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Can Dogs Feel Their Tails? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

Fluffy tail of brown dog with rice field behind

Can Dogs Feel Their Tails? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Dog tails contain nerves and pain receptors. Therefore, dogs can absolutely feel their tails. If you’ve ever accidentally stepped on your dog’s tail, you understand this. Many dogs will wince or yelp if you accidentally step on their tail, especially if it is a surprise.

Of course, we don’t know exactly what a dog’s tail feels like when stepped on or hurt. There is a possibility that dogs don’t have as much feeling in their tail as other parts of their body. However, this is unlikely.

Furthermore, a dog’s tail also contains bone and veins. Therefore, if it is injured, it will bleed substantially. A dog’s tail is connected directly to its backbone, so injuries on the tail can affect the spinal column, as well. Dog tail injuries can be serious and shouldn’t be minimized just because a dog’s tail is technically unnecessary.

Generally, a dog’s tail is an extension of the body that contains a lot of pain receptors, bones, and veins.

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Can Dogs Feel When You Touch Their Tail?

Yes. Dogs can absolutely feel when you touch their tail—assuming everything is working correctly. If your dog has an injury to its spinal column, it is possible that the nerves leading to the tail aren’t working, which can result in numbness. Because the tail is the furthest extremity from the brain, it tends to go numb first with these types of injuries.

With that said, if your dog doesn’t currently have any injuries, then they should be able to feel their tail just fine. Some dogs have more sensitive tails than others and may not like them to be touched.

Often, the tail isn’t as thick as other portions of the dog’s body. Therefore, stepping on the tail may hurt dogs more than stepping on another part of their body simply because the bones and nerves are quite close to the surface. It isn’t uncommon for dogs to not like their tails being touched. Therefore, don’t be surprised if your dog has a boundary against touching their tail. However, if your dog suddenly has a very sensitive or droopy tail, it can indicate an injury. In this case, seek out veterinary attention ASAP.

dog chase tail
Image By: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Do Dogs Know It’s Their Tail?

Yes. Dogs know that their tail belongs to them, just like our legs belong to us. In fact, this is a very basic part of our dog’s awareness. Just like us, they can feel where their body is in space, including their tail.

Most of this confusion seems to arise because dogs sometimes chase their tail. You’ve likely seen a video of a dog chasing its tail at some point! However, this behavior is actually quite rare.

While this behavior is billed as normal, it isn’t. Dogs chasing their tails often have mental issues of some sort. Usually, these issues are linked to boredom, anxiety, and overstimulation. For instance, studies have found that stress and boredom are common precursors of tail chasing in dogs.

A study found that Bull Terrier dogs who chase their tails might be more likely to experience aggression and enter trance-like states.

In short, dogs sometimes chase their tail isn’t a sign that dogs aren’t aware of their tail. Instead, it is a sign of possible mental and behavioral issues.

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Do Dogs Feel Pain When You Pull Their Tail?

When you pull on your dog’s tail, it likely feels like someone pulling on your arm. Therefore, a small tug probably isn’t painful, though it can quickly become annoying. At the same time, a forceful tug can be painful, and if a dog’s tail is pulled too hard, you may even dislocate it.

Therefore, pulling on a dog’s tail is not recommended. It isn’t a nice way to get their attention and can cause the dog to become aggressive. Instead, finding a different way to get your dog’s attention or correct their behavior is best.

happy girl holding shih-tzu dog and looking at it
Image By: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Can a Dog’s Tail Break?

Yes, a dog’s tail can break. Their tails contain bones. These bones can be fractured if their tail is crushed or experiences a lot of brunt force. If your dog’s tail becomes sensitive, swollen, or crocked, it is vital to visit a vet right away.

While a dog technically doesn’t need their tail, its tail does have many important functions. It is one of the main ways they communicate, so a dog without a tail can have trouble communicating with other dogs. Many breeds also use their tail to balance, so your dog’s physical abilities may be handicapped if they don’t have a tail.

Furthermore, a dog’s tail is connected to its spinal column, and an injury to the tail can affect other parts of the body.

A tail break is not something to minimize. Without treatment, the tail can grow back together in the wrong way, leading to a lifetime of pain and soreness. Furthermore, infections can occur, which can potentially be life-threatening. A visit to your vet is required.

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Final Thoughts

Dogs can feel pain in their tail just like we feel pain in our limbs. Often, dogs will experience pain and soreness if their tail gets injured. Pulling or stepping on a dog’s tail also causes pain and can sometimes lead to the dog becoming aggressive.

We recommend being cautious about your dog’s tail, just like you would any other part of their body.

Injuries on your dog’s tail need to be carefully monitored and may require veterinary attention. Your dog’s tail is an extension of its spinal cord and injuries to the tail can lead to spinal problems, which can lead to paralysis and other issues. Tail injuries can be quite serious for this reason.

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Featured Image Credit: PisutKP, Shutterstock

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