What is tail docking?

The practice of removing or shortening a dog’s tail used to be commonplace, but it is now illegal in the UK, apart from a few limited exceptions. Why would you ever dock a dog’s tail, and what are the circumstances in which you can still do so under the law?

If your dog has a particularly waggy tail, it may get injured as it explores in hedges and woodland.

While tail docking isn’t the answer, pet insurance can help cover vet bills if your pup needs emergency medical treatment.

Docking dog’s tails in history
The sight of a dog with a wagging tail is a thing of joy to most dog lovers, but throughout history many dogs have had their tails removed. The reasoning behind the practice was varied.

There was an ancient (incorrect) belief, dating back to Roman times, that the tail tip and the tongue was involved in dogs contracting rabies, so tails and tongue tips were removed to prevent the disease.

In the 17th century a tax was imposed on pet dogs, kept as companions, as opposed to working dogs used in pursuits such as farming and hunting.

To avoid paying the tax, many dogs had their tails removed to indicate that they were working dogs and therefore not taxable.

There was also a belief that working dogs may injure their tails in the course of their duties, making removal a safer option, especially for breeds with long tails.

For many breeds, removal was also an aesthetic choice. For example, in the past, pedigree shows sometimes specified that dogs of particular breeds must have dock tails to qualify for entry.

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