Dog Tails – Docking Tails
Many people don’t really understand what tail-docking is and there is actually a big debate about the practise of tail-docking. People question whether or not it is humane. Perhaps after this article, you can understand what the argument is, decide whether or not it is a big deal, and form your own opinion about tail-docking.
Have you ever seen a Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher or Jack Russell terrier? Would you recognize these dogs if they had long tails? Almost all dogs, of all breeds, are born with long tails, just like Golden Retrievers. Any dogs that now have short tails had part of their tails removed when they were puppies. Tail-docking is the removal of part of a dog’s tail, when the dog is young, so that the tail is shorter. Tail-docking is done in many species. For example, sheep are tail-docked to keep them cleaner and to prevent disease. Dogs, however, are not tail-docked for their health; it is done simply as a ‘cosmetic surgery’ in dogs.
Cosmetic surgery in a dog means the same thing as cosmetic surgery in a human. These are surgeries that have no impact on the health of the human, but just end up changing their physical appearance. Therefore, tail-docking in dogs does not make them healthier. But it does not scar them for life, either. A properly done tail-docking will cause no physical problems in your dog’s future. Dogs can be very happy with only part of their tail and will function perfectly normally.
If you were to have one of your dog’s legs removed, it may have trouble running as fast as it used to. If you had one of your dog’s eyes removed, it would not be able to see quite as well as it used to. But if you shorten your dog’s tail, nothing changes. A dog’s tail is used to communicate with other dogs. A tail between the legs indicates fear, while a loose, wagging tail indicates friendliness. Dogs communicate in many other ways, and do not need to depend on their tail all the time. Even a dog with a short tail can communicate perfectly by using its mouth, voice, ears, and other body language. The majority of dogs can communicate well if properly socialized.
Even though tail-docking may not hurt your dog in the long run, what about the pain of removing the tail? Dogs are tail-docked at a very young age (only a couple of days old) for two reasons: so they will grow up accustomed to having a short tail, and so that the procedure will cause less pain. A dog’s tail is made up of many little bones lined up end-to-end. Puppies’ bones are not well-formed, so you can remove part of the tail without actually cutting through the bones in the tail. Even though you don’t have to cut through bone (which would be very painful), in order to remove the tail, you have to cut through skin, muscles, blood vessels, and some nerves. That is why some people wonder: how painful is this procedure for the puppy? To simplify it, tail-docking is done by tying a string around the puppy’s tail until the end part of the tail falls off (a few days). This must always be done by a veterinarian, because there could be some damaging results if tail-docking is not done properly.
So, that’s the big argument. One side of the dispute says that tail-docking is not a big deal because it is a minor procedure that does not do the dog any harm in the long-run. The other side says that it is not acceptable to cause a dog any pain if there is no medical purpose for the procedure.
At this point, you may be wondering why, exactly, we dock tails. Who ever had the idea that some dogs look better with short tails? There is some evidence that the hunting terriers may have had short tails so they wouldn’t get them caught or make noise as they were hunting. However, we must remember that it is very rare for us to use these dogs to hunt anymore. Also note that many other hunting breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, do not have docked tails. Some guarding breeds, like Dobermans, are thought to look more intimidating with short tails.
When it comes down to it, tail-docking is only performed because that’s the way it has always been done. Tail-docking is a custom that has formed the way we expect certain dogs to look. A short tail has become a characteristic feature of some breeds, and people are very hesitant to change something that makes their dog look like a purebred Rottweiler, etc.
There has been a quiet revolution, however. Many European countries have banned, or are thinking about banning, tail-docking. Breed registries (the clubs that you have to register your purebred dog with in order to make it official) have made tail-docking optional for non-show dogs. Most people in the general public do not consider tail-docking a moral dilemma, but to some dog owners, breeders, and veterinarians, it is becoming something to think about.
Tail-docking is not a life-threatening or extremely painful procedure. It does not alter the dog’s lifestyle or lifelong happiness. It does, however, inflict some pain for purely cosmetic reasons. Hopefully now you can build your own, informed opinion about tail-docking.
By Ashley O’ Driscoll – Pets.ca writer