Last Updated on 08/10/2021 by Veronica Jones
Many current and hopeful poodle owners wonder why all poodle tails do not look the same. Poodles can have long, medium or short tails. So, what does the poodle tail really look like, and what is tail docking all about? Here is a quick look at everything you need to know about poodle tails.
The Poodle Tail
The natural poodle tail is a long to medium tail. The tail can be straight, but it can also have a slight curl towards the end. If you see a poodle with a short tail, it was likely docked, which means part of the tail gets cut to make the tail shorter, and the ideal docked tail is about ½ – 1 ½ inches long.
The History Behind Tail Docking
Back in the day, people believed that it was good practice to dock a dog’s tail, particularly for hunting and working class dogs. People used to assume that a docked tail could avoid injuries whenever a dog would fight, bait, etc. They also believed that a docked tail was beneficial for speed, preventing rabies, strengthening their backs and such. However, there is not enough evidence to prove that these claims are true.
Hunting, herding and terrier dogs were common dogs that got their tail docked in the past. These dogs would commonly collect burrs and foxtails with their tails, which can be painful and cause an infection. Therefore, a shorter tail would prevent these issues, which is why many people used to dock working class dogs.
Surprisingly, poodles were originally bred as hunting dogs. They were bred to bring back birds like ducks to their owners. They likely got their tails docked because they thought it would make the poodle faster, but there is no proof for this claim. Moreover, they thought it could prevent injury, as the bird would not be able to grab the poodle’s tail.
Why Do People Cut Off Poodle Tails Today?
The main purpose of modern poodle tail docking is mostly for aesthetic purposes. It is very rare for a dog to need their tails docked. According to the American Kennel Club, tail docking is a part of their breed standard. Hence, competition show dogs of certain breeds may get their tails docked to suit that breed’s standard, including the poodle. These competition holders are very strict with their guidelines, and can decide to not let a dog join a competition if they do not fit the breed’s standards.
The Benefits of Poodle Tail Docking
The main benefit behind modern-day tail docking is for cosmetic purposes. Certain competitions follow the breed standard, and the breed standard for a poodle is a short tail. So, show dogs get their tails docked as newborns to fit into the breed’s standard. Some pet owners simply want dock tails to fit the aesthetic, even if they do not enter their dogs into competitions.
However, it is extremely rare for tail docking to be done to a dog for medical purposes. For instance, a veterinarian may recommend tail docking if the tail is severely infected. That way, the infection would not spread further into the dog’s body. If the dog’s tail is severely injured, then a veterinarian may dock it to prevent further pain and nerve damage.
Poodle tail docking can prevent injury, but in very rare circumstances. For example, dogs that work and go through bushes may get their tails injured because their tails wag. However, this is not a guarantee that it will prevent injury to the dog. Therefore, a veterinarian may still not recommend tail docking for working dogs.
The Cons of Tail Docking
There are welfare issues concerning poodle tail docking, which is why it is a controversial topic in the dog community. Tail docking advocates state that tail docking does not harm dogs. The advocates believe that since a puppy’s nervous system is not fully developed, they would not feel discomfort or pain. However, that is not true.
Puppies still feel pain, similar to how humans and adult dogs feel pain. Cutting a tail involves more than simply snipping it off. To dock a poodle tail means that a person will cut through tendons, muscles and skin. Moreover, it will also sever cartilage and bone connections. The puppies will feel pain during the procedure and during the stitching, especially if there are no painkillers or anesthesia being used during the procedure.
Tissue damage and inflammation can still make the wound painful during the puppy’s recovery period. They may not cry, but their tail area will likely feel tender and uncomfortable. Neuromas can form where the amputation was done, which is painful for dogs.
It is also important to note that the risk of infection increases after a procedure like this, which is dangerous for puppies. Tail docking is normally done when puppies are newborns, so they will have fairly weak immune systems. Puppies do not have as strong immune systems as older dogs, so the risk of a severe infection is much higher.
Tail docking can also affect how a dog communicates. Dogs communicate with people and other dogs by using their tails. For instance, they would wag their tail to show happiness or excitement, or they tuck their tail between their legs to show fear. So, it can be very difficult for daily interactions with people and other canines, especially if they are meeting them for the first time. It can make the dog hesitant to meeting strangers, which is not ideal.
Without this communication tool, they may get misunderstood by people and dogs. This lack of communication can lead to frustration in a dog. A dog that cannot express their feelings may show signs of aggression due to their frustration. Moreover, it can also be dangerous for the dog with the docked tail because other dogs will not know how to approach the docked dog.
Types of Tail Docking
There are two main ways to dock a poodle tail. The first one is to simply cut the poodle’s tail, which is the more common procedure. A veterinarian would typically use a scalpel or surgically scissors to make the cut, making it a clean and quick procedure. However, breeders that perform this may not use analgesia or anaesthesia when they dock young puppy tails.
The second technique is called the banding technique, and it is not ideal and it is controversial. This technique involves tightly wrapping a special rubber band to the desired tail length. The idea is that the blood flow will be cut off to the excess tail, causing it to fall off after a few days. However, this can be more dangerous and painful, which is why the cutting technique is preferred.
What Is the Ideal Length for a Docked Poodle’s Tail?
The ideal length for a poodle’s tail by the breed’s standard will depend on the poodle’s size. There are three poodle sizes, which are standard, miniature and toy. Standard and miniature poodle tails get docked until it is around 1 ½ inches long. A toy poodle gets their tail until it is about ½ inch long.
However, it would be best to check the exact tail docking requirements recommended by the American Kennel Club if you decide to dock your poodle’s tail. They have a specific set of rules to follow to enter their competitions.
What Age Is Poodle Tail Docking Done?
A poodle’s tail gets docked when they are very young. Usually, the tail can get docked when they are 3-5 days old. Puppies can completely heal from this process after a week.
When it is properly done, there are usually no scars or nerve damage. So, a poodle owner who did not know their poodle’s tail was docked may never even realize that the tail was cut. However, it is not ideal for older dogs to get this, as there can be more complications.
Some veterinarians may dock a poodle’s tail as a newborn, but other veterinarians may be against it. There are veterinarians who are against the procedure because they believe it is only for cosmetic purposes, so they may not perform it.
Why is Tail Docking Controversial?
It is a controversial topic amongst the dog community for a mixture of reasons. People who are against tail docking support animal rights. They believe that it is cruel to dock a dog’s tail because they still feel pain, and it is for cosmetic purposes. Moreover, many people who dock tails may not use anesthesia or pain killers, so people who support animal rights do not approve of tail docking.
As for those who are in support of tail docking, they believe that tail docking is a beneficial procedure for dogs. Some people still believe that it can make a dog stronger, faster and better. The others who support tail docking want to preserve the breed standard, so they may do other procedures like ear clipping.
Is Tail Docking Cruel?
Depending on what side of the dog community you stand on, tail docking can be cruel. Some breeders who are pro tail docking state that the puppies do not feel pain, which is why they dock their tails at a young age.
However, one study stated that puppies can feel pain when their tails get docked, even if they are newborns. The study watched 50 puppies’ behavior after the docking procedure, and they came from breeds that often get their tails docked. The study found that the puppies would cry during and after the procedure, and they would only stop while they were recovering.
Studies like the one stated above are examples of why others would think that tail docking is a cruel procedure. People who are against docking believe that there is no true benefit to doing this procedure to a puppy at a young age. So, anti-docking dog owners think this procedure is solely for aesthetics, so they do not see why it should be done at all.
Should You Dock Poodle Tails?
Unless your poodle is a show dog or enters competitions that follow the breed standards, you do not have to dock your poodle’s tail. There is rarely a medical reason to dock a dog’s tail, and it is often a rejected procedure by veterinarians. So, if you plan to keep your poodle in your home and not enter them in competitions, there is no need to dock a poodle’s tail.
To Sum Up
Docking a poodle’s tail is a common practice amongst breeders, particularly amongst show dogs. People used to think it could prevent disease and injury, but there is little evidence to show proof for these claims. However, it is not necessary, especially if you do not plan on entering your poodle into competitions.
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Looking for more info about caring for your poodle?
- Pet WebMD, ‘Ear Cropping and Tail Docking’, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/ear-cropping-and-tail-docking, Date Accessed – 26 June, 2021
- American Kennel Club Government Relations Department, ‘Ear Cropping,Tail Docking, Dewclaw Removal and Debarking’, https://akcgr.org/akc/cropdock?0, Date Accessed – 26 June, 2021
- Oxford Medical Education, ‘Types of analgesia’, https://www.oxfordmedicaleducation.com/palliative-care/types-of-analgesia/, Date Accessed – 26 June, 2021
- American Kennel Club, Poodle, https://images.akc.org/pdf/breeds/standards/Poodle.pdf, Date Accessed – 26 June, 2021
- Science Direct, ‘Behavioural observations of puppies undergoing tail docking’, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0168159196010623?via%3Dihub, Date Accessed – 26 June, 2021