Labrador Retriever tails is one of the distinct features of the breed, and one of the main features of the tail is its thick, tapering “otter-like” shape.

The tail is constructed in a way that supports the dog in its role as a retriever, especially in water.

Labrador retriever tales

AKC standards for Labrador Retriever tails

The Labrador tail:

Anatomy of a Labrador tail

A dog’s tail consists of bone, muscle, arteries, veins and nerves.

Caudal vertebrae are the bones that form the base of a dog’s tail. The vertebrae reduce in diameter to the end of the tail which looks like cylindrical rods at the thin section of the dog’s tail.

A Labrador’s tail does not taper as much as other dogs’ tails.

Otter showing the otter tail shape of a Labrador Retriever tail
Otter showing the otter tail shape of a Labrador Retriever tail

How many bones are in a Labrador tail?

It depends on the length of the tail, but it will be between six and 23 bones or vertebrae.

American Labrador using tail to keep balance while playing
Look how this American Labrador uses its tail to keep its balance while playing

Dog tail arteries

The most important blood vessel in a dog’s tail is the middle or medial sacral artery.

The medial artery together with two caudal (meaning near the tail or rear) arteries runs up to the end of the tail.

The nerve of a dog’s tail

The purpose of nerves is to send messages from one part of the body to other parts.

Nerves can get damaged and affect the functioning of the tail. Dogs use their tails to communicate, so it is important that the nerves do not get damaged. Nerve damage usually occurs due to excessive strong pulling on the tail.

The tail of a Labrador is also used in their swimming and retrieving actions, so if your Labrador suffers from a limp tail, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian immediately.

Why do Labradors have thick tails?

The appearance of Labrador tails fits the description of an Otter’s tail.

The tail is thick at the base, muscular, flexible, and taper to a point. We can gather that it will be used mainly for the same purpose an otter’s tail is used. The only difference is that the otter also uses its tail to stand upright, which Labradors don’t do.

The Labrador uses its thick tail to help propel and steer it when swimming and to keep balance when chasing or playing.

What should a Labrador tail look like?

The breed standards prescribe mostly a tail that illustrates why it is called an “otter tail”.

Can a Labrador Retriever have a curly tail?

No. The Labrador Retriever breed standards require a tail that “completes the balance of the Labrador by giving it a flowing line from the top of the head to the tip of the tail”.

The only deviation from this standard occurs when the dog is in action and moves its tail as needed to function effectively.

A tail that hangs between the hind legs or curls above the back, is not acceptable and may even indicate that the dog is not a pure-bred Labrador.

Should a Labrador’s tail be up or down?

Neither. It should be in line with the head and rest of the body as prescribed by the breed standards. See the previous paragraph.

Labrador otter tail for better navigating in water
The Labrador “otter tail” for better navigating in water


What is a twizzle?

A twizzle is a small cluster of hair at the tip of the Labrador’s tail.

The tail hair is dense and wrapped tightly around the tail. It does not have a feather-like appearance like other breeds such as the Golden Retriever.

Most Labrador lovers prefer the twizzle as a logical culmination of the wrapping of the hair at the end of the tail.

Limber tail

The cause of limber tail is unknown

Limber tail is a painful condition where the tail of (mainly) large working dogs becomes flexible or limp. Limber tail occurs in Labradors and is mostly self-correcting.

Read more about Limber tail or the anatomy of a dog’s tail.

Labrador Retriever tails are one of the identifying characteristics of the breed with a special purpose and appearance.