The tale of a dog’s tail

Dogs are one of the animals in the animal kingdom that have tails. The tail can be short stumps, well feathered, long or short – all the same, this extension of the spine has many purposes for a dog. A dog tail is a useful body part that improves the appearance of a dog. A long, curved and well feathered tail is certainly the pride of a Japanese Spitz and an American Eskimo Dog. A beautiful tail certainly enhances the appearance of the dog but the tail is used by the dog in many other ways as well. 

A dog’s tail has one very important role – as a balancing tool. Hunting dogs are acclaimed for their speed. Hunting dogs have to be fast and lithe to capture the prey. Not unlike balancing tightrope walkers, dogs uses the tail to maintain balance when they need to walk on narrow ledges in search of prey. Used as a counter balance, the tail prevents a dog making a sharp turn from tumbling over. The tail is used as well by water retrievers as rudders to swim more efficiently.

In spite of the inability to talk, dogs can communicate effectively by using the tail. The tail is used by the dog to communicate not only with dogs but with humans as well. A person doesn’t have to be a dog expert to be able to understand that a wagging tail means a friendly dog. Bared teeth and a stiff tail held high is as good as a written sign that the dog must be approached with caution.

Simply by the way the tail is held, a dog can communicate with other dogs. Furthermore, the tail serves as a unique ID system for dogs. Anal gland secretion is stimulated when the dog raises its tail. This scent that is unique to every dog is used by dogs to identify each other. In a pack, the tail is a tool that shows the rank of the dog. Alpha dogs are seen with a tail that is held very high and being wagged stiffly and widely. Dogs lower in rank slowly wag tails that are held low to signify submission.

The tail has another purpose – for comfort. Similar to a cow’s tail, a dog’s tail is used as a swatter that will drive pesky flies and other insects away. A tail, acting as a muffler allows a dog to brave extremely cold weather. Northern dogs that sleep in the open are all curled up in the snow with the tail resting on the face to keep the nose protected from draft.

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