This guide to the Labradoodle tail contains everything you never knew you never knew about their waggiest feature, from whether they are traditionally docked, to how to trim a Labradoodle’s tail.
Labradoodle tails vary in length, thickness, coat type, how high they are set, and so forth. So it usually helps to imagine a Labrador tail and an undocked Poodle, and expect anything in between. But however they look, there are some important tail facts every Labradoodle owner should know.
What Does A Labradoodle Tail Look Like?
Picturing a Labradoodle tail doesn’t sound like a massive challenge. But I bet if you try to imagine a cross between a Labrador tail and a Poodle tail right now, you’ll end up second-guessing yourself. Which is understandable, because most Labradoodles are a first generation cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle, and these two dogs have quite different-looking tails! What’s more, there’s a good chance you’ve never actually seen a Poodle’s natural tail. So let’s start by considering the tails belonging to a Labradoodle’s parents.
Labrador Retriever tails
We’ll begin with the Labrador Retriever tail, because their breed standard has a lot to say about how that should look! In fact, it goes so far as to call it ‘a distinguishing feature of the breed’. It should be:
- Very thick at the base, gradually tapering toward the tip.
- Medium length.
- Covered in short, dense fur and free from feathering.
- Set at the same height as the end of their back, so the top line is a continuous horizontal line.
- Carried horizontally – not curled over the back.
On the other hand, the Poodle’s breed standard specifies that their tail should be:
- Set high up and carried vertically.
- Docked so that it doesn’t reach higher than their head.
- Shaved at the base, with a pompon of fur at the tip.
Now let’s look at how those qualities could combine in a Labradoodle!
First Generation Labradoodle Tails
A common question from our readers about Labradoodles anatomy is ‘do Labradoodles have curly tails?’. And the answer is that the bone structure of the tail is likely to be straight, but the fur on it is likely to be curly! However, some Labradoodles are born with short, straight hair like a Labrador.
How high a Labradoodle’s tail is set, how wide and long it is, how high they carry it, and how long the fur on it grows can all vary from individual. Even within a single litter of siblings, you might notice several distinct kinds of Labradoodle outline, including very horizontal tails, and very upright tails. Some of them might even surprise you, if you’ve never seen an undocked Poodle tail.
Australian Labradoodle Tail
By contrast, Australian Labradoodles are not first generation crosses. They are multigeneration Labradoodles, which have been bred to reliably fit an ‘ideal’ description of a Labradoodle. Their breed standard says that the Australian Labradoodle tail should:
- Be long and not too thin.
- Follow the topline when in repose.
- Be carried high in a happy or lively manner when in motion.
- Remain undocked.
- Curly tails are acceptable, but tails that curl over onto the back are not ideal.
You can see that some of the requirements, like ‘not too thin’, and ‘following the topline but can be carried high when in motion’ aim to strike a balance between traditional Labrador and Poodle tails. The inclusion of permitted curled shape is a nod to some of the other breeds which also contributed to founding the Australian Labradoodle breed, that have curved tails (notably the Cocker Spaniel and the Irish Water Spaniel).
Do people dock Labradoodle tails?
Tail docking is traditional in some working dogs, including Poodles, to protect them from tail injuries. Since the AKC breed standard for show Poodles reflects this working tradition, it has also become commonplace to dock Poodles who will never work a day in their lives. However, docking is gradually falling out of favor for pet dogs, and several animal welfare organisations have specifically called for an end to it altogether. This is because there is no way of docking a puppy’s tail without it hurting them and causing pain. And whilst tail injuries are fractionally more common in undocked dogs, one study observed that ‘approximately 500 dogs have to be docked in order to prevent one tail injury’.
Since most Labradoodles are kept as purely pets, it is unusual to dock their tails. The Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association specifically says that the Australian Labradoodle tail should not be docked.
Caring for a Labradoodle’s Tail
A Labradoodle’s tail is one of the most expressive parts of their body. You’ll be in no doubt of their good mood when you see their tail held aloft and wagging broadly! It’s also a very functional part of their body – water dogs like Labs and Poodles use their tails as rudders whilst swimming, and to counterbalance tight turns whilst running. But that doesn’t mean they never malfunction. Here are some Labradoodle tail problems to be aware of:
Color dilution alopecia
Color dilution alopecia is when the hair follicles of dogs with dilute coats self destruct, leaving bald patches. The dilute Labradoodle colors are blue, silver beige, and silver. Color dilution alopecia isn’t curable, but it needn’t be painful either. You may need to take extra care of the exposed skin to prevent it getting dry, scaly, itchy or broken.
Dogs with dermatitis, flea bite allergies, or any other skin condition can be equally affected on the skin on their tails. But since the skin is relatively tight over their tail compared to the rest of their body, if splits or breaks it can take longer for the wound to close up again.
All dogs with a full tail are at risk of fractures or tissue damage through exercise, roughhousing with other dogs, or even wagging their tail too hard into a door frame or piece of furniture. You should always take them to see a vet if you suspect this has happened.
There’s a good reason why even the most informal Poodle clip allowed by the AKC breed standard (a puppy clip) requires the base of the tail to be shaved! Dogs with long wavy, fleecy or curly coats can get fecal matter trapped in the fur around the base of their tail. This unpleasant problem can be cleaned up with grooming wipes bought online or from the pet store. Don’t use wet wipes designed for human babies though, because dogs’ skin has a different pH to ours, and products designed to be gentle on our skin can irritate theirs. Dried-on poop may need to be gently cut away with blunt-ended scissors.
Finally, limber tail is a temporary condition that affects the muscles at the base of a dog’s tail. It is traditionally associated with swimming in cold water, but it can also be triggered by being kept in a too-small crate, high latitudes, and underlying genetic susceptibility.
Tails with limber tail are stiff at the base, and limp along the rest of their length. Affected dogs are likely to show signs of pain walking, sitting, and toileting. Their vet can prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatories to help them get better quickly.
How To Trim A Labradoodle’s Tail
The last thing to consider here today is Labradoodle tail grooming.
Your Labradoodle’s non-shedding coat will need to be clipped every 5 to 12 weeks, depending how quickly it grows. In between clips it needs to be brushed all the way down to the roots every day or so. This lifts out dirt and debris, and prevents matts forming at the base of the hair, which tug painfully and even interfere with blood circulation underneath the skin.
But whilst you’re waiting for your Doodle’s next clip, you might also notice the hair on their tail getting longer… and longer! This extra long growth on the tail is known as feathering. If it gets out of hand between full-body clips and you’re tired of wiping muddy water and dead leaves out of it after every walk, you can give it a maintenance trim yourself.
The easiest way is to have a helper feed your Doodle treats at one end, while you use a pair of sharp scissors to whip their tail down to size at the other. As your confidence grows you can try copying the graceful curve of a professional groomer, but on your first attempt it’s best just to aim for achieving practicality and comfort as safely as possible.
Labradoodle Tail Summary
First generation Labradoodle tails can vary between dogs. The structure of their tail and the texture of the hair on it will depend on how much they take after each of their parents. On the other hand, an ideal tail has been agreed upon for the Australian Labradoodle, so they tend to be more uniform.
Docking a Labradoodle’s tail is unusual unless your vet says there is a good medical reason to do so. Their tail will need grooming as often as the rest of their body – don’t forget to brush it right down to the roots in between full clips.
Are You Proud Of Your Labradoodle’s Tail?
Tell us what makes it so special in the comments box down below!
Readers Also Liked
Australian Labradoodle Breed Standard. Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association. Accessed January 2022.
Diesel et al. Risk factors for tail injuries in dogs in Great Britain. Vet Record. 2010.
Official Standard of the Labrador Retriever. American Kennel Club. 1994.
Official Standard of the Poodle. American Kennel Club. 1984.
Pugh et al. Cumulative incidence and risk factors for limber tail in the Dogslife Labrador retriever cohort. Veterinary Record. 2016.