Tail Docking?


If you really want to know why docking a dogs tail is cruel you have to first understand what a tail means for a dog. It is not just a long dangly thing that hangs off him, or curls up and rests on his back for aesthetic purposes. But in fact is pretty much the equivalent of the Human tongue, or hand….both of which are used as essential tools of communication by us.


The tail of a dog is a limb in motion which unfortunately is under-researched by science. The scientists, the researchers and the dog behaviorists however all do agree on the fact that every tail posture and wag could possibly be decoded into a message that the dog is giving us or other dogs. 


Alexandra Horowitz is a cognitive scientist and is author of the book “Inside A Dog – What Dogs See Smell and Know”. Here follows an excerpt from her book on how valuable tails are to dogs.


“One of the difficulties in deciphering the language of the tail is the great variation in tails among dogs.The flamboyant plumage of the Golden Retriever contrasts mightily with the tight corkscrew of the Pug. Dogs wear tails long and rigid,  stumpy and curled, hanging heavily or perpetually perked.  The Wolf tail is in some ways an average of the various breed tails: it is a long, slightly feathered tail, held naturally slightly down. Early Ethologists who did a reckoning of Wolf tail postures identified at least thirteen different way s in which the tails were carried, conveying thirteen distinguishable messages. As per the antithesis thesis, tails held high indicate confidence, self assertion, or excitement from interest or aggression, while low hanging tails indicate depression, stress or anxiety. An erect tail also exposes the anal region, allowing a bold dog to air his odour signature. By contrast a long tail held so low as to curl back between the legs, closing off the rump, is actively submissive and fearful. When a dog is simply waiting around his tail is relaxed, hanging low, dropped down but not rigid. A tail gently lifted is a sign of mild interest or alertness.


But it is not as simple as tail height, for the tail is not just held (in different postures), it is wagged. Wagging does not translate as simple happiness. A high held, stiffly wagging tail can be a threat, especially when accompanied by an erect posture. Quickly wagging a dropped low tail is another sign of submission. This is the tail of a dog who has just been caught finishing off the last of your shoes. The vigor of the wag is roughly indicative  of the intensity of the emotions. A neutral tail wagging lightly is interested but tentative. A loose, lively whisking tail accompanies the nose-led search for a ball lost in high grasses or an odour trail discovered on the ground. The familiar happy wag is incredibly different from all of these: the tail is held above or out from the body and strongly draws rough arcs in the air behind it. Unmistakable delight. Even the non-wagging tail is meaningful: dogs tend to still their tails when attending carefully when attending to a ball in your hand or waiting for you to tell them what’s happening next.”


Dogs use their entire body to communicate to us and to other dogs. Their ears, their eyes, their heads, their feet and to a very large extent their tails. When we dock a dogs tail what we end up doing is taking away a huge part of his  self expression. Whoever has seen a wagging tail must also know the great joy and happiness that it brings with it. There is not a more heartwarming sight than seeing my dogs running at me with their tails wagging wildly.


 Like Alexandra Horowitz says in her book Inside A Dog “A dog with a docked tail has a docked repertoire of things he can say” . Since you wouldn’t like to have half a tongue or one less limb to express yourself with why do it to your dog. Allow your dog his full expression and experience the joy of the wagging tail.