their legs.

2. Balance

Just like a tightrope walker uses a balance beam, dogs use their tail to maintain balance. This is especially important for dogs that chase or herd animals, as they often need to make sharp turns quickly. The tail acts as a counterbalance and helps the dog stay upright and on course.

3. Spreading Scent

Dogs have two small glands just under their tail. These glands produce a unique scent that dogs use to identify each other and mark their territory. When your dog raises its tail, it’s allowing these scents to spread more easily.

Tail Position Meaning
Raised Spreading Scent
Neutral Relaxed
Tucked Nervous

4. Swimming

For breeds that are adept swimmers like Labradors, the tail serves as a rudder, helping them steer and maintain stability in the water.

5. Expression of Genetics

Finally, the shape, size, and length of a dog’s tail can tell you a lot about their breed and lineage. Some breeds have long, flowing tails, while others have short stubs. This is all down to genetics and selective breeding by humans.


Q: Can a dog live without a tail?
A: Yes, some breeds are naturally tailless, and others have their tails docked for various reasons. These dogs can live happy, healthy lives.

Q: Why do some dogs chase their tails?
A: Tail chasing can be a form of play or an indication of a health issue such as fleas or anxiety. If your dog frequently chases its tail, it may be worth a trip to the vet.

Q: Does the wagging direction of a dog’s tail mean anything?
A: Some studies suggest that the direction of a dog’s tail wag can indicate their emotions. A wag more to the right might indicate positive emotions, while a wag to the left might show negative ones.

So, the next time you see your furry friend wagging their tail, know that it’s more than just a cute gesture. It’s an integral part of their communication, balance, and even identity.