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Yorkshire Terrier Tail Complete Guide (Docking, Grooming, Communication)

A Yorkies adorable little tail can tell us so much! They wag it to communicate with us so many emotions. Even with a docked tail, we can still learn how to recognize the messages they are trying to convey to us. So what is it about the tail that makes it so special? How do we know if our Yorkie has a normal tail, or if something may be off or different?

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 Yorkshire Terrier tail. I’ve done my research and talked to a lot of Yorkie owners and vets so you can have all the answers in one place.

Do Yorkies Have Tails? What Should They Look Like?

Yorkshire Terriers naturally have long feathery tails. When relaxed it is a continuation of their spine and curves in a crescent shape with the tip pointing toward their head. In countries where docking is allowed Yorkshire Terriers will often have docked tails no longer than 4 inches, or as short as 1 inch.

Yorkshire Terrier with a long un-docked tail.

Generally, Yorkshire Terrier’s natural tails are long and flowing. They have an elegant arch shape to them and do not curl over their backs. A curly tail is possible but is considered a flaw in genetics. Most Yorkie’s tails form a nice arch upward when playing or relaxed. The tail may be less arched and more in a pointed fashion when excited or extremely attentive or focused. If your Yorkshire Terrier has a short stub tail then it most likely has been docked.

How long are Yorkshire Terrier Tails?

A full-grown Yorkie’s natural born tail is on average 4 to 7 inches long however it is not uncommon for a Yorkies to have tails ranging from 1 inch all the way to 12 inches long. Yorkshire Terriers who have docked tails will have tails ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches.

Do Yorkshire Terrier Get Their Tails Docked?

Many Yorkies that are born in the US will have their tails docked between 2-5 days old. This has been the tradition to protect working dogs from tail injuries. It is also done to conform with the breed standards of the AKC. In recent years leaving a Yorkie tail un-docked has become more popular.

Docking tails is a highly controversial subject. You will find dog owners who will argue for both sides. Some owners love the long natural flowing tail of their Yorkshire Terrier while others find it difficult to groom and care for.

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Most Yorkshire Terrier breeders will dock their litters’ tails before finding homes for or consulting with their pup’s future families.

A poll of Yorkie owners was taken to see their thoughts on tail docking. The results are quite interesting as a large percentage of Yorkie owners believe that docking a dog’s tail is cruel, yet many of them own dogs with docked tails. This seems to be because a lot of breeders are set on following the standard docking procedure, even when evidence shows owners prefer a long tail.

Yorkshire Terrier Owners surveyed from this Facebook Group.

Why Do they Cut (Dock) Yorkshire Terrier Tails?

Docking is a tradition that dates back to Roman times where they would dock a dog’s tail because they believed it prevented rabies. In the United stated the practice of docking tails for cosmetic reasons began in the 1950s. This was done to conform to the breed standards and be accepted into the AKC.

Yorkie tails were traditionally docked to prevent injuries while hunting rodents and to stop them from wagging their tails and scaring away prey. Currently, Yorkies tails are docked for ascetic purposes in order to follow the AKC standard for a Yorkie show dog. Docking provides a clean line from head to tail.

Fun Fact: In the 18th century there was a tax imposed on all dogs unless they were working dogs. So naturally, people decided to cut all ‘Working dogs’ tails off to tell them apart from non-working dogs. And well, that led to owners cutting off their non-working dogs’ tails just to avoid getting taxed. 

Chess Dog 300 x 600

Yorkshire Terriers have such long feathery tails that when they are working in the fields or underbrush while hunting there are many dangers that they might encounter as far as their tail is concerned. Working Yorkies will have their tails docked for these reasons.

  • Long feathery tails get burs and stickers in them from being in the brush and fields often.
  • Their tails are in danger of being stepped on by horses and other large animals.
  • Their tails may easily get snagged in gaits fences or other things.
  • They are overall more prone to injury which can cause the dog undue pain and may result in having to get its tail docked (amputated) as an adult which is much more painful to do than as a puppy.

Why do Breeders Cut (Dock) a Yorkshire Terrier Tail?

Breeders will dock Yorkie tails if they are following the AKC standard. In order to register their pups with the AKC as well as have them eligible to become show dogs, they have to follow the standard which is a docked tail. They also generally like the appearance of a docked tail and state that it is easier to care for.

Most breeders that I have talked to who advocate for a docked tail on a Yorkie believe that in general it looks better on the dog and it’s easier to keep the dog clean and groomed.

Breeders also have an incentive to have their puppies registered with the AKC as it is a type of a status symbol and there are a number of benefits for the breeder to have their pups registered.

They not only get recognition for conforming to the breed standard, but they may also have an easier time finding a new home for their pups while getting top dollar.

Because they have to go through some rigorous genetic testing and health screenings, many buyers prefer to buy a puppy that is registered with the AKC in order to ensure that they are healthy and purebred.

Generally, a breeder that follows the AKC standard has been very careful to breed dogs that are healthy and free of genetic health problems.

Yorkie Newborn puppy with a docked tail.

The Process of Docking a Yorkshire Terrier Tail (When and How)

Yorkie tails are most often docked between 2-5 days old. There are 2 ways that the docking may be done. One is to make a surgical cut with special shears about 1 in below the base of the tail, the other is to band the tail in the same place and allow the remaining part to either be reabsorbed or to drop off on its own.

Either way, the docking should always be performed by a licensed vet in order to ensure that there are no complications such as infection or nerve damage.

Docking is done on puppies at such a young age because the cartilage is soft and the bones have not yet developed.

Dogs who are older than 8 weeks will have vertebrae in their tails that will need to be carefully cut around. Dogs this age and older will need to have anesthesia in order to avoid the sharp pain of the procedure.

What do Docked Tails Look Like on a Yorkie?

Generally, a Yorkshire Terrier’s tail is only docked one-quarter of its regular length, meaning they retain three-quarters of their natural tails. Some Yorkie tails will be docked shorter.

Their tails can be a bit longer than most breeds with docked tails, but there is a range of short and stubby with only an inch or two or longer all the way up to 4 or 5 inches. Depending on the cut of the dog’s coat sometimes the docked tail blends and makes it look as though they have no tail at all.

Adult Yorkie with a docked tail. Thank you Ian L. for use of your photo.

What do Long Tails Look Like on a Yorkshire Terrier?

Here are some pictures of Yorkies with long natural tails. Most Yorkie owners who have their dogs as pets and companions love the beautiful flowing Yorkie tail and say they wouldn’t have it any other way!

Adult Yorkies with long natural tails. Thank you Muller H. and Stoppi Y. for use of your photos!

Are Yorkshire Terrier Puppies Born With Long or Short Tails?

Generally, Yorkshire Terriers are not born with a natural stub tail. A short tail most likely means it was docked as a newborn. However, a variant in the DNA of an important gene during development in the womb may result in a congenitally short (bobtail) or completely absent tail.

Some breeds like Australian Shepherds have been bred to favor this gene and are more likely than Yorkies to favor a natural bobtail.

If your dog has a short tail and you don’t know if it has been docked or not the only way to know if your dog carries this gene or not is to do a DNA test.

Yorkshire Terrier Tail Styles and Grooming for Undocked Tails

There are a lot of fun and stylish cuts to choose from for your Yorkshire Terrier tail grooming. Depending on how your Yorkshire Terrier tail sits, how long it is and how much grooming you want to do on a weekly basis can help you determine which style or cut you would like. You may also want to think about the kinds of activities you do with your dog to help you decide which cut to do.

Flag Tail

How To Achieve the Look: This is a fun look that is named as such because it looks like the outline of a flag. The base of the tail and around the anus is cut short for the first 2-3 inches then the rest of the tail is trimmed into a rectangle shape.

Good For: Owners who like a nice neat look but still enjoy the beautiful natural look as well. This style needs to be brushed out at least once a week to keep mats from forming.

Plume Tail

How To Achieve the Look: This look is mostly left natural except that it is trimmed up a little around the anus and trimmed just enough to straighten up the edges, but not in a set rectangle shape like the flag style.

Good For: Owners that like a natural look but prefer to have it trimmed up just a bit to look more neat and tidy. This look needs to be brushed 2-3 times a week.

Long and Fluffy (all Natural)

How To Achieve the Look: Do nothing as far as trimming or cutting goes. This look is meant to be all-natural showcasing the original beauty of your gorgeous dog. You will need to spend some extra time brushing and keeping this tail mat and tangle-free.

Good For: Owners who love the all-natural look and long billowy tail of their Yorkshire Terrier. It’s great for owners who don’t want to take their dogs to the groomers as often but requires at least 2-3 times a week of brushing if not daily in order to keep it free from mats and bugs.

Yorkies with full long tails. Thank you Stephanie B. and Vicki M. for use of your photos!

Bottle Brush

How To Achieve the Look: Neat and trimmed short in the same style as the rest of the body the hair can be anywhere from 2-4 inches long and is the same length through the entire tail.

Good For: Owners who are very active and don’t want the hair to get caught or pulled on anything. Also good for owners who don’t want to spend as much time brushing the tail out multiple times a week. It will still require brushing about once a week but should be quick and easy.

How to Groom A Yorkie Docked Tail

Depending on the cut you choose for your Yorkshire Terrier will determine how you cut it, but for a lot of owners part of the charm of having this beautiful breed is the gorgeous plume flowing from their rear end. This does require daily or at the least bi-weekly brushing. 

If you plan on trimming or grooming your Yorkshire Terrier hair yourself then it’s very important to have good high-quality tools to use. This scissor kit has worked great for me as I groom my own dog, it is a great place to start and can help you get the high-quality look you are going for.

Here is a great Video Overview on trimming a Yorkshire Terrier docked tail.

Yorkshire Terrier Tail Wagging and Communication

Yorkies 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 Yorkie is wagging its tail.

Here are some things your Yorkie 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, whining or crying. 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 its 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 Yorkshire Terriers wagging their tails to communicate is a natural and normal thing for them to do. Occasionally you will find a Yorkshire Terrier that doesn’t wag its tail at all. Don’t worry, you are not alone. 

If your Yorkie doesn’t wag its tail it’s most likely just part of its personality or genes. It could also be that they have an extra curly or short 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 Yorkie has recently stopped wagging its tail then there are some other things you should consider. 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 Yorkshire Terrier doesn’t wag its 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.

Other Tips for Yorkshire Terrier Tail Problems

What is Limber (Swimmer’s) Tail and What to Do

If you notice your Yorkshire Terrier’s tail hanging down and it looks limp and unnatural then he may have a condition known as Limber Tail.

Limber tail– Also known as swimmer’s tail, frozen tail, dead tail, broken wag, or cold tail– is a condition that causes your dog to hold his tail limp and down instead of the usual upright position. Its official name is Acute Caudal Myopathy.

It is most likely to happen after your dog has had a very active or strenuous play, exercise, or excessive tail wagging. Sometimes a lot of swimming can cause it, being in cold wet weather, if they are confined to their crate too long, or if your doodles tail is wagging and getting whacked on various surfaces.

This could cause your dog pain and swelling in their tail, making it difficult to sit. Usually, this condition will go away on its own after a few days of rest. It’s important to try and limit exercise and movement if you notice that your dog is experiencing this problem. If it is causing your doodle a lot of pain then consulting your vet is a good idea.

Usually, this isn’t a chronic problem, but it is a good idea to figure out what may have triggered it in the first place and try to avoid that activity if possible. Coldwater play, or being confined in a crate too long are often things that could trigger this condition.

If your Yorkshire Terrier is also limping read this: Why is My Yorkie Limping?

Lump or Cyst on Yorkshire Terrier Tail

Finding a lump on your Yorkies tail can be very concerning. While it’s not very common a lump on your dog’s tail can happen. These masses can be cysts, warts, infected sebaceous glands, or benign tumors. It is also possible that it is a malignant tumor. Your vet will need to remove it and do tests on it.

It’s important to have any lumps removed from your dog’s tail in order to keep them from growing larger as well as prevent them from bleeding. Wagging a tail that is bleeding becomes a big mess quite quickly.

Yorkshire Terrier Licking Chasing or Biting Tail

If your dog is chasing, licking, or biting his tail it could be a simple game, or there could be something more going on. Chasing and biting could be an indication of fleas or mites, licking could indicate allergies.

To learn more about Yorkie licking read this: Yorkshire Terrier Obsessive Licking (Quick Solutions Guide)

How to Keep Poop From Sticking to your Yorkshire Terrier’s 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 baby’s 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 dog’s diet.
  • Check for infections or parasites such as worms.

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