Why Do We Dock Dogs Tails

Although most owners and breeders do docking and cropping for aesthetic reasons, many claim that doing so could protect hunting and farm dogs’ tails from harm during chases or herding. Some claim that docking prevents active breeds like boxers from damaging their tails by banging them against crates or walls. Some owners think that cutting the ears reduces the likelihood of infections.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society director, James Serpell, PhD, contends that docking itself may be seen as an injury. On the other hand, according to study, an unbroken tail is rare to sustain an injury, and if it does, the damage is typically mild and straightforward to repair. According to research, at least 80% of dogs won’t develop ear infections, and the breeds that are most susceptible, such cocker spaniels and poodles, don’t have their ears docked, adds Patterson-Kane.

Is it necessary to dock a dog’s tail?

A: Three factors are thought to have contributed to the development of dog tail docking over the course of history. The tail tip and/or a portion of the dog’s tongue could be amputated in order to prevent rabies in dogs, according to ancient Roman theory. 1.2 In the past, dogs were docked if they belonged to a poor person who was not allowed to hunt game since it was thought that the tail assisted a dog in the chase. Ironically, there are some who think that docking a dog makes them stronger or faster. 3) Working dogs’ tails are often docked in an effort to prevent injuries to the tail during activities like hunting (see related question below). Early sources, however, tended to advise docking only when the tail was excessively long for the animal’s size and so would be vulnerable to harm. 4

A:Tail docking appears to have come about for a number of reasons, but for some breeds, the main motivation was to enhance looks. Books from many eras freely discuss docking some breeds to give them a more appealing appearance (e.g. The American Book of the Dog, 1891, p. 619, 6695; also6). The anecdotal evidence that supports preventive docking is strongest when it comes to pointer hunting, although even in this instance, the idea of enhancing “beauty” is brought up. Regardless of where the tradition originated, docking was codified within particular breed fancies by rules for pedigree dog shows in the United States that were developed in the middle of the 1950s.

Veterinarian objection to aesthetic tail docking has a long history. In The Dog by Youatt & Lewis, aesthetic tail docking is described as “indefensible,” as one example from the United States (1854). 8 However, there is a dearth of information about especially the attitudes of veterinarians in the United States, and there are dissenting opinions. The majority of veterinarians tend not to favor systematic, cosmetic tail docking as part of a breed standard.9,10,11 (just as some breeders have opposed docking in breeds where this is traditional, see12).

Although the AVMA first recommended breed clubs remove cosmetic modifications from breed standards in 1976, the recommendation’s inclusion and wording in the Association’s policy have changed over time. Other veterinary associations have likewise made it clear that they oppose tail docking in their policies (e.g., Canada,13 Australia,14 and the United Kingdom15).

What is the current justification for performing preventive partial or tail amputations on working dogs?

A: According to some observers, several working dog breeds may be at risk due to long tails. For instance, it has been recommended that

  • A guard dog could be stopped in its tracks by being grabbed by the tail. 7
  • Pointers and other hunting dogs may suffer injury to their tail tips in undergrowth.
  • 8,4,16
  • A drooping tail may cause long-haired dogs to become more dirty.
  • 17

These arguments in favor of removing working dogs’ tails are not well-supported by science. The incidence of tail injuries in dogs was 0.23 percent in the greatest study to date, and it was determined that 500 dogs would need to have their tails docked to prevent one tail injury. 18 It has been hypothesized that tail injuries are more common in certain dog breeds or canines utilized for particular jobs. An uncontrolled research of German Shorthaired Pointers conducted in Sweden raised the possibility that a ban on tail docking would result in a significant amount of tail injury. 19 According to Diesel et alreport, .’s working dogs (mostly gundogs) did not have a significantly higher incidence of tail damage than non-working dogs, but dogs kept in kennels did. The distinctions between docked and undocked breeds are frequently negligible. For instance, only the German Shorthaired Pointer is customarily docked among the two extremely similar Pointers, German Longhaired Pointer and German Shorthaired Pointer. 20

A: Some breeds may have their tails docked because their non-working members are thought to face risks similar to those faced by working dogs, but more often than not, it’s done to maintain the particular appearance or standards of the breed. According to survey results, it is not essential to preventively dock the tails of pet dogs. 18,21 Therefore, until there is proof to the contrary, tail docking of non-working dogs is seen as a cosmetic treatment, even though their breed was originally intended for working purposes. The breed standards of traditionally docked breeds have been altered in nations like the United Kingdom where tail docking is illegal (with a few exceptions). 22

A: Given that most dogs descended from a tailed species, having a tail is natural. However, there isn’t any solid proof that dogs with naturally bobbed or surgically docked hair are less fortunate in terms of their physical or mental well-being. Docking may affect a dog’s ability to communicate with other dogs23 and may also increase their likelihood of developing incontinence, according to some preliminary but inconclusive studies. 24

A: Docking with the tail is uncomfortable.

25 It is challenging to determine the degree or length of the discomfort under ideal or normal conditions. Negative long-term alterations that influence how pain is absorbed and perceived later in life might emerge from painful operations performed during the newborn period when the nervous system is vulnerable. 26,27

A: Is there sufficient justification for undertaking the procedure? rather than “How dangerous is the procedure? Surgery that is done purely for aesthetic reasons (i.e., for appearance’s sake) suggests that the surgery is not medically necessary. There is no evident advantage to our patients in doing this treatment because there is no evidence that shows dogs that have their tails docked experience self-esteem or pride in looks, which are popular justifications for having cosmetic procedures done on people. The owner’s perception of a nice appearance appears to be the only advantage of aesthetic tail docking of dogs. The AVMA believes that this is not sufficient justification to carry out a surgical procedure.

The naturally bobbing animal is not taken into account “docked. Many pedigreed breeds, like as the Old English Sheepdog and the Australian Shepherd17, have bobbed bloodlines, and others have also been exposed to them (e.g., Boxer28). Both historically and now, some breeders favor addressing unfavorable conformation only through breeding.

The practice of detaching a dog’s tail for medicinal purposes is not known as “docking. Traumatic damage where complete tail repair is not possible or advisable is the most frequent cause of amputation or partial amputation of a dog’s tail. If a dog’s tail malformations make it harder for it to perform normally or put it at danger for damage, amputation may also be necessary. On the basis of repeated prior harm, a case could be made for removing a dog’s tail.

A young puppy’s tail should only be removed as a precaution if there is strong proof that it is at a high risk of suffering tail damage owing to a congenital condition, breed, or intended working activity. Such a rationale must, however, be backed up by facts, such as empirical data or unbiased expert judgment based on in-depth, directly applicable experience.

Why are dog tails often amputated?

In the past, tail docking was believed to help animals avoid rabies, strengthen their backs, run faster, and avoid injuries from rattling, fighting, and baiting.


Nowadays, tail docking may be performed for preventive, therapeutic, aesthetic, or damage prevention reasons. The tails of working dogs, such as some hunting dogs, herding dogs, or terrier dogs, can accumulate burrs and foxtails, causing pain and infection. Additionally, because the tail wags when going through dense vegetation or thickets, the dog may sustain an injury owing to abrasion or other damage. When terriers become caught underground and need to be hauled out by their tails, their bones may break and cause spinal injuries. In these situations, the dog’s docked tail protects it from spinal stress or injury. These grounds are disputed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the largest veterinary professional association in the United States, who claims “These arguments in favor of removing working dogs’ tails are not well-supported by science. The rate of tail injuries in dogs was 0.23 percent in the greatest study to date, and it was determined that 500 dogs would need to have their tails docked to prevent one tail injury.” [3]

Is docking the tail cruel?

Dogs aren’t as fortunate as humans in being able to refuse aesthetic surgery. We make the decisions for them, and frequently those decisions involve cruel, pointless operations like ear-cropping and tail-docking. Scrupulous veterinarians execute brutal, disfiguring procedures that cause dogs enormous agony in order to provide some breeds so-called “desirable features.

When a dog is only 8 to 12 weeks old, their ears are typically clipped. The trauma of the surgery might have a significant psychological effect on the maturing pup at this point in their development. It might be excruciating for the dog to have their ears repeatedly taped to make them stand up straight after being clipped.

The tails of puppies are typically docked when they are only a few days old. In most cases, they do not even receive anesthetics to relieve the agony. Compassionate veterinarians are against the willful removal of bodily parts that are necessary for expression, balance, and communication. Dogs use their ears and tails to communicate with their human companions and other canines.

It is ridiculous to do medically pointless operations that only serve to maintain the stereotype of dogs as fashion accessories. Breeders who fear that “their breed will be “ruined” if it does not uphold the image passed down by parent breed groups decades ago also promote this image through the American Kennel Club’s dog beauty pageants.

Many European countries have outlawed these operations because they are so brutal. For instance, ear-cropping was prohibited by British kennel organizations a century ago, and cosmetic tail-docking was prohibited in the U.K. in 1993.

Sadly, some vets still think it’s acceptable to mutilate a dog whose owner is ready to pay for it. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “tail docking and ear clipping are not medically necessary nor beneficial to the patient. As with any surgical operations, these procedures come with inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection. They also induce discomfort and agony. Therefore, before consenting to conduct these surgeries, doctors should talk with dog owners about these issues.

What does a dog’s tail being docked mean?

The surgical removal of a puppy’s tail for cosmetic reasons is known as “tail docking.” The tail is either severed using a pair of scissors or made to drop off by cutting off the blood supply with a tight rubber band during the treatment, which is typically carried out between two and five days of age. Over 70 dog breeds have historically had their tails removed a few days after birth. The reason some breeds are docked but not others is because to the fashion standards established for that specific breed. There is an arbitrary cut-off point for the tail for each breed.

The RSPCA is against cosmetic tail docking because it undermines the welfare of pets and is unnecessary. Australia outlawed tail docking for non-therapeutic purposes in 2004. Since then, it has been prohibited to dock a dog’s tail unless a veterinarian medical reason exists. Prior to the ban, anyone who might be considered a “experienced breeder” could perform tail docking; now, only licensed veterinarians are allowed to perform the surgery. There is absolutely no reason for any dog’s tail to be docked, unless they were born before 2004 or have somehow damaged their tail, as all formerly docked breeds can now compete at dog shows with full tails.

Unfortunately, some vets and breeders still support tail docking as a cosmetic procedure.