Dog breeding question

I have a Doberman pinscher. Her ears are not cropped, but she does have a docked tail. I can’t imagine how anyone could take a puppy and chop off its tail, but apparently with a lot of breeds, that’s what is done. My question is, if people want dogs with nubs, why don’t they just breed them for that?

Dirty tail-choppin’ bastards…

They can breed for that. Corgis, for example, have been successfully bred for a bobtail gene; though show breeders do dock tails (usually by using rubber bands until the tails atrophy, rather than by cutting the tails), many puppies are born with little to no tail. Some dogs that are born with tails are allowed to keep them gloriously long!

It is a matter of much controversy. The official stance of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America is we’re going to dock, dammit, and don’t try to tell us what to do with our dogs. Many European countries have anti-docking laws.

My advice is that if you are buying a purebred dog from a breeder, and don’t plan to show, tell the breeder in advance that you don’t want your puppy docked. Or, depending on the breed, find a breeder that has chosen to do ethical selective breeding to try to get bobtail puppies. My dogs, being rescues, came as they were to the party.

I think it’ just a coincidence that some are born with and some without a tail. That’s a very old type of dog that came to Wales with the vikings (as far as I know) and it seems unlikely that people actively bred for taillessness 1000 years ago unless, of course, their owners thought it was a good thing that prevented them from being trampled upon by the cows they were herding. Their Scandinavian cousins, Swedish vallhund, also come in both varieties, BTW.

Well, it’s not like you can just decide to breed stub-tailed dogs. First you’d have to find a dog of that breed that was naturally docked, and then do some extreme inbreeding to fix the trait (unless it was dominant).

One problem with that idea is that things like bobtail genes often come with other, deleterious effects. So as you breed in the short tail, you also breed in a host of other problems.

It also takes quite a while to spread something like that. It’s a lot easier just to dock their tails.

About the only way I know to get a puppy with a natural tail is to find someone who doesn’t dock their dogs’ tails at all. Tail docking is done in the first couple of days, well before you normally choose a puppy.

I’m not a big fan of tail-docking, except in those breeds where it’s needed for health reasons. However, it truly doesn’t seem to have any adverse effects when done properly at the correct age.

The other day while watching Animal Planet, I heard that French bulldogs can’t give birth naturally and are always delivered by Caesarian. That seems like one hell of a side effect to me, but presumably people are going to go right on breeding those…

It just seems like people have created all these different dogs like they were molding clay, and when they got up to a certain point, they said, “This is close enough, let’s just whack off that extra bit.”

As far as I’m concerned it’s not needed in any breed for any reason. Before it became forbidden in Sweden you could hear all sorts of horror stories about what damage would occur if, e.g., a boxer wagged his tail and smashed it against something. Nothing happened, of course.

There have been experiments to breed naturally bob-tailed Boxers by crossing with a Corgi and then backcrossing the offspring to purebred Boxers (here). Reading between the lines on that site, apparently the sixth-generation crosses are already “close enough to real boxers” to be successfully shown and accepted into a Boxer registry. (Breeding a normal-uric-acid-level gene into Dalmatians was not so successful; the American Dalmatian association threw a huge hissy-fit about registering two dogs that were 1/64 Pointer and their registrations were overturned.)

Like Floater, I heard a lot of horror stories about the amount of vet visits due to broken and bloodied tails skyrocketing once docking was banned, and lots of breeders of traditionally docked breeds in Finland loudly announced they were leaving the business if the law went through. Strangely enough, we seem to have no shortage of Dobermanns, Schnauzers, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels even today. I’m still waiting for my dog to injure her tail and she’s 11 now.

I didn’t mean that Pembroke corgis were bred for the bobtail and Cardigans were not. I meant that some Pembrokes have been bred for the bobtail. Most Pems still are docked by the breeder. It’s the few Pem breeders that are trying for the natural bob I was referring to.

(Another theory, almost certainly BS, is that the tails were docked because the farmers were taxed on their livestock based on the number of tails. Instead of a “head tax.” So the crafty Welshmen figured to have fewer tails to pay taxes on.) :rolleyes:

Or the change to a docked tail came later, after the breed was mostly set. Also, animal cruelty wasn’t a big concern in a time when most of these dogs were created, so tail-docking was no big deal.

IIRC the stub-tail gene is a birth defect similar to Spina Bifida in humans. I know that Manx cats have lots of odd problems that come with stub tails.

Actually, for some breeds, there was a very large increase in tail injuries requiring amputations, including multiple amputations due to re-injury. There was actually a study done, although I’m not clear on how rigorous the conditions were. However, having known quite a few whip-tailed dogs that ended up with amputations due to tail injury, I’m inclined to believe that it can be a problem. Whether it’s a sufficient problem to merit docking is a question, but without a good study, it can’t be answered either direction.

The other valid case that I know of is for some heavy-coated sheepdogs, if they are actually working sheepdogs, who can end up with fly-strike just like the sheep. (They dock sheep’s tails for the same reason.) I don’t know of any study at all done on that issue, though.

Personally, I feel ear-cropping is much worse than tail-docking. It’s purely cosmetic and much harder on the dog.

I also don’t understand why it’s OK to continue to breed dogs that can’t breath, can’t give birth, and have all the other congenital problems that we’ve bred into them - but there ya go.

We had a dog when I was young (presumed to be a Lab-Vizsla mix) who wagged his tail against the furniture so hard that it bled, and then splattered blood all over the walls at tail-height. And while all this was happening, he remained happy enough that he kept on wagging, so obviously it wasn’t particularly painful. It’s hard to see how it would have been worse to dock him than to leave him intact, in a case like that.

IANAdog breeder, but I am a vet, and I’ve never docked puppy tails. Tail docking has only been banned in Scotland for three years, but for many years before the ban, most vets didn’t dock puppies. I’m pleased to say that so far the universe has not imploded. I’m not treating any more tail injuries than I used to, i.e. very few. Tail amputations due to injuries are only slightly more common than leg amputations, and I probably see more tail injuries in cats than dogs. The Gamekeepers’ Association actually phoned us yesterday for an informal survey on tail injuries, and it seems they’re hearing similar stories from most vets.

Occasionally, we’ll be presented with a pup with a broken tail at a couple of months old - “Look, you’ll HAVE to dock it now!” It’s impossible to prove whether the owner or breeder have broken the tail deliberately, but it’s funny how these fractures are always at docking level, and they only seem to happen in Rotties, Staffies and Bullmastiffs :dubious:

On the other hand, extreme breeding and ridiculous breed standards probably cause more suffering than tail docking did.

No argument there. But

Bullmastiffs? They docked them before? Or just idiot owners?

[nonprofessional view] Because some people who were in charge of dog shows, clubs, and exhibits somehow decided that little alien-looking brachycephalic prognathic dogs were cute, better, and deserved preferential reproductive success despite being unable to reproduce successfully without aid. [/nonprofessional view]

If potential tail injuries were the sole reason for docking then Labradors and Goldens would be docked, talk about destructive tails!

Docking is usually done when the pups are about 3 days old, the dewclaws are removed at the same time. They are not anesthetized due to their young age. IME they cry a little when it’s cut and then they settle down again. Usually they close it with one suture and/or tissue glue. It doesn’t appear to be any more painful to them than a pinch or getting stepped on by their mom. The biggest problem with these is that momma dog decides the tail needs to be licked on and sometimes they can get the wound opened up and then it doesn’t heal well. Dewclaws are removed because working breeds can get these snagged on brush and ripped and I think the dewclaw removal at this age is a good idea because it’s a tiny little wound that usually heals quickly and is a lot easier than removing them later. I have mixed feelings on the tail docking, I think that it can be useful for some breeds to have docked tails and not be a completely aesthetic thing so I am not as opposed to it as I am to ear cropping.

I haven’t worked for a vet that has done ear cropping for a very long time so maybe they are done differently these days but there’s not a whole lot that can be done to modernize it and make it better except maybe using a laser to cut, but you still have a cut ear and still need to do all the follow up. Ear cropping is usually done about 12 weeks of age but less than 16 weeks. You cut off part of the ear, there is a long edge of cut tissue as opposed to the small tail dock. The puppy is older and more active and must be confined to wearing an Elizabethan collar and ear bandages or a special contraption to get the ears to stand for a couple weeks. They can easily get infected, sometimes they never stand even if the owner and dog does everything right and gets the bandages changed on the proper schedule. I think most of these breeds that have cropped ears look better with natural ears, IMO ear cropping is strictly cosmetic and unnecessary.

But anyway, your question about why don’t they just breed for short tails has sort of been answered. It’s not as easy as it sounds plus if you crop all the pups at 3 days of age, you don’t know which ones had shorter tails to begin with to use for potentially breeding for short tails.

I’m not aware of Bullmastiffs ever being docked, but there are some weird people out there. A friend of mine had a Bullmastiff that came from the breeder with a broken tail, and several of its litter mates had identical injuries. Another friend has a rescue Bullmastiff (ex-guard dog for a drug dealer) with the same injury. A lot of people think docked dogs look “harder”, particularly bully breeds.

Wile E said:

I think the point is to not dock any pups, then breed them when they grow up.

There are solid reasons that cropping and docking are in all the breed standards they are in. That doesn’t mean that the reasons make perfect sense, apply to these modern times when most dogs of all breeds are kept mostly as pets or to show and breed rather than used as performance/work animals, or apply to all other dogs with similar traits.

Naturally short tails aren’t bred into docked breeds because: the people who manage the breed are happy with the state of the breed as is and there is lots of debate before any such changes are okayed; it takes fricking forever; and to do so you have to disrupt your gene pool by breeding in this trait and attempting to spread it through the whole population, along with a bunch of other undesirable traits that will have to be bred out. In some breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd, they’re kind of at a halfway point - some dogs are born with a ‘natural dock’, some with a longer one, and some with full tails - the last two options get docked.

Labs have exceptionally thick and strong ‘otter’ tails which are about as impervious as a tail gets, despite the way they slam them around. Golden Retrivers have thicker tails than most gundogs, also covered by very thick feathering.

Ask any vet/vet tech. Active dogs with thinner tails unprotected by very heavy fur, that are carried straight or high (unlike, say, most sight hounds, who tuck their tails) as they run, play, and hunt - have a much higher rate of tail injuries than other breeds. Most dogs with this type of tail, commonly or previously docked, are gun, terrier, or herding dogs who were bred to spend their days hunting in brush or being kicked at/trampled by angry cows or sheep. It was a practical solution to multiple, painful, hard-to-heal injuries. These days, most of these dogs, docked or not, aren’t used for working or even spending much time off leash, so these injuries are more rare. But injuries are still a problem you don’t see as often in breeds with sturdier tails, or thin tails carried over the back/tucked under.

Dogs which are docked more for cosmetic reasons are the ones used historically for fighting, bull baiting, and guarding purposes. They benefited from a tougher look and fewer ‘handles’ that bleed profusely.

Correction: giving birth naturally is riskier than the average for French Bulldogs (not only because they have wide heads and short airways, but because uterine problems are very common in the breed, leading to stalled/inefficient labors which kill a lot of puppies). In order to have the most living, healthy, valuable purebred puppies, elective section is now the norm. If it wasn’t an option any longer the breed wouldn’t die out.

Word to your second point. :slight_smile:

It is my understanding that, at least in the case of Dobies and Rotties, that the tails were docked so they specifically not wag them (because they’re not there, natch), which would allow them to estabish friendly contact with other dogs. No hand, no handshake.

They do. The Boston Terrier has no tail but did at one time. It was bred out.

Yeh well, you really don’t want to get me started on the kennel clubs and show breeders. That will just get ugly.