Do Dogs Need Their Tails for Balance?

"Come on, tail, don't let me down!"
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Your pooch might not be ready to walk on a tightrope anytime soon, but she still uses her tail for balance. Some dogs need their tails when they change directions quickly; without tails, their hind ends might not follow their front ends around tight corners.

Regular Activity

Most dogs don't need help balancing during normal walking or jogging activity. They have four feet to balance with, after all. With the ability to catch her balance in four different directions with her feet, your dog likely has better balance than you. Especially on flat surfaces, your pup shouldn't need her tail to keep her walking straight.

Need for Balance

Your pup is more likely to use her tail for balance on uneven ground, such as when she's walking across a slope so that one side of her body is higher than the other. If you like to practice on agility courses with an athletic dog, she'll need her tail to go over the narrow balance beams and over A-frames. Racing dogs, such as greyhounds, use their tails to navigate tight turns at top speed.

Working Dogs

Dogs bred to do certain jobs also need their tails for balance. Herding dogs such as border collies execute sharp turns as they circle the sheep, and they often navigate uneven ground.Their tails work like a counterbalance, helping keep all four feet on the ground. A retriever also uses her tail to stay steady, but in the water instead of on land. When she's swimming, her tail works like a rudder in the water, helping maintain an even course toward her goal.

Other Uses for Tails

Tails are good for more than balancing. Your pooch also uses her tail to tell you how she feels. Happy wagging might welcome you home, followed by a tucked tail when you chastise her for tearing apart a throw pillow. If her tail is up along with her hackles, watch out; she's mad and ready to defend her territory.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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