The Truth About Dog Tail Docking
The Truth About Tail Docking Dogs
When I first started working at an animal hospital, I was given a booklet with all the prices and services our animal hospital offered. As I read through the extensive list, I noticed the term "tail docking." Being relatively new to the practice, I enquired with my training supervisor about what that terminology depicted. She replied: "It's a tail amputation, done in certain breeds for aesthetic reasons."
I already knew that breeds such as Rottweilers, Boxers, or Dobermans were tailless to adhere to their breed standards, but what really shocked me as I read about this procedure was the fact that this procedure was done when the pups were really small, and worse of all, without anesthesia!
As I did further research, I learned that the tail docking procedure was done when a puppy was just days old (generally between 3-5 days old). The amputation process necessitated pretty simple equipment such as scissors, a knife or a rubber band. It appeared that there was the belief (or perhaps let's consider it a myth) that the procedure was painless, but as I read on there was also strong evidence regrettably suggesting the total opposite. You can read more about pain in puppies being docked here: Studies Reveal Tail Docking in Puppies is Painful
A puppy has a nervous system just like many living creatures and is able to properly perceive pain. While a puppy may not necessarily squeal or vocalize from pain during a tail dock (even though most do), there are other ''tell tail signs" known as biological markers that can suggest pain and even lots of it. Ignoring these signs is unacceptable in today's modern society, featuring advanced empathetic veterinary care, especially when carried out for cosmetic purposes.
One must consider as well that tail docking also comes with a good array of considerable complications. Infections may follow or even worse extensive bleeding and death. If we think that risks from such complications could arise for the sole purpose of pleasing a client, it is understandable why more and more vets are refusing the procedure, while on the other hand, more and more breeders are taking over the task using rubber bands and knives in an un-sterile environment.
If we look at the history of tail docking and ear cropping (another inhumane and unnecessary procedure), we will notice that both procedures took place in the past as means of protection in working dog breeds. In other words, tails or ear portions were removed because they often were injured and even torn while hunting or working in the field. In fighting dogs, these body parts were snipped off to prevent the opponent dog from using them as "grips." These protective measures could have been valid centuries ago, but nowadays, with the majority of dogs kept as pets, these practices are totally out of place.
Many tail docking advocates will strongly defend their view by justifying the procedure as necessary and even beneficial for some dogs. They will state that a lack of tail will mean fewer injuries and inconveniences. These statements may sound valid but are often unfounded. If we would take off tails, limbs, or anything else, of course there are likely to be less injuries because they are not existing anymore! Also, there's a lot of controversy on some breeds; for instance, the German Pointer standard wants the breed docked and breeders claim it's to prevent tail injury, but then the English Pointer which performs similar tasks is not. The short-haired Weimaraner is docked by standard, and then the long-haired ones are left intact.
Tails are very important for dogs. If a dog has a tail it means that it has a function. A very important function is communication. We all know well how dogs wag their tails when they are showing happiness. Dogs use their tails to communicate with other dogs. Dogs without tails may encounter problems in communicating fear, play or aggression when around other dogs. This could cause serious miscommunications and eventually fights. Undocked dogs may approach dogs without tails with caution as they cannot interpret their mood effectively. Docked dogs, on the other hand, may not communicate aggression properly and may upgrade to a bite if the other dogs does not back off when needed.
Another drawback in dock tailed dogs is the fact that they lack the important balancing function of the tail. Tails also play an important role in swimming.
Luckily, more and more veterinarians are refusing this practice and so are some countries that have started to ban it. Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland are some of these countries, hopefully, many others will shortly follow. So far the most common practitioners of tail docking seem to derive from the breeders.
Tail docking should be only justified if backed up by medical reasons. Having a puppy undergo a tail docking procedure for just cosmetic reasons is unacceptable. The AVMA opposes tail docking for cosmetic reasons.
Dogs were made with tails and dogs should have tails. We are not to decide what is unnecessary in a living animal. Should a tail become unnecessary nature will take over just as we humans lost our tails throughout our evolution. In dogs, however, tails remain long and lively, with no sign of atrophy, suggesting that tails are here to stay once and for all.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I don't think your article helps any breed. Have you seen how nimble the tips of a dog's tail is under all that fur? Do you know anything about the development of the nervous system and how much faster it heals in a pup? Docking can also be traumatic to an adult dog.
Yes, there have been anatomical studies demonstrating that pain in day-old puppies is quite intense due to the way impulses are sent through the puppy's unmyelinated fibers. You can read more about this here: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Studies-Reveal-Tail-Do...
I do not suggest docking any dog's tail. Dog tails have many important functions that are sadly underestimated.
There are many good reasons why many countries have banned this procedure and why it's deemed for the most part cosmetic surgery for dogs.
How old do blue heelers need to be before I can cut their tail off?
Australian cattle dogs (blue or red heelers) generally do not have their tails docked. Indeed, the American Kennel Club breed standard for heelers calls for an undocked tail.
The tail performs an important function in allowing this breed to do what it knows best "herding." The tail allows these dogs to maneuver themselves and is therefore important for balance. Without the tail, Cattle Dogs find it harder to maneuver themselves, and same goes when participating in the sport of agility or when simply playing games such as frisbee and tennis ball chasing.
Don't confuse the Australian cattle dog with the Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog which is a naturally bobbed dog breed. Many make the mistake of confusing these two dogs which leads to the misconception that heelers must be docked.
© 2008 Adrienne Janet Farricelli