Border Collie Tail Complete Guide (Position, Docking, Meaning) (2023)

One of the most expressive parts of our pups is their tails. This is why I love seeing that long fluffy tail on my brother’s border collie wave like a flag every time he sees my brother hold a ball or pick up his favorite toy.

It’s interesting to me that tails can look so different from dog to dog even within the same breed. This can sometimes make it confusing when you have a lot of questions about your dog’s tail.

The Border Collie has a moderately long tail that is set low on the body while the dog is working or concentrating on a task. It has a slight upward curl at the end and wags when the dog is happy or excited. The Border Collie’s tail should never be curled over the back.

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So how do you know if your Border Collie has a normal tail, or if something may be off or different? Should a Border Collie tail be docked? What is the best way to groom and style your dog’s tail?

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

Pro Tip: If you are interested in the best grooming tools for your dog you can find them by clicking here now!

Border Collies Iconic White Tipped Tails

Have you ever noticed that Border collies no matter the coloring on the rest of their bodies have at least 1-6 inches of white-tipped fur on the end of their tails?

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There is a good reason for that.

Border Collie naturally have long Flowing tails that extend out of their backside and slightly upwards. Full-bred Border Collies will have the iconic white tip which is called the Shepherds Lantern. It is called that because shepherds are said to follow the white tip of their dog’s tail home after a long day of herding.

If your Border Collie doesn’t have that white tip and or it curls quite a bit instead of being carried out straight it is quite possible that your Border Collie may be mixed with a different breed.

If your Border Collie has very little hair on their tail don’t be alarmed. Some owners that I talked to who had multiple Collie from different breeders had Collie with long fluffy and furry tails as well as a Collie with very little hair on its tail at all. It just depends on which genes are more dominant.

(Video) 12 Things Only Border Collie Dog Owners Understand

How long are Border Collie tails?

Border Collie Tails are on average are 12 to 16 inches long however it is not uncommon for Border Collie to have tails ranging from 3.5 inches all the way to 16 inches long.

If your Border Collies tail is quite a bit shorter than the standard chances are that they could have either had their tail docked when born or had some kind of injury to their tail that may have shortened it.

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Do Border Collie Tails Curl?

Normally Border Collie tails do not curl. Occasional short-haired Border Collies will have a recessive gene that will cause a curly tail. According to the AKC, It may be considered a flaw in genetics, but most owners will say it’s a distinctively unique trait that they love.

Border Collie’s tail description from AKC: “their tail should be the correct length extending to the hock but never below. When the dogis relaxed, thetailhangs down naturally, it does not curl.”

One owner I talked with was told her dog was a purebred Border Collie, but she wondered because he had a much curlier tail than what seemed to be normal for collies. It also seemed to have a different texture to its hair than other collies.

She did a genetic test like this one and found out that even though she had been told he was a purebred Border Collie it ended up that he is actually mixed with an Australian Shepherd.

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Do Border Collies get their tails docked?

Border Collies are not a breed that is traditionally known for having docked tails. Historically tail docking was done to prevent injury for working dogs. Even though Border Collies are considered herding dogs their tail stays fairly in line with their bodies and is not very prone to breaking.

Fun Fact: A border collies tail can be used as a tool in herding. They use their tail to help them keep their balance while making quick turns while herding sheep. Also the white tip on their tails are used as a flag of sorts to help their owners more easily see their location.

If you suspect that your Border Collie has a docked or shorter tail than is normal there could be a few reasons for this.

Sometimes in very rural areas owners will have their dog’s tail docked to distinguish them between wild canines and domestic ones.

If there was an injury to the tail as a puppy it may have been docked to prevent further harm to the dog.

(Video) Interpret Dog Tail Wags: How to Understand Dog's Body Language

Rarely a mother dog may accidentally chew the end of the tail off when trying to chew through the umbilical cord of the puppy after birth.

There is a lot of controversy around docking tails but as far as Border Collies are concerned there is really no reason to have any Border Collie puppies get their tails docked.

How to Groom A Border Collie Tail

Grooming your Border Collie’s tail is fairly simple and similar to how you would groom the rest of them.

  1. Comb out the hair in their tail to get rid of any dirt or excess matting.
  2. If you find mats use the proper tools like a Dematting Comb to carefully get through the tangles.
  3. Carefully Trim the hair no more than a few inches to lay evenly around the entire tail.
  4. Many owners prefer to leave the tip long and flowing and natural.

You never want to shave your border collies fur or even cut that hair too short.

Read here about the potentially harmful consequences of shaving your Border Collie. f

If you plan on trimming or grooming your Border Collie hair yourself then it’s very important to have good high-quality tools to use.This scissor kitis a great place to start and can help you get the high-quality look you are going for.

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Border Collie Tail Wagging and Communication

Border Collies 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 Border Collie is wagging its tail.

Here are some things your Border Collie 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 beena study done that shows the direction that your dog wags its tailcan 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.

(Video) Grooming a Border Collie

For most Border Collie wagging their tails to communicate is a natural and normal thing for them to do.On rare occasions, you will find a Border Collie that doesn’t wag its tail at all.Don’t worry, you are not alone.If your Border Collie doesn’t wag their tail it’s most likely just part of their personality or genes.

It could also be temporary due to stress or changes in your Collies life or environment and may go away once things are resolved. However, it may indicate a medical problem, in which case your dog should be seen by your vet to rule out any serious issues.

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If your Border Collie is whining or crying a lot then this article is a must read!

If your Border Collie 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.Border Collie Tail Complete Guide (Position, Docking, Meaning) (7)

Some dogs are bigger tail-waggers than others. If your Border Collie 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.

Border Collie Tail Problems

Because our dog’s tail is such a big part of them and how they express themselves it can be quite alarming if something seems wrong with it or if they seem like they are in pain.

You should always consult with your vet if you are worried something may be off, but in the meantime, I know that having an idea of what it might be can bring some peace of mind.

Here are some common problems that you might run into concerning a Border Collies tail.

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Border Collie Chasing its Tail or Biting its Tail

For the most part, if your Collie is chasing its tail it’s most likely just a harmless and adorable game. Puppies tend to do this a lot because they are so playful and exploring more about their world and discovering their fun long tails. If your dog is chasing his tail it might be because he’s bored or it’s just a fun game for him.

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Trying out a fun training program together likethis widely popular programBrain Training for Dogs can help unlock your dog’s hidden potential and help them learn how to avoid problem behaviors.

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The problem comes when your dog is obsessively chasing its tail and it seems like they are in pain stressed or biting its tail and causing things like bleeding, or hair loss.

If this is the case then rightfully you are probably concerned.

The cause for this could be one of several things. Here are the things that you can look for.

  • Impacted anal glands
  • Parasites like fleas or ticks in the tail
  • Injury or sharp pain somewhere on the tail
  • Allergies or itchy skin
  • Boredom and in need of more exercise. (Border Collies require a lot of work to keep exercised and entertained in fact some may say they are best for experienced owners. Don’t miss out on reading this article and let me know if you agree. )

If your Collie is licking its tail read this article that covers everything to know about Border Collie licking.

Tail Hanging Down or Limber (Swimmers) Tail

If you notice your Border Collie tail hanging down and it looks limp and unnatural then he may have a condition known as Limber Tail.

Limber tail Also known as swimmers 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 dog’s tail is wagging and getting whacked on various surfaces.

This could cause your dog pain and swelling in their tail, make 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 Collie 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.

How to Keep Poop From Sticking to your Border Collie’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.

(Video) Nana the Border Collie Performs Amazing Dog Tricks

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.

Taking care of our dog’s most stunning features like our Border Collies Majestic fluffy tails may take a little extra work and know-how, but isn’t it worth it!

Other Articles all about your Border Collie

Are Border Collies Picky Eaters? (Inside Info from Owners) – Paws and Learn

Why does my Border Collie Eat Everything (Grass, Poop, Sticks, Dirt) – Paws and Learn

While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.


Why do they dock Border Collies tails? ›

Today, tail docking is more cosmetic than anything. Breeds like dobermans, German shorthairs, and other dogs where the breed standard has docked tails, it's just to get the classic look. It can be used for practical use still, like hunting and herding, but that's not very common.

Do Border Collies get their tails docked? ›

Other dog breeds that are not docked, such as Border Collies and Rough Collies, had a risk estimate of only 0.08%.

Do all Border Collies have long tails? ›

To someone unfamiliar with the two breeds of dogs they might look nearly identical, distinguished only by Aussies having a docked tail and Border Collies having a long natural tail. However, the breeds come with different origin, temperament, talents, training challenges and characteristics.

Do Collies have tails? ›

Collies are generally medium-sized dogs of about 22 to 32 kg (48 to 70 lb) and light to medium-boned. Cattle-herding types are more stocky. The fur may be short, or long, and the tail may be smooth, feathered, or bushy.

How is tail docking done? ›

Tail docking is the term given to the surgical removal of puppies' tails for cosmetic purposes. The procedure was usually performed at 2-5 days of age; the tail is cut off using a pair of scissors or caused to drop off by occluding the blood supply using a tight rubber band.

What length should a puppy's tail be docked? ›

The idea is to cut the tail short enough to make it close to the body. The veterinarian aims at shortening the tail without indention to the maximum possible extent. However, for some other breeds like the Wire Fox Terrier, the tail is docked about three-quarters of the original size.


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