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Definition of Tail Docking

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Photo of German Shorthaired Pointer Dog Breed

The German Shorthaired Pointer is one of many breeds that commonly has its tail docked.

Photo © Ellen Levy Finch
Definition: Tail docking is a medical procedure done to remove part of the tail. It is typically done by snipping off the tail with surgical scissors. It may also be done by placing a special band on the tail to cut off blood supply (causing the tail to fall off). Docking is done by a veterinarian in the first two to eight days of a puppy's life without sedation. However, older puppies and dogs require general anesthesia and must undergo the more major procedure of tail amputation. This is because the tail is too large and the blood vessels and nerves are too developed.

Tail docking is often performed on working dogs to protect their tails from injury in the field. Some believe docking can help maintain good hygiene around the tail. In many cases, tails are docked for cosmetic purposes according to the breed standards. The length of the dock is dependent on the breed. If not done for medical reasons, (i.e. present injury, disease) tail docking is considered an elective procedure. The decision to dock is usually up to the breeder. Other common elective cosmetic procedures include ear cropping and dewclaw removal. Among the most common breeds considered for tail docking are Doberman Pinschers, Schnauzers, some Spaniels and many Terriers.

Tail docking is rather controversial. Those who support docking consider it a routine procedure that is practical and minimally painful. On the other hand, many who disapprove of docking describe it as painful mutilation that is quite unnecessary. The American Kennel Club (AKC) publicly states that it "recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices. . ." However, the official position of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that it "opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes."

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