Where’s My Dog’s Otter Tail?

This is not an otter tail…

This is Lil

It is hard to get all of  Lil in one picture; either she’s moving towards the camera or her tail is moving too fast to capture.

This is Lil’s tail

This may sound a little harsh but sometimes, when I think about Lilith’s tail, I cringe.

What a Lab is supposed to look like

A nice example in the show ring

According to the breed standard, one of the significant features of the Labrador is supposed to be the breed’s “otter tail.” The tail is a working component of a working breed. The Lab uses their tail to maneuver in water as they retrieve birds. The water is often cold, and choppy. The tail acts like a rudder for the dog as she swims. Remember, this breed originated in the sea off the coast of Newfoundland.

A proper Lab tail

Lil better stay off of rough seas.
Since there’s nothing I like better than a nicely built Lab, I thought I would hit myself over the head with all the ways that Lil’s tail doesn’t measure up.

First, her tail is a little long, a little thin.
Long enough to curl over her back when she’s really happy. Yikes! She’s not a husky. Her tail is not supposed to curl up.

A proper Lab tail is short and thick and strong enough to keep it from happily curling up. The tail is supposed to be a blunt instrument of death with which a Lab can chop people down at the knee. They can knock small children over with their tail, break vases with their tail, chop kindling with their tail.

Lil’s tail could practically be used for dental floss. It is light, thin, long. If it were about 3/4 of an inch shorter – naturally born – it would be a much better tail, a much more practical, useful, closer to breed standard tail.

A better imperfect tail (they aren’t supposed to be fringed but at least it is thick)

So what happened to my Lab’s otter tail? A few things I suspect.

I knowingly acquired a Lab from parents who were field trial champions, not crossed out very regularly to bench champions. Additionally, they were bred to hunt on land as well as in water. Lil’s mom in particular is an American bred, upland game bird dog. She is a little longer in the leg and tail and works on land really well. But she passed on her imperfect tail to her daughter.

Also, I picked Lil for temperament over confirmation. Her sister Edith had better confirmation. But Edith was a bit of a crier. An out and out howler actually, who did not adapt as well to change as Lil did.
Honestly, Edith was suspicious of change, loud, and little closer to the timid end of the spectrum.
Even though she was a good looking girl, Edith’s personality and I were not a good match.

Nitro Steel, Lil’s dad

Of course, Lilith is still a baby.
Her dad, Nitro Steel, has a very nice tail and the chunkier build I like in a Lab.
So there’s always hope that Lil’s tail will fill out … bwahahahaha. Who ever heard of a tail filling out?
She has about as much chance of the rest of her body shrinking a little. No, the best hope is that she’ll grow a little more and her tail will look more proportionate to her length. It could happen.

Okay, it almost looks like a respectable tail in this picture

In the meantime I have a Lab with an imperfect tail.
For someone who is a little obsessive compulsive, it is something of a cross to bear – the Lab in my life does not have a proper otter tail.
Oh sure, I have a loving family, a job I like, reasons for getting up in the morning.

But OMG that tail!

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