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Everything to know about a Maltese Tail, (Docked, Curled, How to Groom)

A tail can tell us so much about our dog, they are a very beautiful and important trait on our precious Maltese. But what is it about the tail that makes it so special? How do we know if our Maltese has a normal tail, or if something may be off or different?

Well, I was curious about this too so I took some time to Paws and Learn so I could find all the answers to every question you could have about your Maltese tail. It’s all referenced here in this article in one easy place.

Do Maltese have tails?

Purebred and Maltese mixes do have tails. Your Maltese should naturally have a long tail that has a gentle graceful curve up and over their back. The tip of the tail should rest just to the side of their hind end. If your Maltese or Maltese mix has a very short stub tail then it probably has been docked.

How long are Maltese tails?

Maltese Tails are on average are 5 to 7 inches long. Think the length and curve of a small banana.

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Do Maltese’s get their tails docked

Maltese’s are not a breed that gets their tails docked. Some Maltese mixes will have their tails docked, if the breeder was following the standard for the other breed that your Maltese is mixed with.

Historically Maltese are bred to be companion lap dogs (Check out this article I wrote about it). Therefore their long elegant tail is important for a pompous royal look that Maltese are bred to have.

Some small breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier and poodles will often have their tails docked for aesthetic purposes. These dogs are historically working dogs, they have been bred in the past to do certain jobs. For example, Yorkshire Terriers were bred to catch and exterminate rodents for coal mine workers.

As working dogs it was safer for these breeds to have shorter tails to prevent them from getting caught or injured in the line of duty. Some owners like to maintain that historical appearance even if their dogs are only bred to be companion dogs.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) has different standards for different breeds. The standard for Yorkies and Poodles are docked tails so breeders who have a desire to follow those standards will most likely dock the tail of their puppies.

There is really no reason to have any Maltese mix puppies get their tails docked as Maltese mixes are not traditionally recognized by AKC, and will have no conforming appearance standards to uphold. Maltese Mix can join AKC Canine Partners Program but are not required to conform to a certain appearance to join.

Do Maltese have curly tails

Maltese do not have curly tails. Their tails should make an arc from the base of the tail up and over their back. Any tail curling more tightly than that may be considered a flaw in genetics or breeding.

Some Maltese owners have noticed that their Maltese’s tail curls more than normal and almost looks like a pig’s curly tail. If this is the case for your Maltese don’t panic, it shouldn’t cause any problems, but you may want to check with your vet at their next appointment to be sure.

It would also be recommended that you don’t breed your Maltese as this flaw can be passed down to the puppies and become more problematic for each generation going forward.

The one issue some owners have with their Maltese’s curly tail would be that it can make grooming more difficult. Having a curly tail can cause more matting at the base of the tail.

Maltese Tail Wagging and Communication

Maltese wag their tails for many different reasons. It’s a big part of how they communicate with you. Wagging their tail doesn’t always mean they are happy. They could be conveying other emotions like nervousness or fear as well. The key to understanding their tail wags is to put it together with all the other contextual clues they are giving you. What are their ears doing, their eyes, how is their posture? Noticing these things as well will help you know why your Maltese is wagging their tail.

Here are some things your Maltese could be communicating to you with its tail.

  • Calm and chill – Tail in the natural resting position. Sleeping or resting or casually walking around.
  • Greeting or I love you – Usually, a big carefree wag, accompanied by eye contact, coming to you and jumping on you or trying to get your attention.
  • Curious or unsure – Backwards and gentle wagging. Maybe sniffing around a little, intense and curious staring. Looking to you for reassurance.
  • I’m nervous or scared – The tail between their legs and possibly slightly moving. Body tense, eyes down, ears laid back. Could also be trying to communicate a submissive position.
  • Aggression – Tail high in the air and rigid. Poised, rigid, and making eye contact. Could be barking or growling as well.
  • Happy and Excited – Fast care free wagging. Wiggling body, happy facial expressions. Body not tense, possibly going in circles around the object causing excitement such as a treat or toy.

There’s also been a study done that shows the direction that your dog wags their tail can show positive or negative emotion. Wagging their tail towards the right side of their body can indicate more positive emotions such as relaxed, and happy. Wagging their tails on the left side of their body is a sign of more negative emotions such as nervousness or fear.

For most Maltese’s wagging their tails to communicate is a natural and normal thing for them to do. Occasionally you will find a Maltese that doesn’t wag its tail at all. Don’t worry, you are not alone. If your Maltese doesn’t wag their tail it’s most likely just part of their personality or genes. It could also be that they have an extra curly tail that makes it more difficult for them to wag, but it could also indicate a medical problem and they should be seen by your vet to rule out any serious issues.

If your Maltese has recently stopped wagging their tail then there could be other factors involved. If you have just moved, or they are new to your home this could just mean they are nervous and need some time to get acclimated to their new environment.

Some dogs are bigger tail-waggers than others. If your Maltese doesn’t wag their tail at all then you will have to learn to identify other body language cues to help you understand what they are trying to tell you.

If your Maltese is constantly Holding his tail down or it seems to be in a down position more often than the normal resting position this could indicate a problem called Luxating Patella. This really is just a fancy way to stay a misplaced knee cap. Besides the tail, another indication this may be the problem is if you notice your dog stretching out their rear limbs and walking in circles. Luxated Patella is a common problem for small breeds and often will self-correct after a few days or rest and stretching.

If it seems to be causing your dog a lot of pain or the problem is not going away it’s best to take your dog to the vet. They will assess the situation and if this is a recurring problem for your dog may recommend surgery to fix the problem. If surgery is performed it should be a permanent fix for your dog.

How to Groom Maltese tails

Most of the time a Maltese’s tail is left full and uncut. Part of their charm is the gorgeous plume flowing from their rear end. This does require daily or at the least bi-weekly brushing. This Brush works really well for keeping the mats away on long hair dogs like Malteses. If your Maltese does get mats in their tail it may be necessary to trim the tail, or possibly thin it out a little bit.

Here is a video that has tips on trimming your Maltese tail.

Other Tips for Maltese Tails Problems

How to Keep Poop From Sticking to your Maltese Butt

This can be a common smelly problem for long hair dogs. If it happens often and doesn’t get taken care of it can also lead to serious health issues as well.

Here are some tips to keep your fur babies fluffy rear end clean.

  • Keep the hair near their rear clean and trimmed.
  • Keep wipes handy to clean it out right away.
  • Add more fiber to your dogs diet.
  • Check for infections or parasites such as worms.

Maltese Tail Infection (Tail Tip Necrosis)

This is a very serious problem, but thankfully very rare in Maltese’s. It can be important though that you learn to identify it right away so the issue can be dealt with before it causes permanent damage.

This can be caused by the constant beating of the tail against objects that may harbor bacteria. If the tail gets an open wound and the bateria gets in it can lead to an infection that will spread and cause the tissue to become damaged or start dying.

Watch for hair loss at the end of the tail. Excessive itching, bloody or brittle skin, foul smelling, excessive biting or the tail.

Take your dog to the vet right away if you notice any of these things in your dog. The vet will assess and most likely have to amputate the infected part of the tail. This may be a very sad thing to have to deal with, but if the infection spreads it could endanger your dog’s life.

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