Tail and Movement

The different behaviors of wolf tails and movement

WOLVES: Wolves have bushy, well-furred, “bottle brush” tails that are straight when at rest and when in motion. Wolves’ tails also tend to be shorter than most dogs’ tails, ending right at or above their hocks. Tails on grey/grizzled animals are usually tipped in black. On some black and older grey animals, the guard hairs on the tip may phase to silver or white as they age. This should not be confused with having a white-tipped tail as seen in many dog breeds like border collies.

The dog walks more staggered while a wolf steps in a straight lineDog (left) vs wolf (right) tracking

WOLVES: also have a very fluid and distinct way of moving. They do what is called single tracking, where the hind legs swing in the same line as the front. Due to that movement the rear paws should land in or very near the spot the front paws have landed. When viewed in mud, wet pavement or snow, the tracking should be in a single line versus the zig-zag pattern most dogs leave behind. The gait of a wolf when walking, trotting or running is seemingly effortless and very flowing.

Different views of how a dog walks - the opposite of uniform

DOGS: Dogs have a range of tails, from unnaturally docked to a tight, pig-like curl, and while some of the more natural or primitive breeds can display tails similar to that of wolves, there are still some notable differences. German shepherds’ tails can be bushy and well furred; however, they are often longer, extending past the hocks and carried in a sickle when in motion. Alaskan malamutes have very similar tails in shape and length, with it ending slightly above the hocks, but most malamutes have a tail that curls over their back when walking or when alert. Siberian huskies have a bottle brush tail that usually ends at the hocks. Their tails do not always curl and oftentimes when they are working, their tail is carried straight out or down. Some huskies’ tails will be carried in a light curl or over their backs.

A dog’s gait and movement is also a bit different than a wolf’s. Most dog breeds have a rough and choppy or almost bouncy look to their walk. Most dogs do not display true single tracking and will leave paw prints that appear more side by side versus in a straight line. Their movement is not as fluid and easy as a wolf.