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Tail Docking in Dogs – Guide, Safety, Ethics & FAQ

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Tail docking is an elective surgery for dogs, primarily done on breeds such as Dobermans, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Schnauzers.
  • The history of tail docking dates back to ancient times and has evolved with different purposes. It is mostly done now to improve the appearance of the dog and to conform to breed standards.
  • Tail bobbing is different from medical tail docking, which is done for a traumatic injury or tail deformities that negatively impact the dog's function or increase the risk of injury.
  • The legality of tail docking varies around the world, with some countries completely banning it and some allowing medical tail docking only. The UK has banned all tail docking except for working breeds that are vet certified to be so.
  • Tail docking is done on puppies between 3 to 10 days old without anesthesia, and aftercare is crucial in ensuring the dog heals properly. The procedure can be painful and traumatic for the puppy, and non-cosmetic tail docking is only done when it is medically necessary.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Monday 29 July 2019
Last updated on
Thursday 22 June 2023
tail docking in dogs
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Cosmetic tail docking, like ear cropping, is a surgery that some dog breeds undergo soon after birth. It’s most common in breeds such as Dobermans, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Schnauzers.

During the surgery, also called tail bobbing, a veterinarian removes the tail of the puppy with surgical scissors, usually without anesthesia. This is done when the tail is still soft to minimize pain.

However, medical tail docking, which is an amputation, is different from bobbing. The most common reason for complete or partial amputation of a dog’s tail is a traumatic injury that makes repairing the tail impossible or risky. Tail amputation can also happen if there are deformities that negatively impact the dog’s movement or functioning, or if it increases the risk of injury.

Nowadays, tail docking is mostly limited to medical reasons that are absolutely necessary.

In this article, we’ll explore the history of this practice, its legal aspects, and its acceptance worldwide. We’ll also address common concerns about tail docking for dogs.

History & Purpose

Tail docking for dogs has been practiced for centuries, with different purposes behind it. Initially, the Romans believed that removing the tip of the tail could prevent rabies in dogs. Later, tail docking was done to prevent poor owners from participating in hunting games, as it would put their dogs at a disadvantage.

For some breeds, tail docking was done to prevent tail injuries during activities like dog or cage fighting. Additionally, certain breeders and dog owners believed that tail docking could prevent potential hazards for working dogs, such as the risk of a guard dog’s tail being seized during an attack or long-haired dogs becoming more soiled with a hanging tail.

However, in modern times, dogs no longer require shorter tails for specific tasks and cosmetic tail docking is restricted. It is mostly done to improve a dog’s appearance, especially to conform to breed standards.

In conclusion, while tail docking has been practiced for various reasons throughout history, it is now primarily done for cosmetic purposes. It is important to understand the reasons behind the practice to make informed decisions about your pet’s well-being.

Dog Breeds with Docked Tails

Following is a list of all the dog breeds and types that tend to undergo tail docking in most parts of the world. The UK-based Kennel club registers these breeds and in spite of the prevailing awareness campaigns and enforcement of laws against such practices, they continue to be tailless in large numbers.


Terrier Breeds

These are the breeds belonging to the terrier-group that have generally got their tail docked:

  • Airedale Terrier
  • Australian Terrier
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Irish Terrier
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Parson or Jack Russell Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Smooth-coated Fox Terrier
  • Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • Wired-haired Fox Terrier

Gun Dog Breeds

These are the gun dog breeds that have generally got their tail docked:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Brittany Spaniel
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Field Spaniel
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • German Wirehaired Pointer
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla
  • Italian Spinone
  • Large Munsterlander
  • Long Haired Weimaraner
  • Sussex Spaniel
  • Weimaraner
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Working Cocker

Working Breeds

These are the breeds belonging to the “Working” group that have generally got their tail docked:

  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Boxer
  • Dobermann
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Great Dane
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Pinscher
  • Rottweiler

Pastoral Breeds

These are the breeds belonging to the “Pastoral” group that have generally got their tail docked:

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Pyrenean Sheepdog
  • Swedish Vallhund
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Utility Breeds

These are the breeds belonging to the “Utility” dog group that have generally got their tail docked:

  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Standard Poodle
  • Schipperke
  • Toy Poodle

Toy Breeds

These are the breeds belonging to the “Toy” dog group that have generally got their tail docked:

  • Australian Silky Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Griffon Bruxellois
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Yorkshire Terrier
Ear Cropping In Dogs
Read our article on Dog Ear Cropping!

Legality of Dog Tail Docking

Over the years, people have considered dog tail docking along with the sister practice of ear cropping to be painful, cruel, and unnecessary. Several organizations speak up against and protest this practice. Because of this, many countries have started exercising a ban on these practices.

However, tail bobbing continues to be unrestricted in many others. Some of these allow only medical tail docking while banning cosmetic tail docking completely.

United States

Despite protests from certain quarters, the practice of dog tail docking is widely prevalent in the United States. However, a few states like New York and Vermont managed to put some restrictions on the practice and have also passed bills to make it illegal. Animal rights organizations are frequently fighting the practice.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has long banned tail docking and ear cropping of dogs. The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 restricts England and Wales from carrying out this practice with an exception for the Terriers and Hunt, Spaniels, Point and Retrieve breeds that categorizes as working breeds and are vet certified to be so.

The laws of the country allow medical tail docking for puppies of these breeds but the surgery must be done within the first five days of the dog’s life. Alongside, the owner must prove that the puppy has been bred to work by means of documents and vet certification. Following the surgery, the vet surgeon must also sign certificates to imply that the puppy was docked as well as microchipped as the law necessitates.

In 2007, docking was completely banned in Scotland, unless it is carried out for medical purposes, such as a treatment or a preventive measure.


In Canada, dog tail docking is largely banned. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association opposes all cosmetic practices. Further, several provinces consider tail docking, ear cropping, and other cosmetic surgeries to be illegal by legislation.

Rest of the World

The rest of the world is somewhat divided in its approach towards the entire tail docking process and purpose. While some countries like Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway ban it completely, most South East Asian countries pose no restrictions on the practice.

Generally, countries follow the general idea allowing medical docking of a dog’s tail while restricting it as purely cosmetic surgery.

tail docking and ear cropping ban in the world
Legal status of dog tail docking and ear cropping by country.


Dog tail docking is an intricate but quick procedure. The length of a docked tail varies depending on the breed of the dog. The idea is to cut the tail short enough to make it close to the body. The veterinarian aims at shortening the tail without indention to the maximum possible extent.

However, for some other breeds like the Wire Fox Terrier, the tail is docked about three-quarters of the original size. Docking is also often carried out as a means of correcting a puppy from a tailless breed born with a tail.

The surgery is typically performed on newborn puppies that are between 3 and 10 days old. Since it is usually done without anesthesia, there is a certain amount of pain and trauma that accompanies the procedure.

A tail docking surgical procedure lasts around 30mn and requires the veterinarian to:


  • measure the tail of the puppy
  • amputate the tail between the appropriate vertebrae with surgical scissors
  • encourage fast healing using tissue glue or absorbable stitches – to get the skin covering and closed over the stump of the bone; stitching is better than the abrupt lopping off of a portion of the tail.

It is imperative that the process is executed under sterile conditions by an expert veterinarian, who is comfortable in handling all types of breeds. They must be aware of the breed standard to know what the end result should be.

After Care Considerations

It is crucial to take care of your dog at home after surgery. One important thing to do is to keep your dog’s bedding clean. If your dog has a docked tail, it’s necessary to maintain a clean, dry, and urine-free environment to promote faster healing.

Generally, you should remove the bandages after about 2-3 days, or as your veterinarian recommends. Your vet will use small, safe scissors to cut the bandages and remove the tape from the tip of your dog’s tail.

It’s important to monitor the incision area for redness, swelling, or discharge, which can indicate an infection. Try to avoid over-grooming the area and keep an eye on your adult dog licking the area. Finally, schedule a follow-up visit with your veterinarian after about 7 days to ensure that your dog has fully recovered from the surgery.

Tail Docking FAQ

Following are some of the common questions about dog tail docking, answered in brief. Feel free to leave any other question in the comments section!

At what age puppies get their tails docked?

Tail docking for puppies is done when they are just between 3 to 10 days old. The surgery can be done without anesthesia until the puppy is about a week old only.

During this time, the tail continues to be extremely soft and tender and, therefore, involves not much of pain or risk. The tail is simply cut short to an appropriate length, based on the specific breed.

When tail bobbing is performed on an adult dog, the procedure becomes more complicated, requiring amputation under general anesthesia. So, the earlier it is done, the easier it is for the dog.

How much does dog tail docking cost?

The average price of docking is anywhere between $15 and $75 per puppy. However, the dog tail docker price can vary widely depending on factors like the method used, the availability of the veterinarian, the location and so on.

When docking is performed on puppies, the procedure is simple and, therefore, inexpensive. But tail docking for adult dogs can be complicated, requiring general anesthesia and proper medication to heal the incision. For this, the price of tail docking for adult dogs is expected to be higher and often quite expensive.

Is tail docking done under anesthesia?

Tail docking for puppies is done without anesthesia. The procedure gets executed quickly, within half an hour. Anesthesia is not a preferred option for a dog that is just a week old or less.

Whether it is for medical or cosmetic purposes, tail docking for adult dogs requires general anesthesia. Otherwise, the surgery can turn out to be really painful and traumatic for the dog.

Are dogs in pain during a tail docking procedure?

Tail docking can be painful and a bit traumatic too. The intensity or duration of the pain felt by the puppy under the ideal of typical circumstances can vary.

However, the surgical procedure carried out in the neonatal stage is painful because the nervous system is very vulnerable during this time. It can even bring some negative long-term changes. This, in turn, affects how pain is usually perceived and processed later in life by the dog.

For instance, if the puppy is too scared throughout the surgery, they can grow to be more anxious and apprehensive in general.

What is a non-cosmetic tail docking?

Non-cosmetic tail docking is the process of removing the tail of a dog but not with the purpose of improving its appearance or letting it look as per the breed standard. Basically, the other name for non-cosmetic tail docking is medical tail docking.

The common reason for medical tail docking, involving complete or partial amputation is a traumatic injury. Repairing of the entire tail of your injured dog might neither be possible nor advisable. In other instances, your dog might be born with some tail deformities, which, in the long run, will negatively impact his function or make him prone to injuries. If such injuries are found to happen earlier because of this deformed tail, medical tail docking can be proved to be necessary for the dog.

With legal restrictions imposed on the practice, even the precautionary removal of the tail of a young puppy can be performed only after it is proved that the animal is at a high risk of tail trauma, resulting from a congenital defect. The evidence can be furnished in the form of empirical data or expert opinions based on relevant experience.

One comment on “Tail Docking in Dogs – Guide, Safety, Ethics & FAQ”

  1. Margaret Sullivan

    Tail docking is also banned in Ireland, unless for working gundogs. Certain breeds such as Boxers, Dobermans, Rottweilers are much nicer with a cropped tail. They look more elegant. The original Pembroke Corgi always had a docked tail making it a smart looking example of the breed in contrast to the tailed variety. Give me a docked tail variety of these breeds anyday.

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