German Shepherd Tail Problems and Their Meanings

photo by Mypetzilla

“ Tail wagging the dog” is an idiomatic expression which means an unimportant part is controlling the larger and more important part. Ironically, tail is not just an insignificant part for animals. It is a functional part of their body. Some animals use their tails for holding onto tree branches, while some use their tail to shoo away insects. For German Shepherds, they use it not only for balancing but also for expressing their feelings.


A standard German Shepherd tail length should be long enough that the tail end should reach the hock joint. It should be hanging with a slight curve like a cavalry sword when GSD is at rest. The curve should be emphasized, and tail should be raised when the dog is moving. But no matter what a standard GSD tail should look like, it is important to know that owners can use it as a tool to understand their GSD’s current emotional state.

Understanding German Shepherd Tail Behaviors and Meanings

To better understand GSDs, owners should begin observing tail positions and movements. Up and down tail positions show how much energy they have. While a GSD’s tail has right and left muscle, it is instinctive for them to wag their tails more on the right side for positive feelings and the left for negative emotions. For example, A German Shepherd wagging tail more towards the left side almost touching their bodies means they are nervous. How high they hold their tails, shows the mood they are in. So, the higher, the more motionless their tail is, the more they are feeling stressed and can be very unpredictable. Here are some tail positions, movements and what they mean.

  • If a GSD wags its tail widely like mad, it means it is very happy.
  • If its tail is in a downward position between the hind legs, then it is upset or unwell
  • A relaxed GSD’s tail is lowered and not hanging between the legs. They usually do this to save energy.
  • A GSD wagging its tail slowly is a sign of confusion.
  • Just like a scared child hiding under the table, a scared GSD will hide its tail between its legs. Another meaning would be a plea not to be hurt.
  • Hair rising on a GSD’s back is a sign of aggressiveness.
  • A tail positioned stiffly straight out of its body means the dog is ready to fight.
  • A more aggressive GSD will move its tail high up and over its back to initiate a fight with another dog.
  • Whenever A GSD will hang its tail low horizontally away from its body, it can be a sign of a calmness. They can be seen as if observing the surroundings.
  • The higher the tail position of a GSD is, the more it asserts confidence as if telling the world it is the boss. Sometimes the tail can be seen curled.
  • A GSD that holds its tail upright and stiff means they are the pack leader. They can be heard barking all the time, alerting their owners even on little things.
See also  German Shepherd Bite Force

Why do German Shepherds Chase Their Tail?

It is amusing to see puppies or adult dogs chasing their tails. They try to catch their tails and even growl when they chance upon catching it. GSD’s are one of the many dog breeds who are prone to obsessive tail chasing. There are many factors contributing to this behavior. By simply analyzing the causes, owners can train their GSD to stop this behavior. Training them as a puppy is a good start. In adult GSDs, distraction can help.

  • GSD’s are large dogs so keeping them in a cramped space will cause them anxiety, thus tail chasing.
  • Lack of exercise and activity will cause them to chase their tails wider in circles and sometimes in eights. Giving them activities and making them “work” or exercise will lessen their boredom.
  • Genetics can also cause this behavior. The behavior might have been passed down by their parents to them.
  • Stress and anxiety will make them chase their tail until they injure themselves. So it is very important to check for stress and anxiety triggers.

Why does a German Shepherd’s Tail Curl?

Another inherited genetic fault that GSDs suffer from is the curled tail.A German Shepherd curled tail meaning it has a  gay tail. Characterized by a tail that is carried higher than the horizontal level of the back, curling upwards, gay tail is a genetic fault. Since it is a genetic fault, chances of fixing it is next to nothing. Sadly, some owners and breeders will do anything for fame and money, so they will opt for surgery. Problem is, surgery won’t keep the “supposed” show quality puppies from inheriting gay tail,too.

See also  Do German Shepherds Like to Swim?

Fortunately, not all German Shepherd puppy tail curls. For some it is just a mannerism that can be eliminated by training. Clicker training method can be used to train GSD show dogs to hold their tails in a particular position when standing. This method will need time and patience from the owner.  

German Shepherd Tail Diseases and Possible Treatments

GSD tails are not just a measurement of their current feelings. It can also be hounded by a number of health-related issues, since they are  genetically predisposed.

  • Anal Furunculosis

A chronic inflammatory disease of the skin under the tail and around the anus, it is usually caused by the inefficient response of the immune system and genetics. But how GSDs carry their tail and the thick coat around the anus may be partly responsible. To avoid such disease being passed down, breeding should only be between unaffected GSDs.

  • Skin Infection

It is very difficult to treat skin infections on a GSD’s tail. Tails normally don’t have that much extra skin, so this area is more prone to infection. German Shepherd hair loss tail, Itching and chewing  are caused by allergies which may eventually become infected if left untreated. Cuts and scrapes or even dog bites on the tail are all possible reasons for infection, too. Topical antibiotics look enticing for GSDs that they will keep on licking their wounds. Oral antibiotics administered in proper dosage will be the best option.

  • Limber Tail Syndrome

Limber Tail Syndrome is also known as Acute Caudal Myopathy, Cold Tail and Broken Tail. It is usually caused by overwork, injuries or spending too much time playing in cold water. Tail muscles become swollen and painful within 24 hours following exposure to freezing cold water. Long term confinement in cramped spaces may also trigger this syndrome. Prognosis for Limber Tail Syndrome is good as it will go away on its own. Applying warm compress will lessen the swelling and the pain, but some vets may prescribe pain relievers

See also  German Shepherd Aggression Control and Attack Training


German Shepherds’ tails are as essential as their other body parts. It serves as a tool of communication to their owners, helps stabilize them in water and balances them when walking. Owners may encounter some German Shepherd tail problems, some may be genetic and some may be acquired. Regular visits to the vet will ensure GSD tail health in check.

Previous Article
german shepherd floppy ears

German Shepherd Floppy Ears

Next Article
photo by pawbuzz

The Best Way to Potty Train a German Shepherd Puppy

Related Posts