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Docked Tail by Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

Docked Tail

Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
Definition: Tail docking is the surgical removal of part of the tail. The length of tail left depends on the breed standard (physical characteristics) of the breed.

There are many breeds of dogs who have docked tails. Commonly docked breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, Weimaraner, Boxer, Schnauzers, and Pointer breeds to name a few.

This surgery is usually performed on very young puppies, a few days old. Anesthesia is not used at this age for this procedure. The most common method at this age is to surgically clamp and cut off the tail with surgical scissors. One or two sutures are placed to close the wound.

There are instances of tail docking that are medically necessary. Examples include repeated tail injuries (also called "happy tail"), cancers or infections of the skin, muscle or bone, or systemic disease affecting tail function.

Tail docking an adult dog is a much more involved surgery due to the development of muscle, nerves, blood vessels and bone. General anesthesia is necessary and healing time is several days.

Tail docking was traditionally done to prevent tail injuries and help keep the tail area clean. In ancient times, according to the AVMA, "Romans believed that amputation of the tail tip and/or parts of the dog's tongue could prevent a dog from contracting rabies."

Tail docking is banned in many countries, but still allowed in the US. In 2009, Banfield Animal Hospitals announced that the practice group will no longer perform cosmetic (elective) tail docking or ear cropping surgeries on dogs.

The American Veterinary Medical Association states: "The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards."

Related: Ear Cropping in Dogs

Also Known As: bobbed tail, tail docking
The Boxer in the first photo has a docked tail. The boxer in this photo has a long tail.
Photo: Fawn Boxer by Steven Depolo / Flickr

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