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We Need To Talk  About German Shepherd Tail Docking

We Need To Talk  About German Shepherd Tail Docking

German Shepherd tail docking is a cruel and unnecessary practice that should be banned. Do you guys agree with that sentiment?

Even though GSDs don’t get their tails docked as often as some other breeds, such as Australian Shepherds and Corgis, there are still people who promote this practice and recommend it as a good thing.

German Shepherds are working dogs and, in theory at least, there is a potential risk of their tails being exposed to various injuries and infections, but how true is that in reality?

That’s what we will discuss in this article. We will try to explain what German Shepherd tail docking is, why it’s done, and why you should avoid it.

What Is German Shepherd Tail Docking

The surgical removal of a puppy’s tail for cosmetic reasons is known as “tail docking.”

The tail is either severed using a pair of scissors or made to drop off by cutting off the blood supply with a tight rubber band during the treatment, which is typically carried out between two and five days of age.

Over 70 dog breeds, including Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds, have historically had their tails removed a few days after birth.

One of the reasons often cited for this procedure is to ensure a working dog’s safety, but with some breeds, it’s all about fashion standards.

Why Do People Dock Their Dog’s Tails

Three factors are thought to have contributed to the development of dog tail docking over the course of history.

According to AVMA, one of the first recorded instances of the procedure all the way back to ancient Rome. A dog’s tail tip and some of its tongue could be amputated in order to avoid rabies, according to ancient their theory.

Additionally, dogs’ tails were historically docked if they belonged to a poor person who was not allowed to hunt wildlife since it was thought that the tail assisted a dog in the chase.

And finally, working dogs’ tails are often docked in an effort to prevent injuries to the tail during activities like hunting.

Early sources, however, tended to advise docking only when the tail was excessively long for the animal’s size and so would be vulnerable to harm.

What Are The Cosmetic Reasons Behind Tail Docking?

Some breeds’ tail docking practices may be motivated by the idea that their non-working members face risks similar to those faced by working dogs.

However, the more frequent reason is to adhere to a particular breed’s appearance or standard. Tail docking of non-working dogs is generally seen as a cosmetic treatment, even if the breed was originally intended for working purposes.

The breed standards of traditionally docked breeds have been altered in nations like the United Kingdom where tail docking is illegal.

What Do The Breed Standards Say?

When it comes to German Shepherds, there is a clear breed standard established by the American Kennel Club.

The AKC requires all GSDs to have long, bushy, and curved tails in order to be accepted into their ranks. Any dog whose tail has been docked will be automatically disqualified from being able to register.

We’ve already mentioned that dog tail docking is illegal in the UK, but there are also other countries that have banned it.

A number of nations, including Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, and Denmark, have also outlawed cosmetic tail docking.

When it comes to the United States, things are a little more complicated, because it’s mostly a state-by-state issue.

The only states with laws prohibiting dog tail docking are Maryland and Pennsylvania. The docking of a dog’s tail after five days of age is forbidden in Pennsylvania.

However, if the dog is at least 12 weeks old and the veterinarian is utilizing an anesthetic, the law then does not forbid them from executing a tail-docking treatment.

Furthermore, if a licensed veterinarian determines that tail docking is medically essential in an animal between the ages of 5 days and 12 weeks, then it can be done.

Only veterinarians are permitted to conduct the procedure under anesthesia in Maryland, and only when it is necessary.

Why You Shouldn’t Do It

Okay, after going through the history of dog tail docking and listing all the potential reasons why people might be doing it to their German Shepherds, it’s time to list all the cons of the procedure.

As we said right at the beginning of the article, we believe that German Shepherd tail docking is a cruel and unnecessary practice that should be banned outright.

Below are some arguments for that claim.

Tail Docking Is Painful

German shepherd at the veterinarian's examination

The number one reason that should probably be enough all on its own is that the whole procedure is painful for the dog.

Given that puppies’ neural systems are still developing, tail docking proponents often argue that the procedure does not hurt or inconvenience the animal. However, this is simply not true.

A dog’s fundamental neurological system is fully formed at birth and evidence suggests that young dogs’ pain thresholds are comparable to those of adult dogs.

Just think about it: cutting through muscles, tendons, up to seven pairs of extremely sensitive nerves, and connections to the bone and cartilage are all required when docking a puppy’s tail.

And to make things worse, the majority of the time, tail docking is done without anesthesia or pain medication.

When the tail is cut off and while the wound is being stitched, puppies repeatedly make severe screeching vocalizations, showing that they are in great discomfort.

While the incision heals, inflammation and tissue damage also contribute to persistent pain. Additionally, this unneeded procedure carries a risk of infection or other issues that may leave long-term consequences on the dog’s physical and mental health.

It’s Unnecessary

Even though there may have been justifiable reasons for tail docking of certain dog breeds in the past, those are now largely irrelevant, especially when it comes to German Shepherds.

The only sensible reason for tail docking is to minimize the potential risk of injury or infection in working dogs.

That’s why many people assume that German Shepherds should have their tails docked because they are frequently used as working dogs, but this is not necessary.

Corgis and Australian Shepherds are the main breeds whose tails are docked for working purposes. When they are working with large livestock, such as cows and oxen, they do this to protect their tail.

However, German Shepherds only ever handle sheep and smaller creatures like goats, geese, and ducks.

Due to the small size of the animals German Shepherds deal with, there is extremely minimal chance of tail harm, indicating that their tails don’t need to be docked.

Dogs Need Their Tails

german shepherd sitting on the lawn

The function of the dog’s tail in canine social behavior is crucial. Dogs frequently communicate with one another using their tails.

The position and movement of the tail can convey a variety of meanings, including friendliness, a desire to play, obedience, or a warning.

Dogs use a variety of techniques to communicate with one another, set boundaries, and prevent hostile confrontations, and one of those is the use of the tail as a protective mechanism.

A dog’s capacity to communicate is compromised when the tail is removed, making them particularly susceptible to misunderstandings from both humans and other dogs and putting them at a marked social disadvantage.

It’s Basically Illegal

While it’s not technically illegal in a lot of places, more and more countries are moving to outlaw this cruel and archaic procedure.

We’ve already talked about this in an earlier section of the article, but there is no harm in repeating it.

Many European countries, including the UK, Germany, Sweden, and Norway, have banned it and as time goes by, it’s safe to assume many others will be joining them.

The US is currently slightly lagging behind in these regulations, mostly because they are much more difficult to establish due to the size of the country and the complex federal system.

However, in an effort to appeal for animal rights and the eradication of animal cruelty, this is probably going to change.

It Is Against AKC Standards

Any German Shepherd owner who wants to register their dog with the American Kennel Club (AKC) will not be able to do it if the tail has been docked.

The official breed standard states that German Shepherds with unnaturally short tails are automatically disqualified, and this should discourage any dog owners from considering this procedure.

Registering your German Shepherd with the AKC brings you many benefits, including pet insurance, vet discounts, entry to various events, and much more.

Final Thoughts

Even though animal rights have advanced significantly in recent years, there is much more that can be done.

You can help the cause by spreading awareness of the issue with German Shepherd tail docking.

All dogs, even German Shepherds, are beautiful in their natural state and should not be subjected to dangerous surgical operations solely for appearance.

We hope that this article has shed some light on the topic and made you more aware of the unnecessary cruelty that is sometimes involved with these procedures.

Read next: Rottweiler Tail Docking: Is It Justified Or Cruel?

Featured image source: Westside German Shepherd Rescue