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Docking (dog)

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Boxers with docked tails. The dog in front also has cropped ears.

Docking is the removal of portions of an animal's tail. 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 length to which tails are docked varies by breed, and is often specified in the breed standard.

Docking is illegal, or restricted, in many countries.

Some dog breeds have naturally occurring bobtail lines. These appear similar to docked dogs but are a distinct naturally occurring phenotype.



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]

Tail docking is done in modern times either for prophylactic, therapeutic, cosmetic purposes, and/or to prevent injury. For dogs that work in the field, such as some hunting dogs, herding dogs, or terrier dogs, tails can 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. Bones in the tail can also be broken by pulling or impact in the field, causing spinal injury to the tail. The American Veterinary Medical Association (the largest veterinary professional organization in the United States), disputes these justifications, saying "These justifications for docking working dogs' tails lack substantial scientific support. In the largest study to date on tail injuries in dogs the incidence was 0.23% and it was calculated that approximately 500 dogs need to be docked to prevent one tail injury."[3]

Poodle tails are often docked for cosmetic reasons.

Modern practice[edit]

Docking of puppies younger than 10 to 14 days old is routinely carried out by both breeders and veterinarians without anesthesia.[4][5]

While the tails of some working dogs are docked to prevent injury or infection, the tails of larger dogs commonly used for guard work or protection work (not to be confused with patrol work where a handler can provide secondary aid) may be docked to prevent their tails from being grabbed in a fight. This is most common in the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Bandog, Cane Corso, Boerboel, etc.


Robert Wansborough found in a 1996 paper[6] that docking tails puts dogs at a disadvantage in several ways. First, dogs use their tails to communicate with other dogs (and with people); a dog without a tail might be significantly handicapped in conveying fear, caution, aggression, playfulness, and so on. Leaver and Reimchen, in 2007, found that longer tails were more effective than shorter tails at "conveying different intraspecific cues, such as those provided by tail motion".[7]

It has also been suggested that certain 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. Videos comparing docked and undocked dogs running and jumping show that dogs who are docked have to work harder to compensate for the loss of the tail.[8] Canine pathologist and sports-medicine expert Prof. Chris Zink believes the extra stress imposed on the joints can have long-term health consequences.

In 2007, Stephen Leaver, a graduate student at the University of Victoria, published a paper on tail docking which found that tail length was important in the transmission of social cues. The study found that dogs with shorter tails (docked tails) would be approached with caution, as if the approaching dog was unsure of the emotional state of the docked dog. The study goes on to suggest that dogs with docked tails may grow up to be more aggressive. The reasoning postulated by Tom Reimchen, UVic Biologist and supervisor of the study, was that dogs who grew up without being able to efficiently transmit social cues would grow up to be more anti-social and thus more aggressive.[9]

H. Lee Robinson argues that reported concerns of tail docking lack empirical evidence, and is primarily supported by animal rights activists that lack experience with working dogs. Robinson suggests that docking the tail of working dogs at approximately one half length provides the benefits of injury prevention and infection prevention, while also maintaining enough tail length to be used for social communication.[10] Robinson, however, is not a veterinarian or researcher but the owner of American Sentinel K9, which derives income from dogs who have been docked.

Docking has been condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association,[11] the American Animal Hospital Association,[12] and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.[13] These organizations have also called on breed organizations to remove docking from all breed standards.

Influence of kennel clubs[edit]

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,[14] standards for many breeds put 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."[15]

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,"[16] even though the practice is currently opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.[17]

Legal status[edit]

Today, many countries ban cropping and docking because they consider the practices unnecessary, painful, cruel or mutilation. In Europe, the cropping of ears is prohibited in all countries that have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. Some countries that ratified the convention made exceptions for tail docking.

United Kingdom[edit]

Show dogs are no longer docked in the United Kingdom. A dog docked before 28 March 2007 in Wales and 6 April 2007 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 is 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 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.

England and Wales[edit]

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 non-conformation 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 Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes the docking of dogs' tails a criminal offence, 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 in March 2006 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 convicted of unlawful docking are liable to a fine of up to £20,000, up to 69 weeks of imprisonment, or both.

Prior to the ban, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom, had stated in the 1990s that they considered tail docking to be "an unjustified mutilation and unethical unless done for therapeutic or acceptable prophylactic reasons."[18] In 1995, a veterinary surgeon was brought before the RCVS disciplinary council for "disgraceful professional conduct" for carrying out cosmetic docking. The surgeon claimed that the docking was performed to prevent future injuries, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence otherwise. Although cosmetic docking was still considered unacceptable by the RCVS, no further disciplinary action was taken against vets performing docking prior to the implementation of the ban.

Northern Ireland[edit]

In Northern Ireland, legislation known as Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 made tail docking illegal except for certain working dogs.[19]


In Scotland, docking of any breed is illegal. The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 contains provisions prohibiting the mutilation of domesticated animals. However, the Scottish government has carried out a consultation on this issue and declared that they intend to legislate to bring the law in Scotland in line with the law in England and Wales, meaning that there will be an exemption for certain breeds of working dogs. This is due to the increase in serious spinal trauma reported in field dogs with undocked tails.[20]

Legal status of dog tail docking and ear cropping by country[edit]

Docking Map
Status of docking as of 2017
  Restricted (can only be performed by a vet)
  Ear cropping banned, tail docking permitted or restricted
  Banned for cosmetic purposes
  Banned with few exceptions
Country Status Ban/restriction date
(if applicable)
 Afghanistan Unrestricted
 Argentina Unrestricted
 Australia Banned in all states and territories.[21] June 2004 (East)
16 March 2010 (WA)
 Austria Banned 1 January 2005
 Belgium Banned 1 January 2006
 Bolivia Unrestricted
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Restricted: allowed for "dogs that benefit from the procedure"[22]
 Brazil Banned for cosmetic purposes
 Canada Canada has no federal law banning pet cosmetic surgery. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association opposes all cosmetic practices.[13] Several provinces have provincial legislation against tail docking, ear cropping, and most cosmetic surgeries:

Three provincial veterinary associations have bans on their veterinarians performing tail docking, ear cropping, and most cosmetic surgeries:

  • Since 2008 by the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association (NBVMA)[27]
  • To take effect first of January 2017, a total ban on cosmetic surgery, by the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec (OMVQ)[28]
  • The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association voted to forbid the practices in February 2019.[29]

Three Provincial veterinary associations with ear cropping bans are open to a future ban of tail docking:

 Chile Banned
 Colombia Banned
 Costa Rica Unrestricted
 Croatia Banned
 Cyprus Banned 1991[36]
 Czech Republic Ear cropping banned, tail docking unrestricted
 Denmark Banned, with exceptions for five gun dog breeds 1 June 1996
 Egypt Unrestricted
 England Ear cropping banned in 1899. Tail docking restricted since 2007, can only be done by a vet on certain working dog breeds.[37][38] 2006
 Estonia Banned 2001
 Finland Banned 1 July 1996[39]
 France Tail docking is unrestricted (France opted out of the rule regarding docking when it ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals)[40] Any other surgery for aesthetic purposes (such as ear cropping) is banned since 2009[41]
 Germany Banned, with exceptions for working gun dogs.[2] 1 May 1998
 Greece Banned 1991[36]
 Hungary Ear cropping is banned, tail docking is allowed until the puppy is 7 days old.[42] 2012[43]
 Iceland Banned 2001
 India Unrestricted, from Madras High Court ruling (WP No. 1750/2012)
 Indonesia Unrestricted
 Iran Unrestricted – tail docking and ear trimming are still taught in veterinary faculties in Iran
 Ireland Banned 7 March 2014
 Israel Banned for cosmetic purposes.[2] 2000
 Italy Banned
 Japan Unrestricted[44]
 Kuwait Unrestricted
 Latvia Banned
 Lebanon Unrestricted
 Lithuania Banned
 Luxembourg Banned 1991[36]
 Malaysia Unrestricted
 Morocco Unrestricted: Morocco has no animal protection laws
 Mauritius Unrestricted
 Mexico Unrestricted
   Nepal Unrestricted
 Netherlands Banned 1 September 2001
 New Zealand Cropping ears and docking is banned.[45] 1 October 2018
Northern Ireland Ear cropping illegal. Tail docking restricted since 2013, can only be done by a vet on certain working dog breeds.[46]
 Norway Banned 1987
 Peru Unrestricted
 Philippines Unrestricted
 Portugal Cropping ears is banned. Docking tails is allowed, as long as it's performed by a veterinarian. 2001
 Poland Banned 1997
 Russia Restricted
 Scotland Banned 2006
 Serbia Ear cropping banned, tail docking banned for cosmetic purposes but allowed for medical purposes and some working breeds[47] 2011
 Slovakia Banned 1 January 2003
 Slovenia Banned[48] April 2007
 South Africa The South African Veterinary Council has banned veterinarians from performing this procedure (unless for medical purposes). Ear cropping is also banned. 1 June 2008
 Spain Banned in some autonomies
 Sri Lanka Unrestricted
 Sweden Banned 1989
  Switzerland Banned 1 July 1981 (ears)
1988 (tails)[2]
 Taiwan Unrestricted
 Thailand Unrestricted
 Tunisia Unrestricted
 Turkey Banned 24 June 2004[49]
 United States Unrestricted. Some states, including New York,[50] and Vermont have considered bills to make the practice illegal.
 Virgin Islands, British Banned 2005
 Wales Restricted: can only be done by vet on a number of working dog breeds. 2006

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ear Cropping – What You Need To Know About Ear Cropping". Puppy's Place. 20 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e A review of the scientific aspects and veterinary opinions relating to tail docking in dogs
  3. ^ "Canine Tail Docking FAQ".
  4. ^ "DEFRA – CDB Submission". cdb.org. Archived from the original on 25 October 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2005.
  5. ^ "Canine Tail Docking FAQ". www.avma.org. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  6. ^ Wansborough, Robert (1 July 1996). "Cosmetic tail docking of dogs tails". Australian Veterinary Journal. Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  7. ^ Reimchen; Leaver (1 January 2008). "Behavioural responses of Canis familiaris to different tail lengths of a remotely-controlled life-size dog replica". Behaviour. 145 (3): 377–390. doi:10.1163/156853908783402894.
  8. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Jumping grids - Agility dogs. Docked and undocked Aussies". YouTube.
  9. ^ "Cutting off dogs' tails leads to aggression: Study". Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  10. ^ Robinson, M.S., H. Lee. "Working Dogs: Cropped Ears & Docked Tails".
  11. ^ "Ear cropping and tail docking of dogs".
  12. ^ "Ear cropping and tail docking".
  13. ^ a b "CVMA | Documents | Cosmetic Alteration – Position Statement". Archived from the original on 19 August 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  14. ^ faq American Kennel Club
  15. ^ Boxer Breed Standard American Kennel Club
  16. ^ Ear Cropping, Tail Docking and Dewclaw Removal Archived 3 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine American Kennel Club Canine Legislation Position Statements
  17. ^ AVMA.org Archived 25 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ RCVS guidelines on docking. Council of Docked Breeds (Report). 12 November 1992.
  19. ^ Clover, Charles (5 April 2007). "Neglectful dog owners could face prosecution". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  20. ^ "Scotland's ban on tail docking of dogs lifted". 4 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Tail docking illegal in Australia". RSPCA Australia. 3 August 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  22. ^ "Zakon o zaštiti i dobrobiti životinja" (in Bosnian). Article 12. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Ear cropping, tail docking not allowed under P.E.I. animal welfare act". The Guardian. 16 November 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Newfoundland and Labrador Regulation 35/12".
  25. ^ "Bill 27 – Animal Protection Act – RA". 12 October 2018.
  26. ^ "N.S veterinarians ban tail docking". CBC News – Nova Scotia. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  27. ^ "No more nip and tuck for show dogs: N.B. vets". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). 3 October 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  28. ^ "Quebec's order of veterinarians bans pet cosmetic surgery". CBC News – Montreal. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 February 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  29. ^ "Alberta veterinarians vote to ban declawing, ear cropping, tail docking surgeries".
  30. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Cosmetic ear cropping banned by B.C. veterinarians". CBC News – British Columbia. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  33. ^ "Ear cropping of dogs banned in Manitoba". CBC News – Manitoba. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). 10 February 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  34. ^ "New Bylaw Prohibits Veterinarians from Performing Ear Cropping Procedure | Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association". Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  35. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^ a b c WSAVA Tail Docking Position Statement Archived 15 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "Mutilations and tail docking of dogs". Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 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.
  38. ^ "Explanatory memorandum to the docking of working dogs' tails (England) regulation 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  39. ^ "Eläinsuojelulaki 247/1996 – Ajantasainen lainsäädäntö – FINLEX ®". finlex.fi.
  40. ^ "Cosmetic tail docking of dogs tails". 18 May 2004. Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  41. ^ "Rappel législatif sur la coupe d'oreilles". chiens-online.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  42. ^ https://nebih.gov.hu/web/guest/-/uj-jogi-szabalyozas-a-felelos-allattartasert
  43. ^ http://allatmentoszolgalat.com/tudasbazis/2012-allatvedelmi-torveny/
  44. ^ "犬の断尾". koinuno-heya.com.
  45. ^ "Code of Welfare (Dogs) 2010". Biosecurity New Zealand. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  46. ^ "O'NEILL ANNOUNCES BAN ON TAIL DOCKING OF DOGS". 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. There will however, be exemptions from the ban for certain types of working dog and where docking is performed as part of medical treatment or in an emergency to save the dogs' life.
  47. ^ Serbian Animal Protection Act
  48. ^ Slovene Animal Protection Act Archived 9 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine (in Slovene)
  49. ^ "Hayvanları Koruma Kanunu". tbmm.gov.tr.
  50. ^ "New call to action for amended NY state crop/dock bill". American Kennel Club. 9 June 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2007.

EFRA – A.D.A. submission https://web.archive.org/web/20110126050347/http://www.anti-dockingalliance.co.uk/page_18.htm

External links[edit]

Scientific research[edit]

  • Reimchen; Leaver (1 January 2008). "Behavioural responses of Canis familiaris to different tail lengths of a remotely-controlled life-size dog replica". Behaviour. 145 (3): 377–390. doi:10.1163/156853908783402894.
  • Artelle, K. A.; Dumoulin, L. K.; Reimchen, T. E. (March 2011). "Behavioural responses of dogs to asymmetrical tail wagging of a robotic dog replica". Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. 16 (2): 129–135. doi:10.1080/13576500903386700. PMID 20087813. S2CID 18492691.

Pro-docking organizations[edit]

Anti-docking organizations[edit]