Tails do some pretty amazing things in nature. Take Geckos, for example, they can actually detach their tail when they are threatened as a decoy. The tail will continue to squirm on the ground to distract the predator while the gecko runs away so it can grow another tail. A possum has a prehensile tail or a tail that can grab things, which they use as a third arm to climb trees. And some animals, specifically the peacock, use their tails to display their beauty and attract potential mates. Animals in the animal kingdom use their tails for all sorts of reasons, but dogs use them for a few different important purposes. The primary ones being to balance and navigate their world, and to communicate.
Purpose of Dog Tails
The most prominent purpose that both dogs and cats use their tails for is communication. Along with barks and meows, one of the most distinguished ways both dogs and cats communicate is with their tail. You know, when Lassie comes running up to you bright eyed and bushy tailed, tail wagging and tongue out of the mouth. They also use their tail to communicate with other animals, and not all tail wags are just for happiness. Dogs also use their tails for balance, it enables them to use the leverage of their tail to counterbalance whatever they may be doing, just like a cat, which is legendary for always landing on its feet. A dog will also use its tail as a rudder while swimming, which is part of the reason they are so good at it. Dogs will even chase their tail as a toy when they get bored, and I am sure we all know this!
There is a practice in modern day dog cosmetics called tail docking. This is the practice of amputating a dogs tail for various reasons. Early Romans believed that docking a dogs tail could help to prevent rabies. Modern science has proven this to be false. Others will dock their dogs tail to prevent injury of the tail. Although this is somewhat valid, it has also been statistically proven that 500+ working dogs would have to be docked to prevent one injury. Mostly, though, these days it is done to preserve dog cosmetic appearance, for the owner. It has not been shown that dogs derive a boost in self-esteem from having no tail, or that it provides any psychological benefits at all. Actually, there is much evidence to the contrary. This has organizations like the ASPCA to be strongly opposed to any surgical docking procedure, as the dog will see no benefit from it, and it is a very painful procedure for the dog.
Your dog’s tail is a beautiful thing, it is a unique part of their body that has multiple purposes. A dog’s tail is an essential part of their world, used for many things from balance to communication, dogs make great use of their tails. So the next time they come up to you, wagging their tail so happy to see you, you will know how many practical functions this part of their body actually serves for them. Happy wagging!