Tail docking – an overview
The docking of dog’s tails is a practice which has been carried out for centuries in order to avoid tail damage, for hygiene and other reasons.
Prophylactic docking: is the removal of the tails from litters of puppies of less than 5 days old to prevent damage later in-life as a direct consequence of the type of work this type/breed of dog is recognised and required to carry out.
Therapeutic docking: is the removal of a diseased or damaged tail from a dog of any age for clinical reasons. Often needed for complete tail paralysis, tail tumours and other medical reasons. Carried out under general anaesthetic..
There are over fifty breeds of dog, which have had their tails docked, since the inception of the breed. The reasons for docking working gundog and terrier breeds is well documented, for others; the reasons have been lost over the fullness of time.
Tails are normally docked at 2 to 5 days of age without anaesthetic being used. When carried out correctly, the procedure causes no more than momentary discomfort since the puppy does not have a fully developed nervous system. When the pup is placed back with its littermates, it quickly falls asleep or starts feeding from the bitch. This is in contrast to a puppy in pain that would exhibit continuous crying, restlessness, crawl around in pointless circles and fail to suckle. The older the animal, the larger the tail, and therefore the more traumatic the procedure becomes.
If the puppy is more than 5 days old, the procedure should only be performed under anaesthesia, preferably not before 8 weeks of age. Many undocked adult animals undergo the tail docking procedure out of necessity when their tail has been traumatised, but this is considered a tail amputation, not a tail dock.
Tail docking legislation in the UK
In recent years laws have been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland restricting tail docking of dogs and in Scotland an outright ban on tail docking is currently in place.
Use the links below to find out the law in your country on permitted tail docking procedures and on showing docked dogs.