Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

One of the most notable features on your dog’s body is their tail.

Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

When your dog is happy, or excited to see you, they will wag their tail, and if your dog is a larger breed then you have probably felt the full force of this body part at some point. 

While your dog’s tail is clearly expressive, and a big part of their anatomy, you might be wondering why your dog has a tail.

After all, it surely can’t just be there to notify you of excitement when you walk back through your front door after work. So, why do dogs have tails?

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at why dogs have tails, whether they have feeling in their tails, and lots more. So to find out the answer, keep on reading. 

Have Dogs Always Had Tails?

First things first, let’s take a look at whether, or not, dogs have always had tails. In one word, yes, dogs have always had tails.

Just like many mammals, dogs have always had tails, even though these tails differ in size and weight depending on the breed of the dog. 

However, as you are probably aware, not all dogs have tails. This is because of the genetics behind breeding.

Most pedigree dog breeds that exist today have been strategically bred and genetically designed to look and act the way that they do.

So, if a dog breed is born without a tail, it is almost always because this breed was designed to be this way.

Some breeds which are designed to not have a tail include the French Bulldog, Welsh Corgi, and the Brittany Spaniel. 

But, once upon a time, even these breeds which no longer have a tail would have had a tail. It is thought that all mammals once had a tail, human beings included.

The simple difference is that most dog breeds have retained their tail, whereas humans evolved out of theirs. So why do so many mammals still have a tail? Let’s find out. 

Do Dogs Have Feeling In Their Tails?

In order to understand why dogs have tails, we need to know a little more about the anatomy of this body part. Starting with whether, or not, dogs have feelings in their tails. 

A dog’s tail is not an additional body part, it is a key piece of your dog’s anatomy, and because of this it forms part of your dog’s skeleton.

Primarily, a dog’s tail is made up of lots of little bones, which are similar to the vertebrae that make up your dog’s spine.

These little bones grant your dog a lot of control over their tail, but it does mean that it is possible for your dog to break their tail.

As well as these little bones, the tail is also made up of muscles which further control movement, and lots of nerves and tendons.

All of these different parts combined mean that your dog can feel their tail.

You had probably already guessed that dogs do have feelings in their tails, simply from the way that they yelp when you accidentally stand upon them.

So, yes, dogs do have feelings in their tails. As we have said, this body part is not an add-on, it is a key part of your dog’s anatomy. 

Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

So, dogs have always had tails, and they have had feelings in their tails for as long as their tails have existed. But, why do dogs have tails, exactly?

While you might be led to believe that your dog’s tail exists as a way to express emotion, this isn’t actually the case.

Your dog’s tail is often used for this function, but on a basic level it exists for a much more important purpose. This purpose is balance.

If you have ever owned a dog, then you will know that these animals are often adventurous. Especially when it comes to some larger breeds.

When a dog enters any situation where balance is important, whether it be climbing or walking across a narrow edge, your dog will use their tail to ensure that they stay steady. 

The best way to visualize this is to think of a tight-rope walker. Most of the time, tight-rope walkers will use a large, thin stick (known as a balance bar) to help maintain their balance while they are in the air.

A dog uses their tail in the same way. When your dog is in an unsteady situation, they will use the tilt of their tail to keep them balanced.

Often, dogs are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for, and so are their bodies. 

Why Do Some Dogs Have Cut Off Tails?

We have spoken about dogs that are genetically designed not to have a tail, but you might also be wondering about dogs which have had their tails cut off.

This is a process known as docking, and it was once very common. It is now banned in a number of States in the USA, but this practice still occurs. So, why do some people still do this?

Traditionally, tail docking was used as a way to protect the health of your dog. It was first thought to prevent rabies, then over time, this practice was used to protect dogs from unnecessary injury.

Where dogs were used for hunting or ratting, a lot of owners implemented tail docking to ensure that the dog could not harm their tail while completing this activity.

This was especially common in ratting, as terriers could get stuck in holes simply because of their tail. 

Now-a-days, most of the time docking is frowned upon, and it is a lot less common than it once was.

Most of the time, tail docking is only now done to prevent injury or resolve an untreatable injury to the tail.


In short, dogs have tails simply because they have always had tails.

Dogs use their tails to express their emotion, but they also use their tails to help them keep their balance on unsteady terrain and when climbing.

So, as you can see, there are lots of reasons why your dog has a tail.