Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

If you are a dog owner or lover, the chances are that you have found yourself wondering why dogs have tails? Given that us humans don’t have tails, it is only natural to wonder what the purpose of a dog’s tail is.

Interestingly, there are a few reasons why our furry friends have tails, and it is not just down to genetics! In this article, we will be delving into the world of dog tails in more detail, to provide you with all of the useful information you should know about them!

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Why do dogs have tails?

To begin with, let’s take a closer look at why dogs have tails. The most obvious reason is due to their genetics, and nature. As dogs have evolved and adapted, so have their tails, this is because it is something that remains useful for them to have.

Dog running with its tail up for balance

Let’s take a closer look at these reasons:


The first reason why dogs have tails is to help with their communication. Unlike humans, dogs can’t speak. As a result, they rely on their body language to get across how they are feeling. While they do use barking and whining to communicate, their tail is an important part of this too.

If you think about our four legged friends, you will typically be able to understand how they are feeling by looking at their tail.

For example, if a dog is happy, their tail will be upright, and wagging. If a dog’s tail is curled underneath themselves, this is typically a sign of anxiety or fear. Note that this is different than a dog breed with a naturally curly tail–typically held upright–but instead is about dogs pulling their tails between their legs.

Understanding a dog’s emotional state is important for other dogs, and owners too, as it can help to prevent potential aggression or fighting too. If a dog’s tail is high and vibrating, this can be a sign that they may act on their alert emotions. 

The majority of dogs have a fairly large tail, and the reason for this is so that other dogs and animals can see it clearly, and for it to be an obvious sign of communication. The higher the tail, the more standoffish a dog is, the lower the tail typically the calmer the dog is.

However, there are some dogs, such as the Australian Shepherd, that have naturally bobbed tails, which does make their tail communication more difficult.

In addition to this, the tails of different dog breeds are naturally different, and some tail positioning will be naturally higher or lower than others. 


When it comes to scenting, you may not realize that a dog’s tail has an important role in this. It is no secret that a dog’s scent comes from their rear end, and this is how they communicate with each other. 

When a dog moves its tail back and forth, this spreads the scent from their anal glands, which are located in two sacs, underneath the tail of a dog. These pheromones are important for dog communication, and every dog’s scent is unique.

Some dogs naturally will release more of their scent than others, this really does depend on the individual dog, but it allows them to communicate and recognize other dogs. 

Balance and Stability

Aside from communication and scenting, there is another reason why dogs have a tail, and this can be linked to balance and stability. These two aspects are so important for a dog, and help them to remain grounded. 

When thinking about a dog when it is excited or jumps up, its tail helps to regulate the balance of the body. Without it, a dog would be more likely to lose their balance. In addition to this, their tail is particularly useful when a dog is running.

Dogs run at high speeds, and when they turn mid run, their tail helps to keep them stable and balanced. Without a tail, their balance would be affected as they turn, causing them to fall over. It acts as a counter to this, to prevent a loss of balance from occurring.

Newborn Puppies and Tail Wagging

As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs have tails. They are useful for a number of different reasons, and when it comes to adult dogs, the majority will wag their tails very often.

When looking at puppies, this is not something they typically do from birth, and interestingly, tail wagging is something that dogs will learn to do over time, rather than it being something that comes naturally to them. 

Right after a puppy has been born, they rely solely on their mother to care for them. Given this, they have no real need to communicate with other dogs, and their bodies are rapidly growing and getting used to their surroundings. 

As a puppy begins to grow and can start exploring for itself, this is when they need to begin to communicate with other dogs.

It is only when a puppy begins to communicate, that they will begin to realize how to use it correctly. They can wag their tails from birth, but it is only when it becomes necessary for communication that they do this. 

A puppy will begin to start using its tail as a form of communication when they are around 8 weeks old. This is when a puppy really begins to find its feet, and will start to interact with the other puppies in the litter, and also its mother.

The parents of the puppies will also teach the puppies what the correct and incorrect behaviors are, and a puppy will learn from this.


We hope you have found this article interesting. As you can see, there are many interesting reasons why dogs have tails. They are such an important method of communication for a dog, that they are necessary for them to have. 

In addition to this, they allow a dog to scent and make other dogs aware of their presence. And lastly, without a tail, a dog would not be able to have the correct stability and balance. This is why tails are so important for dogs to have.

PuppyLists is written by Kat, who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 15 year old Lab mix.