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is tail docking cruel

How Cruel is Dog Tail Docking?

Talking Points

Dogs with docked tails are significantly less likely to sustain tail injuries, finds research published in Veterinary Record. But the overall level of tail injuries is very low, say the authors of the study, which is based on more than 138,000 dogs seen at 52 veterinary practices across Britain between March 2008 and March 2009.

The practice of tail docking to remove most of the tail to prevent this type of injury in dogs was banned in Britain in 2007, although some exemptions apply for specific breeds of working dog.

is tail docking cruel

Among the 138,212 dogs seen by vets at the 52 practices during the study period, 281 were treated for a tail injury – a rate of 0.23%, adjusted for sampling.

The owners of 224 of these injured dogs, as well as a random sample of 799 owners whose dogs had not been treated for tail injury were sent a questionnaire on dog tail injuries and docking.

Only 97 of the owners whose dogs needed treatment and 227 of those whose dogs had not been injured replied.

But their responses indicated that around one in three tail injuries (36%; 35 cases) had occurred at home as a result of the dog knocking its tail against a wall, kennel wall or other household object.

A further 17.5% (17 cases) were sustained outdoors, while 14.4% (14 cases) were caused by the tail being caught in a door. In 15 (15.5%) other causes were cited; and in 16 (16.5%), the cause was unknown. Almost half of the injuries (44%) were recurrent.

Over half the cases were treated with drugs and dressings, but in almost one in three cases, amputation was required. Eleven dogs did not need any treatment.

Certain breeds seemed to be more at risk, with springer and cocker spaniels almost six times as likely to sustain a tail injury as labradors and retrievers.

Greyhounds, lurchers, and whippets were almost seven times as likely to do so, possibly because of the lack of protective hair on their tails, say the authors. Dogs with a wide angle of wag were also almost four times as likely to be injured in this way, while dogs kept in kennels were more than 3.5 times as likely to sustain a tail injury.

Only 35 owners said their dogs had had their tail docked, and on the basis of their overall findings, the authors calculated that tail docking would reduce the risk of injury by 12%.

But in absolute terms, 500 dogs would need to have their tail docked in order to prevent one tail injury.

“Tail docking remains a controversial issue,” say the authors. “The debate is centred on whether non-therapeutic tail docking reduces the risk of tail injuries sufficiently to justify the ethical concerns regarding this [preventive] intervention.”

So, what’s your view on the subject of tail docking? Have your say in the comments section below…

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  1. One of the things that makes a dog a dog is its tail. As nature intended! It’s pertinent to the way they express themselves and maintain balance in moti. So leave their bloody (pun intended) tails on! We don’t lop off kids arms so they won’t break them, do we?!

  2. One of the things that makes a dog a dog is its tail. The way nature intended it to. It’s pertinent to the way they express themselves and maintain balance in motion. So leave their bloody (pun intended) tails on! We don’t lop off kids arms so they won’t break them, do we?!

  3. Certain  breeds,  the  breed  standard  for  show has  in the  past  included  a docked  tail.  The  thing  is  this   dogs  communicate  with  nonverbal communication  which  involves facial  expression,  ear  movement  and   tail  position.  When a  dog  encounters  another  dog  with a docked  tail,  or for that  matter  when  a  human  encounters  such  a dog,  his  intentions cannot  be read that  easily  as   don’t  know  if the tail  is wagging   in a  happy  wag  or   slowly  from side to side  or if the dog is  angry  tail   straight up.  O(ther  dogs  have  difficulty with  this as  well.  Dogs  with  cropped  ears  and  docked tail  are  very  hard to  read  as   they  cannot  move  ears  back  (submissive)  or   straight up   perked  (attentive) As  it  has  been traditional  to do this  with    certain breeds  they look   more   threatening  than  they   really  are.   Also  a  human can say  of a dog with a  dock tail, and  cropped  ears  that  he  attacked  without  warning  or  started  snarling without  warning  as    the  ears  and  tail  natural  communicators    were  basically  non  functional. 

  4. oh please, i’ve had Dobes in the past with their tail docked and ears cropped, and i and other people knew if my Dobes were upset or nervous.   
    their ears would be up for alertness, and their tail down if they weren’t sure.   
    a Dobe with uncropped ears or undocked tails, just look like black and tan coonhounds.

  5. @dxxdog oh enough with the sniveling already.     having a dog cropped or docked is not worse than having a minor surgery.
    i have had major surgery over the years and after the first week, i start to get better, it is no worse than having a dog/bitch spayed or neutered.
    oops, maybe you don’t believe in that either.

  6. @tannock @dxxdog
    Please read Dr. Stanley Coren Learning how to Speak dog.

  7. @tannock  @dxxdog I was hardly snivelling thank you very much! I was merely pointing out that it’s normal for a dog to have a tail because it is a necessary tool that they use to get by in life. I’m guessing that you’ve had major surgery to rectify a problem that you had? Well if that’s the reason for these people docking their dogs tail then by all means go for it. Much like amputating an unuseable and hindering limb. But if they are docking them for asthetical reasons, or in presumption of some injury in the future then bloody well leave them on as they are intended to be.  You don’t see people lopping of their boobs and testicles in anticipation of maybe developing cancer some time in the future!

  8. @dxxdog Is that your blue merle?
    Nice looks like my Krystal did.
    I wanted Tannock who is an advocate of cropped ears and docked tails to read Dr. Coren as he talks about how dogs with docked tails and cropped ears are mininterrpreted by other dogs and humans.

  9. over the years, i have never misinterpreted a dogs’ signals.  with or without cropping/docking.

  10. @tannock Well, that is interesting that you can be so sure of this, as none of us always get everything right.  And I wonder if the same can be said about any other dogs they came across?  Surely you can’t tell me you know what the other dog was thinking as well, when it met your cropped/docked dog?!

  11. @tannock there are many more emotions that a dog can express other than just upset or nervous, with their ears and tails displaying the varying nuances. and as for them looking like coon hounds that’s simply not true as coon hounds have a domed head and much larger ears!

  12. @Nancykrystalblue  @dxxdog Yes, that is my Pepper girl 🙂 She was a VERY LOVELY dog 🙂 a rescue, due to an accidental breeding 🙁 Her father was a pedigree Borzoi and her mother a pedigree Koolie. Sadly she is no longer with me though, as she became rather ill around the age of 10 and so I had to let her go to Rainbow Bridge ;'(  I now have a full blood Borzoi, named Nikolai 🙂 and my Staffordshire, Nudge. 
    Unfortunately I don’t think Tannock will take any notice of the article, as he’s just professed to have “never misinterpreted a dogs’ signals” *sigh*   I guess he is an extraordinarily clever man 😉

  13. @dxxdog  @Nancykrystalblue i am a 72 yr old female who has been brought up with dogs since a child.
    i was talking about a dog being cropped or docked,  and they still tell you with their bodies what they are reacting too!

  14. @tannock @dxxdog Your 72 does that mean you cannot read?
    Please read Dr. Coren’s book Learning how to speak dog

  15. @dxxdog This tannock says she is a 72 year old woman. She can still read the book I suggested.

  16. @dxxdog @tannock It is people like tannock who also subscribe to domaniance theory and feel that the dog must be submissive to the human. It is people like tannock who will use physical punishment and alpha roll overs to train a dog. If tannock is adamant about docking and cropping, I will wager she house trains pups by putting their snout in the mess and hitting them with a rolled newspaper.

  17. @Nancykrystalblue  @dxxdog  @tannock you are an idiot.  i certainly don’t use any kind of punishment for my dogs, or horse.
    my dogs know i am the top dog.   that is the way it  is supposed to be.  i can just see my Dobe being dominant to me, not!
    also what in God’s name does cropping/ docking have to do with your ignorant remarks about training?

  18. @tannock @dxxdog Tannock I guess you have never heard of postive training or operant conditioning.

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