What is Tail Docking?
There are over fifty breeds of dog, which have had their tails docked, since the inception of the breed. The original reason for docking some breeds is well documented, for some, the reasons have been lost over the fullness of time. The vast majority of breeders and prospective puppy purchasers continue to want these breeds docked for a variety of reasons. Many reasons are given for the different breeds and range from the need to protect certain breeds from tail damage, for hygiene reasons, or to protect breed standards.
Tails are normally docked at 2 to 5 days of age without anaesthetic being used. When carried out correctly, the procedure causes no more than momentary discomfort since the neonate puppy does not have a fully developed nervous system. When the pup is placed back with its littermates, it quickly falls asleep or starts feeding from mum again. This is in contrast to a puppy in pain, who would exhibit continuous crying, restlessness, crawl around in pointless circles and fail to suckle.
The older the animal, the larger the tail, and therefore the more traumatic the procedure becomes. If the puppy is more than 5 days old, the procedure should only be performed under anaesthesia, preferably not before 8 weeks of age. Many undocked adult animals undergo the tail docking procedure out of necessity when their tail has been traumatised.
How is docking carried out ?
There are two methods of docking. The majority of breeders used the technique known as "banding", in which a ligature, normally an orthodontic band, was placed over the end of the puppies tail at 24-96 hours old. This effectively cuts off the blood supply to the end of the tail, which comes away within 3 days.
Most vets used to cut the tail with surgical scissors but in the UK, are now more likely to use the banding method too
More detailed information can be found under the Case for Docking
What are dewclaws?
Dewclaws are like thumbs. They are the first digit on a dog, and, unlike digits 2,3,4 and 5, are not used for walking. They are located a short distance up the leg on the inside surface. They are usually removed at the same time the tail is docked, at 2 to 5 days of age. At this age, the bones that make up the toes are tiny and soft so that snipping them off is easy. If the dewclaws are not removed at 2-5 days of age, like the tail dock, one should wait until the pup is old enough to anaesthetise safely.
The removal of dew claws is still legal in the UK, even AFTER the implementation of the new Animal Welfare Acts in 2007
Removing dewclaws from an adult animal is much more difficult than snipping them off of a days old puppy. Recovery time is also longer and many adult animals will bother the incision excessively because it is so easy to reach. This usually necessitates the placement of an Elizabethan collar, a funnel shaped plastic device that surrounds the animal's head, so that it cannot lick or chew its sutures out. Dewclaws serve no purpose to the dog. They are easily snagged on objects and often traumatised.