Tail docking

5 Jun

There is always a lot of debate regarding docking the tail of a dog, something that i myself have spent a fair amount of time considering. There is always the argument that “the dog was born with his tail, why dock it” but the same could be said for human children who are circumcised, they were born with it, why remove it. I cant tell you why, in most circumstances, it is a health a safety issue. But first, back to basics.

What is tail docking?

Docking is the surgical removal of a portion (large or small) of the dogs tail.

This being said, i will point out here that there are often cases of the breeders (poor ones) who carry out this procedure at home, by breaking the tail or using an elastic band to cut off the circulation. I’m sure we can all agree that this procedure is not something positive.

The dog’s trust state “When performed on young puppies the procedure is generally done without anaesthetic and there is good scientific evidence to show that docking causes severe and long lasting pain.”.


So, why do it?

Origionally, many breeds often had their tails docked for aesthetic reasons. For example, the doberman is/ or was seen to look sleeker and more attractive which its short stumpy docked tail than its naturally long slim tail.

1. Maintaining breed standards:

Some breeds have been docked for many generations, and as such their genetic make up has been altered. Id left undocked, it is unlikely that the “best” dogs would carry good, healthy and strong tails.

2. Hygiene:

Some dogs with long, thick hair such as the English Sheepdog have their tails docked to help avoid serious hygiene related problems from the hair around the base of the tail becoming matted and dirty by faeces.

3. To avoid injury and damage:

Many breeds of working dogs have always had their tail dock in order to avoid them becoming inured whilst working. They can easily tear and become hard to treat when the animal races through thick vegetation. Working terriers often had their tails docked for similar reasons, with the addition of needed to be maneuverable in a confined space.

Other breeds have particularly high tail action and as such suffer injuries such as breaks, even in the home. I know of a labrador who unfortunately has had his tail docked twice, just because he has broken it on a number of occasions within his home.

So, why not?

I have already given you the argument that they were born with tails, so they need them.

Then there is the suggestion that docking the tail is traumatic and causes a severe amount of pain. This being said, if it is carried out correctly, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue (not in the long run at least).

Finally, there is the communication argument. Again, referencing the dogs trust Dogs use their tails as a means of communication and so docking deprives them of some of the body language they need to communicate with other dogs”. Whilst it is true that dogs do use their tails to communicate, you could argue “have you ever seen a stumpy tailed dog not be able to communicate with others?” There is a huge amount of body language involved in communication.

The law:

Laws regarding tail docking vary world wide, but they are also changing, with many countries opting for tail docking to be illegal. For example, the laws vary within the UK!

Scotland – Complete ban except when necessary following injury/disease.

Northern Ireland – Was legal providing it is carried out by a certified vet but is now similar to that of England and Wales.

England and Wales – Banned except for certain working dogs. (since april 2007)

In the cases where docking has been carried out, a certificate should be provided by the vet to prove that it was done properly and legally. If you are purchasing a puppy with a docked tail, you need to ensure that you are given its certificate.

My opinion:

Honestly, i’m still unsure. If the tail is docked purely for aesthetic reasons, i disagree completely. But, if it is for the long term benefit of the dog, i wonder if it is something worth considering (albeit very carefully).

When i bought Max home, he had already had a small part (about 1/4) of his tail docked, and he gets on fine. Would i have had it done myself? Probably not.

Suffolk Coastal-20130501-00638




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