General Question

canidmajor's avatar

Does anyone know the original logic behind the practice of tail-docking or not of similar purpose breeds?

Asked by canidmajor (3093 points ) April 23rd, 2014

I am specifically interested in the reasoning here, not whether or not you think this is a pointless or cruel practice.
For example, why dock the tails of Norfolk Terriers but not West Highland Whites? Or, the tails of Australian Shepherds but not Border Collies? German Shorthair Pointers but not Pointers? Some breeds of spaniels but not others?
The comparisons I cite are of breeds that have such similar purposes that I can’t figure out what function a docked tail would serve.
Thanks.

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8 Answers

Smitha's avatar

Nowadays docking is done for simply cosmetic purpose, just because some breeds look better without a tail. The reason why they choose specific breeds is that some considered long tail to be a potential hazard for some breeds of working dogs. For example Guard dogs could be seized by tail for thwart attacks, dogs with long hair could soil themselves more if they had long tails and also some hunting dogs could damage their tail tips too. In short certain breeds of dogs used for specific purpose like hunting and guarding dogs, have a greater chance of tail injury. Hence they are docked.

canidmajor's avatar

@Smitha: Thank you for responding, but I am interested in the specific reasoning of the people who originally decided to dock or not the tails of breeds that have the same jobs (as to the examples I cited in the details.)

Cruiser's avatar

Docking was done to improve the performance of working dogs and eliminate the nuisance of burs collecting on their tails. An other example is Poodles are thought to swim and dive better without their tails…terriers can hunt and chase prey in tight quarters better without their tails.

I could not find any info on the reasoning of why one breed over another similar breed was docked but I did see that the AKC has 50 breeds that they require the dog to be docked in order to register that dog. And in your question, the AKC requires the Norfolk Terriers to be docked but not the West Highland Whites. Maybe you can contact them for their reasons why.

snowberry's avatar

@Cruiser Interesting idea about docking poodles’ tails to improve their swimming ability, but I’m not sure it’s true. Our dog has a long tail and quite effectively uses it as a rudder. In fact, she loves swimming so much that she’ll start wagging it while swimming, which totally screws up her navigation. Then she remembers what to do, and sticks her tail up in the air, wags it furiously, and then puts it back down to swim again. It’s hilarious!

Cruiser's avatar

@snowberry This is a snip of why I used poodles as an example

“Why is this done? Long ago, Poodles were mainly used as water dogs. This means that they were retrieval dogs that were trained to retrieve animals that fell into the water after hunters shot them down. Because of this, tails were docked to increase swimming speed and the Pompom on the tip of the tail allowed hunters to see where their dog was while in the water.”

KNOWITALL's avatar

All I’ve ever heard is fighting dogs got docked for their safety, & some dogs need tails for balance. Sorry.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, @Smitha nailed it. The same reasoning is used for certain breeds of chickens, Old English Game and Modern game cocks. Dubbing, the removal of the combs and wattles of the cockerels was to minimize injury during fighting. I do not agree with cock fighting at all, but, our exhibition birds were required to be dubbed for showing purposes to remain true to breed standard.

We had them dubbed by a professional.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Norfolk Terriers but not West Highland Whites”

This may be a clue to the answer… perhaps docking started as a trend in some regions and not others for dogs with similar jobs. The West Highland dog breeders didn’t think to do it or didn’t find it made any difference, so it never became a trend with that breed. No actual knowledge here, I’m just guessing.

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