Boston Terrier Tail Guide: Types, Standard & Illustrations


Boston Terrier Tail Guide: Types, Standard & Illustrations

When we think of a happy dog greeting us at the door, many of us imagine them wagging their tail as they say hello. 

Boston Terriers do not have long tails, and they may not even be able to wag their tails when excited. 

However, the Boston Terrier is unique due to its wide variety of tail types.

Picture the Boston Terriers you’ve seen as we go through the many varieties of tails this unique breed has. 

Everything You Need To Know About Boston Terrier Tails

This is a comprehensive piece covering the looks, standard, docking, and more in regard to the Boston Terrier tail.


Are You Worried About Your Boston’s Veterinarian Bills? 

Emily and I recently purchased Pet Assure for Bella. It is not like traditional insurance.

We simply paid $100 and you then get 25% off on all vet visits and procedures. As long as you spend more than $400 on vet visits throughout the year you will save money.

Pet Assure covers procedure, teeth cleaning, normal visit so the costs can easily add up to $400.

Get your Pet Assure plan for your Boston Terrier here, Pet Assure.

Or watch this YouTube video where I talk about the plan we purchased.

Donnie explaining how he saved $100’s by getting Pet Assure for Bella his Boston Terrier.

What Is The Standard For The Boston Terrier Tail According To The American Kennel Club?

According to the American Kennel Club, the Boston Terrier tail standard is low, short, and tapered in a screw or straight shape. 

The tail is ideally no longer than one-quarter the distance from it’s setting place (tail base) to hock. The hock is located on your Boston Terrier’s back leg right below the knee. 

What is a hock on a Boston Terrier. What is the tail base of a Boston Terrier. What is the tail setting of a Boston Terrier.

The American Kennel Club defines the HOCK as the collection of bones of the hind leg forming the joint between the second thigh and the metatarsus, the dog’s true heel.

What Types Of Tails Do Boston Terriers Have?

Boston Terrier tails come in a wide variety and are one of the most varied features of the breed. 

  • Bobbed Tails
  • Curled Or Corkscrew Tails
  • Crooked Tail
  • Straight Tail
  • Gay Tail

Bobbed Tails 

A Boston Terrier with a bobbed tail. A dog with a bobbed tail.
This is a demonstrative photo only. The variety of tails can some times look very similar to one another.

Bobbed tails are frequently confused with docked tails, which we will cover shortly. Boston Terriers are a bobbed breed, which manifests as a very short tail. 

This very short tail is due to the genetic makeup of Boston Terriers. Bobbed tails are frequently called nubs as they are very, very short, and almost appearing like they were cut. 

Curled Or Corkscrew Tails

A Boston Terrier with a curled tail. A Boston Terrier with a corkscrew tail. A dog with a curled tail. A dog with a corkscrew tail.
This is a demonstrative photo only. The variety of tails can some times look very similar to one another.

A curled Boston Terrier tail is one that looks a bit like a button, as it tends to be pressed tightly against its bottom. 

These curled tails can be so tight that they require cleaning to keep the Boston Terrier from getting a tail infection. 

This tail is the most common, long-tail variety for Boston Terriers.

Crooked Tail

A Boston Terrier with a crooked tails. A dog with a crooked tail.
This is a demonstrative photo only. The variety of tails can some times look very similar to one another.

This type of tail is defined as being two to three inches long and appearing to be bent in the opposite direction about halfway through the tail’s length. 

If your Boston Terrier has a crooked tail, it’s essential to ask your veterinarian about possible health risks. Also, talk about the pain that can sometimes come from this tail type’s impact on the spine.

Straight Tail

Boston Terrier with a straight tail. A Dog with a straight tail.
This is a demonstrative photo only. The variety of tails can some times look very similar to one another.

The straight tail is just like it sounds in that it’s straight. The straight tail is usually pointed downward when the Boston Terrier is calm and idle. 

Gay Tail

Boston Terrier With A Gay Tail. Dog With A Gay Tail.
This is a demonstrative photo only. The variety of tails can some times look very similar to one another.

First, I know what you think. This is the same photo as the bobbed tail, yes. A gay tail refers to the tail’s position.

A gay tail, according to the American Kennel Club, is a tail carried above the horizontal level of the back. 

When a Boston Terrier has a gay tail, they have a tail that sits much higher than the breed standards. The tail should not go above a Boston Terrier back.

Since the tail is also pointed upwards, this gives the appearance of an extra happy dog, thus the name. 

According to Daily Dog Discoveries, this tail is considered undesirable for many breeds when it comes to dog competitions.

Can Boston Terriers Have Long Tails?

Yes! Boston Terriers can have long tails. However, this is less common because genetically, they are most prone to having a bobbed tail. 

Longtails that Boston Terriers have often fall into the straight or curved/corkscrew variety with both being long enough that you can see them easily from afar.

But remember, the breed standard according to the American Kennel Club,

the tail is ideally no longer than one-quarter the distance from it’s setting place (tail base) to hock. The hock is located on your Boston Terrier’s back leg right below the knee.

Are Boston Terriers Born With Tails?

Yes, Boston Terriers are born with tails, however many are born with bobbed tails that are naturally quite short. A bobbed tail can be so short that it almost looks like it was cut off. 

This very short tail is the breed standard and is entirely normal!

Your Boston Terrier is not missing their tail!

Is My Boston Terrier Full Blood If They Have A Tail?

Yes, a Boston Terrier can have a tail longer than the standard, ¼ the length between the tail base and hock, and still, be full-blooded.

Now, side note. Chances are a Boston Terrier with a full-length tail, i.e., a tail longer than say 6 inches has been mixed somewhere down the line.

When I’m talking about full-blooded, I mean a Boston Terrier who is registered with the American Kennel Club.

As long as the sire and the dam are AKC registered, the puppies they produce are full-blooded Boston Terriers.

Common Misconceptions About Long Tails

It’s a common misconception that Boston Terriers with noticeable tails, especially straight tails, are not full-blooded Boston Terriers, essentially that they are mixed. 

NOTE: It is possible that down the line the Boston was mixed with something to get the long tail, but as long as the current mother and father are AKC registered, you have a full-blooded Boston Terrier.

This is not only incorrect but can lead to a harmful practice called docking to cover up their natural longer tail. 

A Boston Terrier with a docked tail would not only be disqualified in competitions, but this would serve no other purpose than changing the look of the poor Boston Terrier.

Pureblood Boston Terriers can absolutely have a noticeable tail. It’s just uncommon, which leads to this misinformation being spread.

Rest assured that your Boston Terrier is still purely Boston with any of the above tail varieties. 

Every Boston Terrier comes in a unique and distinctive form that we should treasure!

Are Boston Terriers Tails Docked?

Boston Terriers are a bobbed tail breed, which results in a short nub like tail. This is a natural occurrence of Boston Terrier genetics and does not mean that they have a docked tail. 

Some breeders will dock Boston Terrier puppies with longer tails to make that Boston Terrier resemble the “ideal” Boston Terrier standard, leaving the puppy with little to no tail at all.

A docked tail disqualifies the Boston Terrier from entering into competitions and is also highly unnecessary for the Boston Terrier personally. 

The idea that a Boston Terrier should have a bobbed tail or no tail at all is a purely cosmetic ideal that has no weight when it comes to their health.

Can A Boston Terriers Tail Be Docked?

Yes, but It is important to note the American Kennel Club does disqualify Boston Terriers with docked tails in competitions.

What Is Tail Docking?

Tail docking is the act of amputating a dog’s tail or the tip of their tail. This is typically done when they are very young between the ages of three to seven-day olds

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, tail docking is painful for dogs. Dogs who are docked can experience changes to their nervous system and how they feel pain for the rest of their life. 

According to the Spruce Pets, there have also been unfortunate cases where puppies have died of shock from this procedure.

Inside Edition Gives A Nice Overview Of Tail Docking

In this video Inside Edition briefly talks to both sides on the practice of docking and cropping.

What the American Kennel Club Says About Tail Docking

The American Kennel Club put out a press release in 2008 stating it stands by the practice of tail docking going against what the American Veterinary Medical Association labels as cosmetic.

In the piece Issue Analysis: Dispelling the Myths of Cropped Ears, Docked Tails, Dewclaws, and Debarking, the American Kennel Club staff writers mention that the procedure of tail docking is not painful and has no long term effects on the well being of the dog.

It is stated in the piece that tail docking occurs before the nervous system has fully developed, causing little to no pain.

Is Tail Docking An Acceptable Practice?

Once again, the American Kennel Club and the AVMA have differing opinions. And it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely how painful the docking procedure is for dogs. Still, it’s mostly frowned upon by the American Veterinary Medical Association and many other dog health organizations.

Pain aside, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other dog health organizations oppose tail docking as it’s so rarely needed. 

These organizations feel there is no sufficient justification for performing a surgical procedure on a dog unless it’s beneficial to their health (i.e., if their tail was to become severely infected). 

Every surgery brings with it risk, especially when the patient is put under. Tail docking is an unnecessary risk that puts dogs’ lives and wellbeing in danger. 

Why Is Tail Docking Done Today?

Today, tail docking is primarily done for cosmetic reasons. The tail docking is for the owner’s pleasure in their dog’s appearance, rather than their dog’s wellbeing. 

After having their tail docked, many dogs are shown to have little increase in their self-confidence or enjoyment of their appearance. 

Losing a part of your body would be very hard, but losing a part of your body purely for cosmetic reasons that you did not choose must be very heartbreaking to these dogs.

Overall, tail docking is widely frowned upon in our society and can get you disqualified in competition. 

Does Docking The Tails Of Your Boston Terrier Puppies Disqualify You From Registering Your Puppies With The American Kennel Club?

No, if you dock the tail of your Boston Terrier puppy, you can still register them with the American Kennel Club as long as all the other requirements are met. 

I.e., the Sire and Dam being registered with AKC. 

American Kennel Club Litter Registration Form

In the form, you can see that there is no question about tail docking nor request for any of the dog’s features. Click Here For Litter Registration Form.

The only important piece is the mom and dad’s registration number.

Here Are The Key Questions In The Form
  1. Litter Information
    1. Date of Birth
    2. Breed
  2. Sire Information
    1. AKC Number
    2. Full Name
    3. Owners Telephone Number 
    4. Owners Name
  3. Dam Information
    1. AKC Number
    2. Full Name
    3. Owners Telephone Number 
    4. Owners Name

And that is pretty much all the form requests, here is the form.

How Did Tail Docking Begin?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, tail docking is a practice traced back to the ancient Romans. The Romans believed that amputating dogs’ tails or the tips of their tails would prevent them from getting rabies. 

Also, dogs owned by poor people were regularly docked to physically show that their dog was not permitted to hunt game. Some at the time did believe that tail docking could increase a dog’s strength or agility during the hunt, which made this very ironic.

Unfortunately, tail docking is still practiced in many parts of the world legally. The UK has now restricted this cruel practice, along with many other countries banning docking all together.

Countries who have banned dog tail docking.

Countries Who Have Banned Dog Tail Docking

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey

For a complete list of countries who have banned or restricted tail docking, visit this tail docking page, Tail Docking. Countries from around the world are banning or limiting the tail docking of dogs.

When Would Tail Docking Be Necessary?

Tail docking could be necessary if a dog has a severely infected tail that needs to be amputated to preserve their health. 

Otherwise, working dogs may have their tails docked to protect them on the job. This would apply to guard dogs so that their tail couldn’t be grabbed by an attacker or military dogs that could be crawling through branches or wrecks to prevent their tail from being entangled. 

At this time, these are the primary reasons that most veterinary associations view as sufficient enough to perform the procedure. 

Do You Think Your Boston Terrier Needs Its Tail Docked?

If your Boston Terrier should ever need their tail docked due to infection, please take them immediately to a veterinarian who is trained to do the procedure as painlessly as possible.

Breeders will often perform tail docking, but use a method called banding

Banding is where the dog’s tail is bound so that circulation is cut off, which causes gangrene. 

The tail will then fall off on its own. Breeders perform this on newborn puppies with no anesthesia, which is undoubtedly traumatic to these poor puppies. 

A professional veterinarian is a far better choice should you ever need this procedure performed. 

How Can You Tell If You Boston Terriers Tail Has Been Docked

The most obvious sign that a dog’s tail has been docked is that their tail is significantly shorter than it would be for that particular breed. 

In the case of Boston Terriers, who generally have very short, bobbed tails, a sign of docking could be no tail at all – not even a nub left. 

To be sure, ask your veterinarian the next time you see them or ask the breeder or pet store that you purchased your Boston Terrier from about it if possible. 

Note: Knowing whether or not your Boston Terriers’ tail has been docked is irrelevant after you have owned them for a while. I think my Boston, Bella’s tail has been docked, but I’m unsure. 

A clean dog tail is a healthy tail.
A clean dog tail is a healthy tail.
  • Tail Infections
  • Dermatitis
  • Hemivertebrae

Tail Infections

Tail infections commonly occur in curled and corkscrew tails, which are considered “ingrown” tails. These tails require special attention from us to clean the deep crevice that forms. 

Keeping your Boston Terrier’s tail clean, you are helping to prevent infection. If the area is infected, it can require amputation

Amputation is for extreme cases, but it is essential to help your Boston Terrier prevent this!

Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a skin reaction in dogs, typically due to allergens in the air and weather changes. 

This skin reaction can affect any of the above Boston Terrier tail types, but it is most common with curled or corkscrew tails and will gather around the base of the tail usually.

Hemivertebrae

Hemivertebrae are bones of the spine that are abnormally shaped.

According to the Universities Federation of Animal Welfare (UFAW), hemivertebrae occurs when a Boston Terrier has a corkscrew or curled tail. This is because the bones in their body are usually abnormally shaped due to the structure of their tail. 

What Happens If My Boston Terrier Has Hemivertebrae?

The UFAW states the pain from a Boston’s spinal cord being compressed can be so severe that the dog can lose function in their back legs as well as control of their bladder and bowels. 

The basic symptoms are wobbliness in their back legs and pain in their tail.

For puppies dealing with this, the skeletal deformities will be permanent unless they are evaluated and undergo surgery. 

These are severe cases, but it’s still crucial to speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible about your Boston Terrier’s health so that they can live a healthy and long life!

If your Boston Terrier has a crooked tail, you must speak with your veterinarian to see if your Boston Terrier is at risk.

Video Of A Family With A Dog Who Has Hemivertebrae
Video shows how a family deals with their dog with a spine issue

How To Treat Tail Related Health Issues 

Tail Infections

To treat a Boston Terrier tail infection, it is recommended that you wash the area with warm water and antiseptic soap to thoroughly remove any dirt or buildup. 

After that, clean the area with antiseptic wipes or spray and use clean gauze to dry the affected area. 

Coconut oil or a soothing cream can help with irritation and relieve your Boston Terrier’s discomfort. 

Dermatitis

Dermatitis happens for a variety of reasons. Your veterinarian may recommend antihistamine medications if they suspect this is due to allergies, which you would then administer. 

It’s also essential to check for fleas and treat your Boston for fleas if they have them. 

Medicated baths can be a fantastic choice for your Boston Terrier too. These can be very soothing and help with the skin irritation. 

There are many soothing products on the market for this, like oatmeal baths, that may help your Boston Terrier’s inflamed skin.

Hemivertebrae

Depending on the age of your Boston Terrier, surgery could be done to correct any spinal abnormalities. 

Otherwise, pain medication is the ideal solution.

Definitely consult your veterinarian for any concerns you may have about your Boston Terrier! 

No matter what kind of tail your Boston Terrier has, they are beautiful and unique in their own way – even if they don’t fit the “ideal” standard for the Boston Terrier breed!

Other Questions Related To Boston Terrier Tails

Can Boston Terriers Wag Their Tail?

Yes, Boston Terriers can wag their tails, and it is the cutest thing you have ever seen. Here is a video of Boston wagging its little tail.

Final thoughts…

Boston Terriers are a breed that is naturally born with a Bobbed Tail. Yes, you can have Boston’s who are purebred born with long tails, but this is not as common. 

A docked Boston tail is a disqualifying mark in the American Kennel Club shows. But a docked puppy can still be registered with the American Kennel Club as long as the other requirements are met.

Remember, if you think your Boston Terriers tail is infected or injured, call your veterinarian immediately to see what can be done.

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Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

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