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Why Do We Still Chop Off Puppies’ Tails?

Our guest blogger is Tracie Hotchner, radio host and author of The Dog Bible. Tracie is writing a series of daily dog tips for Dogster...

Tracie Hotchner  |  Jun 19th 2008


Our guest blogger is Tracie Hotchner, radio host and author of The Dog Bible. Tracie is writing a series of daily dog tips for Dogster which you can receive by email. To sign up, just check the box in your newsletter preferences.

Purebred dogs who are expected to have stumps instead of tails have their tails docked days after birth. Approximately 60% of the tail is taken in most breeds, leaving a stump of varying lengths. With Corgis, Old English Sheepdogs and Rottweilers, there is seldom more than a nubbin remaining.

The historical reason for docking in some guarding breeds—Boxers, Dobermans and Rottweilers—was supposedly so intruders had nothing to grab onto. Some hunting dogs were docked presumably for their own safety so their tails would not get hit or possibly broken against fences and thickets. A special circumstance related to Old English Sheepdogs, which were docked because in Old England a working dog was exempt from tax.

Despite a great deal of protest from some English breeders about breed standards and historical precedent, Great Britain is now amongst the 13 European countries that have made tail docking and ear cropping illegal.

Opponents of tail docking assert that an important aspect of a dogs ability to express himself is lost when he cannot wag his tail. Tail docking is done only a few days after birth, so if you wanted to have a dog with its full, natural tail you would have to work it out ahead of time with the breeder. Most breeders would resist that adamantly because they would not want a long tail on a docked breed from their kennel.

Newborn puppies are believed to have little pain sensation so presumably docking is not painful. However, it used to be thought that newborn human babies have reduced pain sensation, too—so circumcisions and other procedures were done in the misguided belief that the infants were not suffering. The same may be true of puppies, but its unlikely we will find this out in our lifetimes! It is reported with puppies that they wriggle and squeal a bit upon having their tails snipped off but they recover within a few minutes. This was the same rationalization for circumcision, by the way, although no studies seemed to question whether the screaming infant who then fell deeply asleep was doing so out of the shock/trauma/etc.

Todays docking and cropping is done simply to please the eye because it is what our eye has become accustomed to seeing in a breed for decades. Since our eye is just as pleased by hundreds of breeds that are permitted to keep their tails, it seems archaic—bordering on the barbaric—to be mutilating the end of an animals spinal column so it cannot wag our teacups off the table.

I say this as someone who has had a Cocker Spaniel, five Weimeraners and a Rottweiler, so I have first-hand experience of living with dogs who have to wiggle their whole butts to communicate a simple wag.

Who thinks it might be time for a change?