Tail Docking, Part 1

Why are some dogs’ tails cut? Should they be? The Dog Trainer discusses (and debunks) 6 arguments in favor of tail docking. 

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
May 20, 2014
Episode #129

Page 2 of 3

With no clear explanation of why a long tail is disadvantageous to a working terrier, I’m going to call this argument weak. Also, like the claim about injured gundogs, it has nothing to do with the lives of pets.

Argument #3: Hard Wagging Can Injure a Dog’s Tail

I haven’t found any studies or even case reports discussing how often vets see tail-wagging injuries. One vet I talked to said they were uncommon and largely found in dogs who live in kennels, where a wagged tail bangs against metal fencing. That was the case with the one dog I knew whose tail was amputated in adulthood: he had been kept closely confined in a small kennel for nearly a year. We can’t justify across-the-board docking of puppies on the ground that in later life a few of them may wag their tails hard enough to do damage.

Argument #4: Dogs May Accumulate Feces Under Their Undocked Tails

That brings us to the hygiene argument. Should very furry dogs be docked to keep their butts clean? Docking apparently helps protect lambs from blowflies, which are attracted to feces, so that sounds like evidence in favor. But many breeds of dogs with long and thick coats aren’t routinely docked and, barring health problems, don’t seem to accumulate feces around their anuses. So it seems as if we’re amputating the tail of every puppy of a given breed just in case some of those puppies might have dirty butts later on.

If an individual dog has this problem, perhaps her coat could be clipped short near her anus. Maybe her diet needs changing, so that she can produce firmer stool. Finally, just as the possibility of injuries to hunting dogs has nothing to say about pets, even a valid argument in favor of docking thick-coated dogs doesn’t apply to dogs with short hair.