Tail Docking

I think tails are great and are excellent for showing a dogs emotion. However, my overall preference is a docked tail. I fell in love with the Rottweiler breed and its docked tail and I think it gives the Rottweiler a clean and distinct look. It is the traditional look that I am used to. I personally think the docked tail suits that classic Rottweiler look, even if the reason for docking the tail is far gone. This is simply my personal preference. This does not mean that I am against natural tails.

Many people claim a natural tail improves the Rottweilers overall balance. I can tell you this; the Rottweiler has always been a working breed. Rottweilers have been able to perform services since the breed was created. Over the past twenty five plus years, I have owned many Rottweilers with docked tails I can honestly say that keeping a tail does not improve overall balance. I have noticed no difference at all when it comes to overall daily life, running, working, or providing services. I have to say my beautiful Rottweilers could run and jump extremely well, and they could communicate fantastically with other canines. This is a myth that was created to help convince anti-docking campaigners. Docking has been done for hundreds of years. Why don’t they use their voice to stamp out puppy mills & abusive breeders instead. Let’s fight the real battle and leave the good ones alone!

People can debate the cruelty factors of docking tails forever. There is tons of literature out there that is used to persuade the reader to believe one way or another. I have read articles that said cropping a Rottweilers tail is painless because they do not have any nerves in their tails the first day or two after birth. Other articles will say the complete opposite. What I do know is when a Rottweiler puppies tail is clipped surgically by a veterinarian using either surgical scissors or a scalpel blade, yes, he or she does holler. A good mother does lick the area regularly, keeping the wound clean as a result, the docked tails heal very quickly. From my experience, I have learned that tail docking is not 100% painless. However, it tells me that the earlier a tail is docked, the less pain the puppy encounters. Puppies tails should be docked within the first 72 hours of birth. Tail banding, not clipping, as just like lambs and calves if done correctly, does not result in significant pain and suffering.

Tail banding is undertaken by an accredited tail bander under the approved NAWAC fully audited and Dogs NZ scheme. It is not tail clipping. NZ accredited banders carry out banding only if they are a traditionally tail shortened breed.

Carried out correctly, puppy tail banding is relatively pain free and is minimally distressing to the pup. At that age the skin is soft and pliable, the underlying soft tissues and sensory nerve fibres are immature and the vertebrae are little more than cartilage. Contrary to the emotive but ill-informed pronouncements of the anti-docking campaigners, there is no sound evidence to suggest that this procedure causes pups any more than a few moments of discomfort as the band is tied. Once the blood supply is cut off the separated appendage quickly becomes numb, gradually drying out as it undergoes avascular necrosis. There is no risk of bleeding – tail banded puppies suffer no blood loss whatsoever. The normal cleaning action of the dam stimulates final healing until the dry scab comes away about week later.

Now banding a tail of a puppy to perform a tail docking is not performed by Vets because, as they inform me, it is too painful for them and only done to satisfy the owner! Really…They do not even murmur through the whole process. It is no more painful than placing a rubber band on your finger. Yet they promote to neuter/spay your dog, which is very painful for days that the dog needs pain relief medication.

The law banning all forms of docking was passed in Germany in 1999. Now in 2018, the majority of countries are following this. I do believe all forms of docking will eventually be banned across the globe, including New Zealand. I can learn to accept the Rottweiler with a tail, tails do not affect a Rottweilers beautiful personality. A Rottweiler is just as intelligent, affectionate, loyal, courageous, regal, majestic and gorgeous with his tail. I simply love the Rottweiler breed, tail or no tail, and hope you can too. Although it might catch you off guard at first, you will come accustomed to viewing the Rottweilers with their tails intact.

Origin of Docked Rottweilers
Although several theories surround the origin of docked tails in Rottweilers, most of these only stem from misinterpretations and misconceptions about this powerful breed of dogs.

Rotties have been an integral part of human life since the early days of the Roman Empire when they were commonly used as working dogs to herd cattle. They were primarily used to safeguard cattle from robbers and wild animals. Consequently, the dogs grew up mainly in pastures, which exposed them to mud, debris and waste left behind by the livestock. Often, the encrusted debris weighed down their tails. This left the Rotties prone to infections and injuries as cattle and other livestock trod on their tails.

It became a common habit to dock the tails of the Rotties as a preventive measure against injuries and infections, especially in the absence of adequate veterinary care in those days. The docked tails of the Rotties were also considered to be advantageous since farmers could avoid a ‘tail tax’, which was a method of counting livestock by counting the number of tails.

Rotties have also been used as police dogs by the military during World War I. This has led people to misconstrue that tail docking came into practice to give the breed a fiercer appearance that suited its role of a watchdog. However, this explanation has now been proved wrong and it has been established that the Rottweiler was originally a working dog.

Why Dock
The docking of dogs tails is a practice which has been carried out in over 50 breeds for centuries in order to avoid tail damage, for hygiene and other reasons. However in recent years Tail Docking become an emotive issue for some who don’t agree.

Dog breeders, owners and some veterinary surgeons believe that if docking ceased, dogs would suffer. It is a perfectly humane procedure when properly carried out, and one, which prevents far more distress than it causes. It is, like neutering, simply a practical animal management technique which should remain available to dog breeders and owners.

A number of breeds hunt game through heavy vegetation and thick brambles, where their fast tail action can easily lead to torn and bleeding tails which are painful and extremely difficult to treat. Docking the end of the tail eliminates the risk of injury. Terriers are docked for the same reason. In addition, terriers which are bred to hunt below ground, have their tails docked to a length which is more practical when working in a confined space. Other non-working breeds which have an enthusiastic tail action, are also liable to damage their tails, even in the home.

Long haired, thick coated breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier and Old English Sheepdog are docked to avoid the hair around the base of the tail becoming fouled by faeces. Even with constant grooming and washing, such fouling is unpleasant. If allowed to get out of hand, it can lead to severe problems of hygiene, or even fly-strike and subsequent infestation by maggots. Hygiene problems can be greatly reduced or eliminated altogether by docking

The Animal Welfare (Dogs) Code of Welfare 2010
New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999
7.11.3 Tail Docking
Voluntary tail docking, as opposed to tail docking performed to manage existing injury or disease, is performed in order to ensure that dogs meet breed standards, or because it is believed that it prevents damage from occurring to the tails of working dogs in particular situations, or to reduce soiling around the anus and tail. Tail docking of dogs is restricted or prohibited in several countries, including England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Australia, Israel, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway.

Tails may be docked surgically by a veterinarian for therapeutic reasons, or by means of an elastic ligature or band that constricts blood supply (see Appendix II: Interpretation and definitions ‘tail band (tail banding)’ and ‘tail docking’) in accordance with the minimum standard below.

Tail docking is a painful procedure when performed on puppies older than four days of age. The method of removal may also influence the pain experienced. Veterinarians can provide advice on whether tail docking is needed for particular dogs.

Minimum Standard No. 17 – Tail Docking
(a) Tails may only be shortened or removed by using a tail band

(i) in puppies that are less than four days old in which the eyes have not started to open; and

(ii) by a person who possesses the appropriate knowledge, training and competency necessary to do so effectively, and who is acting under a documented quality assurance scheme that assures compliance with this minimum standard; and

(iii) the remaining length of the tail must be sufficient to avoid compromising health and welfare when the dog is mature.

(b) Tails that need to be shortened or removed to manage existing injury or disease, must only be shortened or removed by a veterinarian using appropriate pain relief.

Recommended Best Practice
(a) Tail docking should not be performed at all unless it is required for treatment of an existing injury or disease.

(b) Injury of the tail can lead to serious complications and any injury to the tail, as with other injury, should be assessed by a veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment.

General Information
Tail injury in many breeds has traditionally been prevented by tail docking according to breed standards and practical requirements. Tails can be injured in the home and while dogs are working.

Tail injury can be painful and debilitating and will not necessarily resolve itself. Care needs to be taken to ensure that damage to the tail is minimised and that any injury or damage is treated appropriately.

Hygiene around the tail and anus has traditionally been managed by tail docking in some breeds. Careful attention to hygiene prevents risks to animal welfare arising from soiling in dogs with tails, particularly those with long hair.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has a policy that dogs should not be tail-docked for nontherapeutic reasons. This is on the grounds that surgical alteration to the natural state should only be conducted where it is in the best interests of the animal or has some management function.

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