Is docking a dog’s tail cruel?

Everyone loves animals, and carries a certain compassion for them. We don’t like to see harm inflicted on any animal, no matter what the circumstances. You can imagine how the thought of cutting off any part of a dog’s body makes you think, “It’s nothing but cruel and unusual.” But we have all walked down the street and seen a dog that is missing its tail, and sometimes not thought twice about it.

Is this done for a reason?

There are many countries that have outlawed it. The government in one way or another has deemed it cruel. But the risks needed to be weighed against the benefits.


Throughout history dogs have had their tails docked for many reasons, most of which are beneficial to the dog itself, while there are those who simply dock a dog’s tail for cosmetic reasons.

Farm dogs had their tails docked because they would get caught in the gates as they herded animals. Hunting dogs had their tails docked for the reason of getting things caught in the tail, such as foxtails and burrs, when they are fetching the prey, which in turn could cause pain or even infection.

Some breeds are known to have tail deformities, which in the end require the tail to be docked. Rather than waiting until a problem occurs, it is recommended that the tail be docked beforehand. This in turn prevents the dog from becoming ill or causing pain.

Other animals have had their tail docked for reasons of simple cleanliness. Longer haired dogs can sometimes get feces stuck in their tail, making for a gross mess to clean. While it may seem as simple as just cleaning it when it is seen, it might not be noticed and bacteria and disease can begin to grow.

Dog Registries

Some dog registries require that certain breeds of dogs have their tails or ears docked to conform. The American Kennel Society does not have rules regarding whether or not a specific breed needs to have their tail or ears docked in order to receive their papers. But when it comes to conforming in a show, a breed such as the Boxer is penalized if the ears and tails are not docked. This is because it is seen as an acceptable practice and is extremely common to the characteristics of a Boxer. It may not seem right, but for those who participate in these types of events, it is necessary.

Whatever the reason for the docking, there are many benefits to the animal and human counterpart. Whether it is for cleanliness purposes, looks or function; the docking of a dog’s tail should not be seen as cruel, unusual or mutilation. For the health and comfort of the dogs, it is a necessary routine alteration that can provide a healthier life.

If you choose to use this practice, weigh the options beforehand so you can ensure that you are making an informed decision that not only looks good, but is a healthier choice for you and your animal.