Docking (dog): Wikis


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Boxers with natural and docked ears and docked tails

Docking is the amputation of portions of an animal's tail or ears. While docking and bobbing are more commonly used to refer to removal of the tail, the term cropping[1] is used in reference to the ears. Tail docking occurs in one of two ways. The first involves constricting the blood supply to the tail with a rubber ligature for a few days until the tail falls off. The second involves the severance of the tail with surgical scissors or a scalpel.[2] The tail is amputated at the dock.

At least 17 dog breeds, including the Corgi and Rottweiler, have naturally occurring bob tail lines. These appear similar to docked dogs but are a distinct naturally occurring genotype. The issue of docking is not relevant to these natural bob tails (also known as NBTs).[citation needed]


History of docking and cropping

Historically, tail docking was thought to prevent rabies, strengthen the back, increase the animal's speed, and prevent injuries when ratting, fighting, and baiting.[2] In early Georgian times in the United Kingdom a tax was levied upon working dogs with tails and so many types of dogs were docked to avoid this tax.[2] The tax was repealed in 1796 but that did not stop the practice from persisting.

Tail docking is done in modern times either for prophylactic, therapeutic, or cosmetic purposes. For dogs who worked in the field, such as some hunting dogs and herding dogs, tails could collect burrs and foxtails, causing pain and infection and, due to the tail's wagging, may be subject to abrasion or other injury while moving through dense brush or thickets. Tails with long fur could collect feces and become a cleanliness problem.

In dogs used for guarding property (such as Doberman Pinschers or Boxers), docked ears are thought to make the breed appear more ferocious; hanging ears are reminiscent of the naturally droopy ears of puppies, looking more cute than dangerous. Cosmetic docking is also done to meet breed registries standards.

For dogs with tail injuries that cannot be treated sufficiently with basic medical treatment, the tail can be docked to remove the damaged portion.


Docking of the tail and ears are both procedures which have been subject to controversy in recent times. Proponents state that the procedures are not significantly painful and can prevent future health problems that cause more pain and risk of infection than the docking. Proponents believe that docking done almost immediately after birth ensures that the wound heals easily and properly, claiming that whatever pain the procedure cause is a worthwhile trade off.

Docking of less than 10-14 days old puppies are routinely carried out by both breeders and veterinarians without anesthesia.[3] Opponents of these procedures state that most tail dockings are done for aesthetic reasons rather than health concerns and are unnecessarily painful for the dog. They point out that even non-working show or pet dogs are routinely docked. They argue that in breeds whose tails have been traditionally and routinely docked over centuries, such as Australian Shepherds, little attention is paid to selectively breeding for strong and healthy tails.[citation needed] As a result, tail defects that docking proponents claim makes docking necessary in the first place are perpetuated in the breeds. They point out the many breeds of working dogs with long tails that are not traditionally docked, including English Pointers, Setters, Herding dogs, and Foxhounds.

Robert Wansborough argues in a 1996 paper[4] that docking dogs' tails puts them at a disadvantage in several ways. Firstly, Wansborough argues that dogs use their tails in communicating with other dogs (and with people); a dog without a tail might be significantly handicapped in conveying fear, caution, aggression, playfulness, and so on. Certain dog breeds use their tails as rudders when swimming, and possibly for balance when running, so active dogs with docked tails might be at a disadvantage compared to their tailed peers.

Wansborough also investigates seven years of records from an urban veterinary practice to demonstrate that undocked tails result in less harm than docked tails.

Critics point out that kennel clubs with breed standards that do not make allowance for uncropped or undocked dogs put pressure on owners and breeders to continue the practice. Although the American Kennel Club (AKC) says that it has no rules that require docking or that make undocked animals ineligible for the show ring,[5] breed standards for many breeds puts undocked animals at a disadvantage for the conformation show ring. The American breed standard for boxers, for example, recommends that an undocked tail be "severely penalized."[6] The AKC position is that ear cropping and tail docking are "acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health."[7]

Legal status

A Doberman Pinscher puppy with its ears taped to train them into the desired shape and carriage after cropping

Today, many countries consider cropping and docking to be cruel or mutilation and ban it entirely. In Europe, the cropping of ears is prohibited in all countries that have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals while some countries that ratified had made exceptions for tail docking.


United Kingdom

Show dogs are no longer docked in the United Kingdom. A dog docked before 28 March 2010 in Wales and 6 April 2011 in England may continue to be shown at all shows in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland throughout its life. A dog docked on, or after, the above dates, regardless of where it was docked, may not be shown at shows in England and Wales where the public is charged a fee for admission. Where a working dog has been docked in England and Wales under the respective regulations, however, it may be shown where the public are charged a fee, so long as it is shown “only to demonstrate its working ability”. It will thus be necessary to show working dogs in such a way as only to demonstrate their working ability and not conformity to a standard. A dog legally docked in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or abroad may be shown at any show in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales, ear cropping is illegal and no dog with cropped ears can take part in any Kennel Club event (including agility and other nonconformation events). Tail docking is also illegal, except for a few working breeds; this exemption applies only when carried out by a registered veterinary surgeon.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom, has said that they consider tail docking to be "an unjustified mutilation and unethical unless done for therapeutic or acceptable prophylactic reasons". In 1995 a veterinary surgeon was brought before the RCVS disciplinary council for "disgraceful professional conduct" for carrying out cosmetic docking. The vet claimed that the docking was performed to prevent future injuries and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence otherwise. Although cosmetic docking is still considered unacceptable by the RCVS, no further disciplinary action has been taken against vets performing docking.

In March, 2006 an amendment was made to the Animal Welfare Bill (now the Animal Welfare Act 2006[8]) which makes the docking of dogs' tails illegal, except for working dogs such as those used by the police force, the military, rescue services, pest control, and those used in connection with lawful animal shooting. Three options were presented to Parliament with Parliament opting for the second:

  • An outright ban on docking dogs' tails (opposed by a majority of 278 to 267)
  • A ban on docking dogs' tails with an exception for working dogs (supported by a majority of 476 to 63)
  • Retention of the status quo.

Those found guilty of unlawful docking would face a fine of up to £20,000, up to 51 weeks imprisonment or both.

In Northern Ireland legislation regarding docking has not yet been drawn up. It is therefore still legal.[9]

In Scotland docking of any breed is illegal. The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 contains provisions prohibiting the mutilation of domesticated animals.

Legal status of dog tail docking by country

Country Status Ban/restriction date (if applicable)
Afghanistan Unrestricted
Argentina Unrestricted
Australia Banned in some states and territories.[10] Legal in Western Australia, although restricted to Veterinarians.[11] June 2004
Austria Banned 1 January 2005
Belgium Banned 1 January 2006
Bolivia Unrestricted
Brazil Banned for cosmetic purposes.
Canada Unrestricted From 28 March 2009 cosmetic surgery including tail docking will be banned by the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association. This includes tail docking in dogs, horses, and cows.
Chile Unrestricted
Croatia Banned
Cyprus Banned 1991 [12]
Czech Republic Banned
Denmark Banned, with exceptions for five gun dog breeds 1 June 1996
Egypt Unrestricted
England Restricted - can only be done by vet on a number of working dog breeds.[13][14] 2006
Estonia Banned 2001
Finland Banned. Exception on tail docking, although banned on dog shows.[2] 1992
France Banned 4 August 2003
Germany Banned, with exceptions for working gun dogs.[2] 1 May 1992
Greece Banned 1991[12]
Hungary Banned
Iceland Banned 2001
India Banned
Indonesia Unrestricted
Republic of Ireland Unrestricted
Israel Banned for cosmetic purposes.[2] 2000
Italy Banned in Rome and Turin
Kuwait Unrestricted
Latvia Banned
Lithuania Banned
Luxembourg Banned 1991[12]
Malaysia Unrestricted
Mauritius Unrestricted
Mexico Unrestricted
Nepal Unrestricted
Netherlands Banned 1 September 2001
New Zealand Unrestricted
Northern Ireland Unrestricted tail docking, Ear Cropping Illegal.
Norway Banned 1987
Philippines Unrestricted
Portugal Unrestricted
Poland Banned 1997
Republic of Ireland Unrestricted for dogs.
Russia Unrestricted
Scotland Banned 2006
Singapore Unrestricted
Slovakia Banned 1 January 2003
Slovenia Banned.[15] April 2007
South Africa Banned. June 2007
Sri Lanka Unrestricted
Sweden Banned. Apparent increase in tail injuries reported among working dogs after ban.[2] 1989
Switzerland Banned 1 July 1981 for the ears and 1988 for the tail[2]
Taiwan Unrestricted
United States Unrestricted (some states, including New York,[16] and Vermont have considered bills to make the practice illegal)
Virgin Islands Banned 2005
Spain Unrestricted
Wales Restricted - can only be done by vet on a number of working dog breeds. 2006


  1. ^ Ear Cropping
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h A review of the scientific aspects and veterinary opinions relating to tail docking in dogs
  3. ^ DEFRA - CDB Submission
  4. ^ Wansborough, Robert (1 July 1996). "Cosmetic tail docking of dogs tails". Australian Veterinary Journal. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  5. ^ faq American Kennel Club
  6. ^ Boxer Breed Standard American Kennel Club
  7. ^ Ear Cropping, Tail Docking and Dewclaw Removal American Kennel Club Canine Legislation Position Statements
  8. ^ UK Animal Welfare Act 2006, chapter 45 Office of Public Sector Information
  9. ^ "Neglectful dog owners could face prosecution". The Daily Telegraph. 5 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  10. ^ "Tail docking illegal in Australia". ABC Northern Tasmania. 2 April 2004. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  11. ^ Department of Local Government and Regional Development website,
  12. ^ a b c WSAVA Tail Docking Position Statement
  13. ^ Explanatory memorandum to the docking of working dogs' tails (ENGLAND) regulation 2007
  14. ^ "Mutilations and tail docking of dogs". UK Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs. Retrieved 2009-07-14. "The docking of dogs' tails has been banned in England since 6 April 2007. There are exemptions from the ban for certain types of working dog, or where docking is performed for medical treatment." 
  15. ^ [1]Slovene Animal Protection Act (in slovene language)
  16. ^ "NEW CALL TO ACTION FOR AMENDED NY STATE CROP/DOCK BILL". American Kennel Club. 9 June 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 

External links

Scientific research

Pro-docking organizations

Anti-docking organizations


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