Dogs tails have been docked for hundreds of years. The practice likely originated in dog fighting, with the tails (and ears) removed to make a dog less easy to get a hold of. People even went so far as to think that dogs without tails had stronger backs, and were faster, than those without. The practice was so common in England that a tax was even imposed on working dogs with full and proper tails. By the time the tax was abolished in 1796 the practice was so common that it continued, and in some areas of the world it continues even today despite many reasons against it.
Tail docking in dogs has been banned in many countries, including India, Greece, France, and Australia. In other countries, such as England, it is restricted to certain breeds of working dog.
Many owners who have their dog's tail docked do so purely for cosmetic reasons, they like the traditional look of a dog breed. Some find the wagging tail a nuisance (it knocks things off tables), or claim that the dog could injure its tail. Other reasons for tail docking include the fact that the long tail of a working dog can become tangled with debris, apparently these people have not heard of trimming the longer tail hairs to prevent this. Of course, although illegal, fighting dogs also have their tails docked so other fighting dogs have less to grab onto.
Before we continue it should be noted that there are some breeds of dog that are born without tails.
photo source - this dog has had her tail docked and ears cut short.
Why is Tail Docking Cruel?
In some cases tail docking is done by non-professionals, the tail itself being removed from a young puppy with scissors. This is fairly easy to see when freshly done, and can lead to infection if the tail does not heal properly. Tail docking can also be done on very young puppies with a special rubber band like what is used to dock lamb's tails. It can also be done by a veterinarian using surgical scissors or a scalpel, when the pups are young and as such no anesthetic is removed. Yes they do yelp, and cry, they do feel pain.
If done when they are older the pup should be under anesthetic and properly stitched up.
If improperly docked, a too short tail, can put the dog at risk for health problems including prolapsed rectum.
Dogs with docked tails have a huge social disadvantage when meeting other dogs. Dogs normally use their tail to signal their emotions, not only does a wagging tail often indicate friendliness it spreads the dog's scent to other dogs in the area. Other dogs will view the tailless dog as though it has its tail clamped in a way that might signal defensiveness. Studies have shown that other dogs approach a tailless dog with more caution.
Dogs with docked tails might even grow up to become slightly more aggressive than those with tails due to their inability to relate to other dogs naturally and having been perceived by with distrust by other dogs.