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German Shepherd Tail – Everything You Need to Know

According to the American Kennel Club and the Official German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the German Shepherd’s tail should be “Long, hanging low. Carried with a slight upward curve at the end, but not curled over the back.” A classic German Shepherd’s tail must be sufficiently long that the rear end of the tail must correspond to the hock joint. It must hang with a slight bend resembling a soldier’s sword when the dog rests. The curl is spotlighted, and the tail must be upward when the canine moves. Generally, the tail solves two purposes: 

  • It helps the German Shepherd balance.
  • They use tails to express their emotions. 

To understand German Shepherds, pet parents must learn the position, movement, and psychology behind the tail. For example, though the German Shepherds have right and left muscles, they wag their tails mainly on the right side for positive emotions and on the left for negative emotions. In addition, the higher the tail is held, the more they are stressed.

German Shepherd Basic Information

  • Name: German Shepherd
  • Origin: Germany
  • Size: Large
  • Height: Males: 24 to 26 inches & Females: 22 to 24 inches
  • Weight: Males: 65 to 90 pounds & Females: 50 to 70 pounds
  • Coat: Medium
  • Lifespan: 9 to 13 years
  • Color: Black, tan, solid black, and solid sable
  • Energy: Medium
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Activities: Agility, Herding, Conformation, Obedience, Rally, Tracking
  • Breed’s Original Pastime: Herding, Guarding
  • Barking Level: Frequent
  • Shedding Level: Normal
  • Litter Size: 6 to 10 puppies
  • Group: Herding Group
  • Other Names: Alsatian, Deutscher Schaeferhund
  • Breed Recognition: American Canine Association Inc. (ACA), American Canine Registry (ACR), American Kennel Club (AKC), Australian National Kennel Club (ANKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), Continental Kennel Club (CKC), American Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI), Dog Registry of America, Inc. (DRA), Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), National Kennel Club (NKC), New Zealand Kennel Club (NZKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA), Kennel Club of Great Britain (KCGB), North American Purebred Registry, Inc. (NAPR).

German Shepherd Tail Positions and Meaning 

Let us see what the tail position and movement tell about the German Shepherds’ emotions. 

Tail PositionEmotion
Lifted in elevationExcited and alert
Slumping downDisturbed and submissive
Wagging up and down with wide strokesJoyful
Straight out Adventurous and indecisive
Hanging between the back legsRelaxing or saving energy
Wagging left and lowUnhappy and concerned
Wagging slowlyConfused, doubtful about new palce
Half raised, and wagging rapidly or wiggly, and looseExcited
Wagging slowly and lowLack of spirit
Wagging in half-mast with short strokesAnxious
Elevated and stiffStimulated and confident
Thrust between the legsScared
Straight out of the German Shepherd’s bodyReady to fight

Watch these videos to understand what your German Shepherd’s tail has to say:

How to understand your dog by its tail

German Shepherd Tail Positions and Meaning


Types of German Shepherd Tails

The German Shepherd’s tail is of two types:

  1. The single-coated German Shepherds carry a normal tail.
  2. The long-coated or double-coated German Shepherds have a bushy tail.

Length of German Shepherd Tail

The length of a German Shepherd’s tail is not too long or too short. It is supposed to be between 9 to 14 inches. However, if your dog’s tail length falls outside the said range, it doesn’t mean it is impaired or has genetic issues. 

German Shepherd Tail Problems

German Shepherd tails are not just a parameter for their existing feelings. There can also be several health conditions as they are genetically predisposed.

German Shepherd Tail Problems

 Anal Furunculosis

Also called Perianal Fistula Disease, it is a hereditary condition commonly seen in German Shepherds. The dog suffers from chronic deep infection with discharge and ulceration around the anus or the base of the tail. This is caused when the immune system fails to respond; in some cases, it is due to genetic conditions. However, how the German Shepherds carry their tails and the thick coat around the anus is partially responsible. An ideal way to avoid having German Shepherds with hereditary issues is to ensure that your puppy comes from German Shepherd parents who are free from Anal Furunculosis. A Universal Federation of Animal Welfare report states that 84% of Anal Furunculosis in the UK in 2004 was German Shepherds.

Skin Infection 

It is challenging to treat skin disorders on the tail. Skin infection symptoms on a German Shepherd’s tail are hair loss and itching. You might also notice how your German Shepherd is chewing its tail to curb its itchiness. However, if left untreated, it results in infection. To get proper treatment, visit your dog’s vet. He may suggest some antibiotics to treat your German Shepherds.

Limber Tail Syndrome

This occurs due to overwork, injuries, or playing for several hours in water. It is also known as the broken or cold tail syndrome or Acute Caudal Myopathy. The symptoms of Limber tail syndrome are swollen tail muscles, having a painful tail, or cramps. 

Tail muscles can become swollen and painful within 24 hours due to exposure to cold water. Placing a warm compress can lessen the swelling and the pain.

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Treating a German Shepherd’s Tail Problem

Being a pet parent, you should watch your pet closely. Contact your vet immediately at the onset of the first signs of tail problems, such as cuts or excessive hair fall. Check for any skin infection if you find your dog biting or trying to scratch its anus constantly. Make it a part of your dog’s grooming schedule. Check your German Shepherd’s body parts for any signs. Check his toes, head, and tail. Inspect his coat and make sure that no fleas are hiding underneath.

Grooming a German Shepherd’s Tail

Most breeders and owners of German Shepherds may not know how to trim their dog’s tail properly. It is but cutting the ends of the hair and not the whole tail. Also, taking care of your German Shepherd’s tail is included in their overall maintenance. If you brush the coat, make sure you brush the tail too. Check regularly your dog’s anus and skin under the tail. If you find any infection, take your dog immediately to the local vet and provide him the necessary treatment. 

Grooming a German Shepherd’s Tail

A few products that you can get for your pet’s grooming are:

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Other Health Issues in German Shepherds

A proper diet with whole meat protein, healthy fats like omega – 3, and whole grains for carbs is vital to prevent the development of any ailments.

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Apart from having tail problems, the German Shepherds also develop other hereditary conditions. Some of the ailments are listed below.

Dog Bites

German Shepherds are playful and very energetic. They can quickly get hurt, and the tail is one part of the body that gets bitten readily. Dog bites should be cleaned and treated instantly.

Megaesophagus

Megaesophagus is a congenital disease characterized by an enlarged esophagus in dogs. It affects the esophageal motility that carries the food from mouth to stomach. Symptoms include vomiting, weight loss, anorexia, and bad breath.

Tail-Wagging Related Injuries

Generally, German Shepherds are tail-waggers, and if they get overjoyed, they may bang their tails on furniture or the wall. This can cause injuries like bruises, cuts, and even more seriously fractured tailbones. 

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive spinal cord disorder, specifically the part of the cord that carries information to the brain regarding the hind legs. Dogs with DM behave as if they don’t know their back legs and cannot move them well. The disease progresses to a case where the dog cannot walk. There is no cure most of the time, and the dog is put to rest. However, in a few rare cases, the condition is related to a lack of vitamin E or B12. If this is the case, vitamin supplements might uphold the situation.

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Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is a pancreatic genetic disease in which the cells that produce digestive enzymes are damaged. As a result, the dog cannot digest and consume food. The first signs are gas, weight loss, loss of appetite, and change in stools. Next, the dog becomes lean and very hungry. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is diagnosed with a blood test, and treatment is simple as the pancreatic enzymes are added to the dog’s food. With proper medication and guidance, most dogs recover.

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Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Commonly called bloat, a life-threatening disease that affects large, deep-chested dogs like German Shepherds, especially if fed one large meal a day, eat fast, drink large volumes of water after meal, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is swollen due to pressure with gas or air and then twists. The dog cannot vomit to get rid of the excessive air in its stomach, and the average remit of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure falls, and the dog goes into shock. Without prompt medical attention, the dog can expire. Suspect bloat if your dog has a swollen abdomen, is drooling excessively, and is retching without throwing up. They also may be restless, lethargic, depressed, and weak with a rapid heart rate. Getting your dog to the vet as soon as possible is crucial.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a heritable disease common to large-sized dog breeds. It’s caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing joint loosening. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend medication to control the pain or even surgery to correct the problem.

Elbow Hygroma

An elbow hygroma is a fluid-filled (usually yellow to red) swelling occurring over the elbow joint. This problem is commonly seen in short-haired, large breed dogs such as German shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Mastiffs, and Great Danes. These dogs frequently lay on hard surfaces, such as tile, hardwood floors, or concrete which repeatedly causes minor trauma to the dog’s thin skin over a bony prominence. They can grow about two inches in diameter. Regardless of size, hygroma is generally non-painful. However, your dog may experience pain and discomfort if allowed to become large enough to prevent ulceration and abscessing. Your dog will probably not show any signs of illness or distress unless the hygroma becomes infected.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an abnormality of the hip joint where the socket portion does not entirely fit the ball portion, resulting in an ascending risk for joint dislocation. Hip dysplasia may occur at birth or in early life. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Some dogs exhibit discomfort and lameness on one or both rear legs. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program does x-ray screening for hip dysplasia. Dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia should not be bred.

Allergies

Few German Shepherds suffer from various allergies, including contact and food allergies. Allergies in dogs are similar to those in humans. If your German Shepherd dog is scratching, licking at their paws, or rubbing their face, suspect that they have an allergy and take them to the vet.

Bleeding Disorders

The German Shepherd is prone to a bleeding disorder. After several diagnostic tests, the surgery is performed depending on the type.

Hyperadrenocorticism 

This is caused by the malfunction of adrenal glands that produce excessive steroid hormones. The condition develops gradually and may be ignored, but one should be aware of the symptoms to prevent necessary damage. Symptoms include increased appetite, drinking, and urinating than usual.

Cancer

The German Shepherd has a higher life expectancy than the other breed, so they are prone to cancer as they grow older. Cancer can be cured by surgical removal of tumors and chemotherapy. However, it is essential not to ignore the symptoms and diagnose them earlier.

Anal Gland Problems

The area around the anus becomes inflamed or develops sores. The German Shepherd is more prone to this long-term disease. Symptoms include constipation, bleeding, licking of the area, straining or apparent pain when defecating, and smelly discharge around the rectum. Treatment includes lifelong medications and surgery.

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a common disease among dogs. The German Shepherd has a higher vulnerability than other breeds. In diabetes, the dogs cannot metabolize blood sugar, causing increased drinking, eating, urination, and weight loss. Treatment includes medication and insulin injections.

Cataracts

It is a common cause of blindness in older German Shepherds. The lens of the eyes becomes cloudy and opaque. Treatment might require surgery for good results.

Pannus 

Pannus is a disease in which the inflammatory cells penetrate the cornea (the clear part of the eye) and darken when exposed to ultraviolet rays, causing blindness.

Epilepsy

It is of three types—reactive, secondary, and primary or idiopathic epilepsy. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to metabolic problems like low blood sugar, toxin, or organ failure. Secondary attacks are due to a brain tumor, trauma, or stroke. If the above condition is not present, the disease is primary or idiopathic epilepsy. The signs of seizures begin as early as six months and three years of age.

Dental Disease

It affects 80% of pets by two. It causes tartar build-up on the teeth, infection of the gums and roots, and in extreme cases, loss of teeth and damage to the kidneys.

Infections

The German Shepherds are prone to certain bacterial and viral illnesses such as rabies, parvo, and distemper. The viral infection can be prevented by vaccination based on the dog’s age.

Parasites

The German Shepherds can be infested with worms, bugs, fleas, and ticks that can get into their systems through unclean water, contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted to you and your family. Symptoms include discomfort, pain, and even death.

Obesity

It is a significant health condition in German Shepherds. Excess weight can cause joint problems, back pain, digestive disorders, and heart disease. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the best ways to prevent this lifestyle disease.

Spay or Neuter

In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Recommended Health Tests for German Shepherd

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation

Frequently Asked Questions

Do German Shepherds Have Curly Tails?

Yes, they can have curly tails. Still, it’s not up to the breed standards and is considered as “fault.” Generally, German Shepherds have straighter tails hanging down with a slight curve.

Why Does A German Shepherd’s Tail Curl?

Another genetic defect that the German Shepherds suffer from is the curled tail. A German Shepherd’s curled tail infers that he has a gay tail. It is carried higher, curving upwards. Since it is an inherited defect, it cannot be fixed right. Some pet owners may opt for surgeries. However, not all puppies have tail curls. It is just a mannerism that can be eliminated by training for some dogs. Clicker training can give the best results in maintaining the position of the German Shepherd’s tail. However, the owner may need patience and perseverance to train them.

Is My German Shepherd a Purebred If It Has a Curled Tail?

Suppose your German Shepherd has a curled tail. In that case, it depends on the gene play. It doesn’t mean she isn’t purebred. Depending on the curve, it varies. If your pet has a highly curved tail reaching its back, it can be a mixed breed dog.

Do We Need To Dock German Shepherd Tails?

No, you need not dock your German Shepherd’s tails. This can sometimes be controversial. It is a process that must only be done on working dogs to protect them from injury. Since German Shepherds are often working dogs, many may doubt whether to dock their GSDs tail, but it is not needed. Some breeds that have their tails docked are Australian Shepherds and Corgis. This is done to safeguard their tails when working with livestock such as oxen and cows. However, German Shepherds work with sheep, ducks, goats, and geese. So there is only a negligible risk of injury to their tails.

Why Do German Shepherds Chase Their Tails?

Generally, German Shepherds may chase their tails for fun; however, some reasons are listed below:

  • Since German Shepherds are very active dogs, they may need mental stimulation. They may get anxious and chase their tails when they are not physically or mentally stimulated.
  • Sometimes keeping German Shepherds in narrow spaces can cause uneasiness leading them to chase their tails.
  • It can be an inherited trait from their parents in some cases.

Keeping your dog away from stress is vital to avoid any undesirable behavior.

Why Do German Shepherds Chase Their Tails?

Is Obsessive Chasing Of Tail Bad For German Shepherds?

German Shepherds love moving round and round by chasing their tails, and they growl in joy when they catch. However, it can result from their anxiousness, and they can hurt themselves while obsessively chasing their tails.

Why Is My German Shepherd’s Tail Not Fluffy?

German Shepherds are famous for their tails, apart from their fluffy stature. Their tails are generally lofty and correspond almost to their body’s length. However, your German Shepherd’s tail might not be fluffy because they are too young. A German Shepherd’s tail will reach its full loftiness only when the dog comes 1.5 years of age. If your German Shepherd crosses this age and still has a less fluffy coat, that can probably be due to their bloodlines.  

When Does a German Shepherd’s Tail Get Bushy?

A typical German Shepherd can take 18 – 36 months to complete their growth and fully mature. The tail will grow until your German Shepherd is two years old. However, it will start to change in eight weeks.

Why Is the Bushy Tail Important for the German Shepherd?

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests the racial standards:

  • Bushy tail
  • Tails should extend to the hawk joint
  • Tails should hang a little curved “like a saber.”
  • Tails should not be short or docked.

Dog owners who would like to show off their German Shepherds at Dog Shows or Confirmation Competitions may be disqualified if they do not meet each performance guideline of their dog breed standard.

Why Do German Shepherds Bite Their Tail?

There are many reasons why your German Shepherds bite their tails. Lots of different breeds do this at varying stages of their lives. They may bite their tail while playing or chasing their tails. If your German Shepherd has fleas or suffers from some allergy, they may bite.

Final Thoughts

German Sheperd’s tail is a topic that is widely discussed. This is because many enthusiasts and dog experts have tried decoding the tail positions. It is anything from negative to positive feelings of the dog. So while next time you find any of them, please observe and note the new position that your dog does, which may be unfamiliar to you. 

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