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Crushed Bones Look Better

Although they are only puppies at the time of the docking, they are not immune to pain. A study in 1996 revealed that the puppies ‘will vocalize for more than two minutes following’ the docking, and can ‘take up to 15 minutes to settle’ and fall asleep after the procedure.

With the docking method of tying a rubber band tightly around the tail to ‘occlude the blood supply to the unwanted portion’, it generally takes ‘several days for the dead end of the tail to separate from the living section’ but this can take up to 2 weeks, and the puppy will experience any and all sensations of pain during this time.

Anywhere ‘between 50 and 70 breeds’ are commonly known to have their tails docked, for example, breeds such as Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, some spaniels, poodles, Irish terriers and viszlas. 

There are even some dog breeds that have had ‘their tails bred out of them.’ This can be seen in dogs such as some corgis or the Australian stumpy tail cattle dog.


There are various reasons generally believed to have caused the beginning of the practice of docking. In ancient Rome, it was believed that the amputation would prevent the ‘dog from contracting rabies.’ Additionally, as tails were believed to aid a dog in the chase, ‘dogs were historically docked if’ owned by a poor person who was not allowed to hunt game. Docking was also believed to prevent tail injury during activities such as hunting, and was also seen as a helpful mechanism to handle cases where the animal’s tail was overly long for its body. Docking was also believed to strengthen a dog’s back. Although docking seems to have mainly arisen from concerns of possible injuries, the outdated practice also holds the heavy intention to give the animal a more desirable look. Arguably, in modern day, ‘cosmetics is the most common reason for docking tails.’ It became a ‘breed standard’ in history, and this has been maintained. Many would consider rottweilers to be short-tailed and may even become confused upon seeing one that is long-tailed. It is similar to how Dobermans are generally known to have cropped ears. 

Welfare and Ethical Issues

There are unsurprisingly a plethora of welfare and ethical issues which surround the docking of tails, and the consequences of this procedure can be both short-term and long-term, such as: 

Pain – puppies and dogs display behaviours which indicate high levels of pain caused by this amputation. There is evidence that presents that ‘noxious stimuli in the perinatal period may permanently alter the normal development of the central nervous system’ and therefore cause long-term consequences. There is also the possibility of the dog experiencing neuropathic pain. In 2012, a study examined development of neuropathic pain ‘in adult rats who had undergone a procedure to injure nerves’ at just 10 days old, and it was found that these rats ‘developed lifelong neuropathic pain associated with the nerve injury’ only once they have reached full maturity. Interestingly, a ‘similar phenomenon has been observed in humans’ who have suffered traumatic nerve injury as an infant. 

Complications – many surgical procedures hold the potential for complications, and docking is no exception. This procedure is capable of causing infections, excessive bleedings, necrosis (the death of body tissue) and delayed healing. There is also the possibility of the development of a neuroma (a disorganised growth of nerve cells at the site of nerve injury) which leads to the ‘thickening of the stump’ and these ‘are very sensitive and can send searing pain through nearby tissues when even lightly touched.’

Behavioural Issues – dogs’ tails are significant for ‘intraspecific communications’ and it ‘provides information about emotional states and social status’, and this is heavily affected by the shortening of the tail. 

Although the origins of docking seem to be rooted in necessity, for example, in order to prevent injuries to the dog’s tail, the case is that the majority of the time, the procedure is undertaken to improve the dog’s ‘image.’ When considering the possible complications, it does not seem justifiable to put a puppy through this experience solely based on appearance-related reasons. It should also be noted that research has proven that 500 dogs would have to have their tail docked in order to prevent one injury. 

The Law

Under UK law, tail docking is ‘considered to be a mutilation.’ The Animal Welfare Act 2006 ‘contains a general ban’ on docking dog tails as well as the limited exemptions on it. 

It is illegal in England, Northern Ireland and Wales apart from exemptions such as ‘removal of the tail by a vet for medical reasons or for certain breeds of working dogs.’ It was banned in England and Wales in 2006, and in Northern Ireland in 2010.

In 2007, docking was also banned in Scotland, with the exception of ‘necessary’ docking due to medical reasons. However in 2017, Scotland reversed the ‘decade-old ban’ on the docking so ‘that certified working dogs can now have their tails docked’. However, this was faced with deep concerns by veterinary and animal welfare organisations. 

The controversial procedure has been banned in many parts of the world. For example, most of Europe, Australia, many US states and several provinces in Canada have banned tail docking.

It is crucial to be informed about such procedures, of both their history and their present state, as knowledge of them clearly highlights that it is outdated and almost always unnecessary. This will strengthen and maintain the consistency of banning docking globally, and as a result, we can continue to save animals from the unnecessary pain that they are subjected to. 


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