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 3 of 3

Argument #5: If We Stop Docking Tails, Hereditary Disease Will Increase

Docking advocates point out that because some breeds have had docked tails for generations, breeders haven’t selected for handsome tails. As a consequence, they claim, those dogs would have homely tails. Selecting for handsome tails would shrink the gene pool and make hereditary disease more common in those dogs.

This argument boggles my mind, because it admits that the gene pools of pedigreed dogs are dangerously small – a problem about which dog breeders are generally in denial. Adding genetic variability by outcrossing would make the breed “impure,” so breed clubs oppose it; performing cosmetic surgery on healthy puppies, lest they have ugly tails, is seen as a better option.

As for the looks of undocked dogs, you can make up your own minds. Follow the links to photos of an undocked Doberman Pinscher, a Boxer (scroll about halfway down), a Weimaraner, and a Cocker Spaniel.  I have to admit, I find this undocked Rottweiler especially handsome. If you’re curious about how any breed of dog might look with its tail intact, you can find photos easily by searching on the breed’s name plus the word “undocked.”

Argument #6: Tails Hinder Guard Dogs

It’s sometimes asserted that guarding dogs could be thwarted in their work if the person they were guarding against could grab their tails. If you’ve ever had a large dog lunging at you, try to imagine how you’d go about getting hold of the dog’s tail. I don’t think this claim needs to be taken seriously.

Does Docking Harm Dogs?

You can probably tell I’m not persuaded that tail docking does dogs any good. But does it harm them? People opposed to tail docking argue, first and foremost, that the procedure hurts. They also argue that the surgery may cause health problems in later life and that dogs’ ability to communicate is impeded when they don’t have tails. Finally, they say that we shouldn’t amputate a dog’s body part when there’s no clear benefit to the dog.

Next week, I’ll go into detail about these arguments and about what veterinarians’ professional associations have to say. Docking is a hot-button issue in many parts of the dog world. If you’re buying a puppy of a traditionally docked breed, you’ll want to make informed decisions about his welfare. That’s what I’m here for.

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