Dog tail docking has been a tradition among many dog breeds. The practice involves removing a portion of a dog’s tail.
There are two ways to have it done. On the first one, the blood supply to the tail is constricted for a few days using a rubber ligature. This method is only done when the pup is a few days old. The second way involves cutting the dog’s tail surgically using a scalpel or surgical scissors.
Dog tail docking has been frowned upon nowadays. Critics label the practice as unnecessary and cruel. In fact, many countries have banned the practice.
Here are some important things you need to know about dog tail docking.
Dog Tail Docking History
The earliest instance of dog tail docking dates back to the ancient Rome. That time, Roman shepherds believed that cutting the tip of puppies’ tails and parts of their tongues on their “40th day” could prevent the animals from being infected with rabies.
Later in history, hunters started docking their dogs’ tails. They believed that doing so could help their dogs in hunting activities and safeguard them from tail injuries. Oddly, it was also believed that dogs with docked tails are stronger, more aggressive, and faster.
In the 18th century, companion or non-working dogs were taxed in England. Working dogs’ tails were docked for identification. For this reason, many dog owners dock their dogs’ tails to avoid getting taxed. Ironically, many hunting dog breeds – those who are normally owned by wealthy families and landowners – were not docked.
England stopped taxing dogs in 1796. However, the dog tail docking practice remained despite the repeal and even after the rabies vaccine was discovered in 1885.
In fact, docking tails had become a part of the development of many working dog breeds.
Dog Breeds with Traditionally Docked Tails
Different dog breeds are created to serve different purposes. Their characteristic, temperament, and appearance are designed to help them the tasks they were bred to do.
For example, Dachshunds are brave short-legged dogs with long bodies. They are tenacious and they have big paws that help them dig. They were bred that way so they can successfully burrow underground, fit in holes, and flush out feisty animals, such as badgers.
In the same way, Dobermans were bred for protection. These dogs are bold, courageous, and very protective of their owners. The creator of the breed, Louis Doberman, worked as a tax collector and was in constant danger because of his job. For this reason, he created the Doberman Pinscher to be his protector while he made his rounds. He wanted the dog to look fierce. The breed’s tail was also traditionally docked to prevent attackers from grabbing the dogs by the tail.
Currently, the American Kennel Club has 62 breeds recognized to have docked tails including the following.
- Doberman Pinschers
- Standard Poodles
- Miniature and Toy Poodles
- Cocker Spaniels
- Airedale Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
Criticisms of Dog Tail Docking
Many organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have long opposed dog tail docking. The groups label the practice as unnecessary and cruel.
The AVMA even stated that the reasons behind dog tail docking lack substantial scientific support. In the study Risk factors for tail injuries in dogs in Great Britain by Diesel G, Pfeiffer D, Crispin S, et al., which is currently the largest study on tail injuries to date, it was found that there is only 0.23% incidence of tail injury among 138,212 dogs. Although the study found that dogs with docked tails have a significantly lesser chance having a tail injury, it was estimated that 500 dogs need to be docked just to prevent one incident of tail injury.
In 1996, Robert Wansborough criticized the dog tail docking. He expressed that the practice is indeed painful and it causes dogs disadvantage in many ways, including the inability to communicate and balance. He also argues that the practice could potentially cause urinary intolerance and defecation problems.
Stephen Leaver published a paper in 2007 about docked tails in dogs. His study found that dogs with docked tails are approached by other dogs with caution. We all know that dogs use body language to communicate with other dogs and even with people. And their tail is one the most important body parts that help deliver their message. Dogs with docked tails are often unable to show their fear, excitement, and aggression. This can cause misunderstandings with other dogs and humans who they interact with leading to fights and bad situations.
Some dog breeds also use their tail as rudders when they swim so docking one dog’s tail hinders him from changing his swimming direction efficiently.
Dog Tail Docking in the Modern Day
Nowadays, many working dog breeds, such as the Doberman Pinchers, Pit Bulls, and Rottweilers, do not really do the jobs they are bred for. For this reason, dog tail docking is deemed unnecessary as many dogs – regardless of their breed and purpose – are now kept as family pets.
However, there are still breeders who breed dogs for their traditional jobs. Hence, dog tail docking is still done on these dogs to enhance their performance on their specific tasks.
Other breeders and owners also prefer to stick to breed traditions and show ring conformation in countries where dog tail docking is still allowed.
The American Kennel Club has also earned criticisms over the issue for supporting the practice as long as dog tail docking is done safely according to their standards.
However, Australia and most countries in Europe have banned dog tail docking. In some countries, even owning a dog with a docked tail can g et you arrested.