You may or may not have heard of the practice of tail docking, but you’ve probably seen dogs who have had it done. Boxers for example are a very popular breed for people to preform tail docking on.

What is canine tail docking? Where did the practice come from and should the practice still be performed today?

Let’s take a close look at the practice of canine tail docking.

What is Canine Tail Docking?

The term docking is also known as bobbing. This process is where a person removes part or all a dog’s tail. The amount of tail removed is usually specific to the breed of dog. Some breeds are expected to have no tail, while others are expected to have some tail.

The practice is performed when the dog is very young and can occur in one of two ways. The first way involves restricting blood flow to the tail. Basically, the dog’s tail is fitted tourniquet using a rubber thread. After a few days without blood, the tail essentially falls off on its own. The second method involves physically removing the tail with surgery.

Some breeds that get docked also are known to get “cropped.” Cropping involves removing a part of the dog’s ears. This practice is usually accompanied with taping the dog’s ears as well to make the ears stand straight and look pointy.

What is the History of Canine Tail Docking?

The practice of tail docking goes all the way back to the Ancient Romans. They would commonly dock a dog’s tail and sometimes cut part of their tongue because they believed that it prevented the dog from getting rabies. They also believed that a dog would be faster without a tail, so many hunters would dock their dogs.

There was also the belief that docking a dog’s tail would make them less prone to injury while hunting or fighting. Dogs used for fighting, ratting or baiting would also get docked.

In the 18th century, taxation laws were put in place for dogs that were meant to distinguish working dogs from non-working dogs. Those who used working dogs would not have to pay the tax, and working dogs usually had their tail docked. This led to many owners of non-working dogs docking their dog’s tail just to get around tax laws.

Are There Certain Breeds That Get Docked?

There are several breeds that have become known for docked tails. These breeds include:

  • Airedale Terrier
  • Fox Terrier
  • Spaniel
  • German Pointer
  • Schnauzer
  • Poodle
  • Boxer
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman

These are just a few of the breeds that were traditionally docked. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 62 different breeds that can come in a docked form. Though, it is important to note that some breeds, like the Australian Shepherd, can be born with what is called a “bobtail.” This means that the dog was born with a naturally short tail that may look to be docked but has not been.

Legal Status of Tail Docking

Because docking involves altering a dog’s physical appearance through painful means, many countries have outlawed the practice. Countries that have outlawed docking include:



























There are other countries that have no rules regarding tail docking, or some countries have implemented rules with exceptions that allow docking in certain instances or only with certain breeds. Brazil for example has banned docking for cosmetic purposes. Portugal has not banned docking if it’s performed by a trained veterinarian.

No state in the United States has banned canine tail docking though New York and Vermont have considered legislation.

Should Tail Docking Continue?

Asking if tail docking should continue is somewhat of a loaded question. The answer you get will change based on who you ask.

Many people consider tail docking to be in line with other cosmetic procedures. Other cosmetic procedures include:

  • Ear Cropping – cutting a dog’s ear to make them erect rather than floppy.
  • Dewclaw Removal – removing the floppy upper claw or “thumb” claw that most dogs are born with. Some people say that the dew claw has a greater chance of getting caught and ripping off.
  • Debarking – The process of medically altering a dog’s vocal cords. This is done to alter the volume at which a dog barks.


Critics say that these procedures cause unnecessary pain and trauma to young dogs and are unnecessary because they are done purely for cosmetic reasons.

Others say that performing these procedures help maintain the bloodline and purpose of these breeds. It is more humane to dock the dog’s tail than allow the dog to have their tail injured.

Tail docking is still legal in the United States, and here’s what the AKC has said about the practice:

“The AKC recognizes that ear cropping and tail docking, as prescribed in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character, enhancing good health, and preventing injuries.”

In the end, it’s up to you to learn as much as you can about the practice before you make up your mind on it.


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