Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Australian Shepherds And Tails

by Brooke Jordan
(Paso Robles California)


Traditionally, breeders of Australian Shepherds have docked the tails of infant puppies for a variety of reasons established largely by society. Breeders should take into consideration the reasons behind tail docking, the benefits of a tail, and the modern dog before deciding whether this trend is indeed the best choice for their puppies. Almost 30 countries have already banned any procedures resulting in docking of tails, declaws and the cropping of ears. The US continues to blindly follow an ignorant tradition.

Because the genetic patterns for Aussie's tails vary in length and structure, breed standards established in the USA describe a "typical" Australian Shepherd as having  a tail of 4 inches or shorter. In consequence to breed standards, when a puppy is born with a long tail, the tail is "docked" (removed, cut short, amputated) shortly after birth in order to maintain conformity throughout the breed.

What many people don't know, is that puppies born with a naturally docked/bobbed tail (Short tail or nub) carry a deforming gene if combined/bred with another dog whom was also genetically a natural bob. The result of two parents with natural bobs can result in hip and limb deformities. Therefore breed standards are supporting an inbred mutation.

Tail docking is believed to have originated from the Romans.  They believed the muscles in the dog's tail were the cause of Rabies. This belief has obviously been proven a myth, yet tail docking continues.

In 1970, tax laws on dogs were created to aide funding of the French War. Working dogs were exempt, and to signify their status the tails of working dogs were removed. These taxes are no longer in place, and yet tail docking continues.

The herding industry claims the practice of tail docking is followed to avoid injury. Herding is risky, however its clear that the whole dog is at risk, not only their tail. Should pain be inflicted now by removing the tail, in order to avoid a possible painful injury in the future? Herders may argue that the tails collect burrs and foxtails, which can later cause infection and removing the tail reduces the risk. A good grooming will achieve the same results, and doesn't involve amputation of an appendage. One can not claim that herding dogs shouldn't have tails when the number one herding dog is the Border Collie (which have tails), yet Aussie tail docking continues.

Some report that the procedure is painless, therefore the tradition is carried out specifically to demonstrate personal freedom.  It is something the government does not yet control. Amputation is indeed not painless; there is pain during the process as well as after (depending on which method is used), even if the puppies nerves are not yet functioning at 100%.

If society is depraved enough to do something simply because they can,then they are begging the government to regulate. The government has not yet banned it in the US, so tail docking continues.

Dog's tails are designed with great purpose. They express their emotions with their tails, and communicate to other K-9s. A tail is a dog's rudder while swimming, and warmth when curled up at night. Their tails aide them in jumping, running, and balance. Depriving a dog from their God given tail hinders them in multiple areas...like amputating the humans big toe to prevent it from being stubbed in the future,. The purpose of the tail is obvious, and still tail docking continues.

The dog's role in society has significantly changed over time. They have gone from "just the dog" chained up outside, to an having an imperative role in work force and family. It's  no longer only dogs living to serve people; there are now millions of people that dedicate their lives to rescuing dogs. There are laws put in place to protect these creatures from abuse and neglect. Participation with the use of dogs for fighting today is a felony.

Some dogs are referred to as somebody's "Grand-dogs". Dogs work with the police force. They are key members of search and rescue teams. Dogs lead the blind. They are now partners working side by side with the human race.

We have advanced medical treatments for our dogs such as insulin, surgical procedures, seizure medications. Vaccines for dogs were unheard of when docking of tails was acceptable. There are pounds to maintain the safety of un-wanted and lost dogs. Dog food has become organic. Dog grooming is now a profession. Halloween costumes for dogs are normal. These animals are no long "just dogs".  Almost everything about them has evolved, and yet tail docking continues.

The intent of this message is to open the minds of breeders. I support all breeders choices on this subject as long as their choice is a result of their personal reasoning, and not society's. As humans we are capable of choice, but choosing to follow a tradition with no accountability is unacceptable. These dogs are mine. My dogs, my choice, my tails.

Yours Truly,
Brooke Jordan

Comments for Australian Shepherds And Tails

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Austrians with tails
by: Anonymous

I have an Aussie puppy with a full tail I got her from Robins Australian shepherds in Coldwater Ontario this past summer

Sharon Beiggs
by: Anonymous

Thank you Brooke Jordan, for such an excellent article. I was blessed last year with my first Aussie, Charlie Rae. He has a most beautiful tail he is a red Aussie and many people remark on how beautiful it is. I am so glad that his prior owner did not dock his tail. I met a few Aussie owners at the park and they show them at dog shows. They tell me that you can not show your Aussie unless its tail is cut off.

Standard Aussie Breeder with a tail
by: Anonymous Montana Standard Aussie Breeder

Dear Anonymous looking for a Standard Aussie with a tail. We give the choice to our waiting list families, that meet our standards for an Aussie home, of keeping the tail. The downside is they must pick their pup before they are 3 days old, at the longest. In the 18 + years we've been breeding Standard Australian Shepherds we've only had a couple that wanted their Aussie with a tail. I would also like to add we have our Standard Aussies in almost every US State, and some in Canada as well.

Where can I find an Aussie with tail?
by: Anonymous

Does Anyone know a breeder that breeds standard Aussies with tails? I will not stop looking until I've found at Least one. Please help me out!

How do we determine if tail's genetic or AMPUTATED?
by: Gypsy19129

A RN who's cared for thousands of amputees over the yrs. I could always find a remnant of an incision, regardless of how well the limb healed.
With my Aussie Shep. I've looked with magnification > 20x & can't find evidence of any "cutting"--surgical scar.
Does anyone know how we who've adopted ASPCA Aussies can determine if our dogs have been subjected to this "Dark Ages" procedure?
Tail docking & ear cropping is done by either imbecile who don't have a clue about Anatomy/Physiology nor NATURE'S COURSE OF UTILITY.
Anyone who argues Pro-docking, is for the dog's benefit or health, is under some weird misconception of safety.
Those who discussed the dog tail as BALANCE & AGILITY, especially with herding, are RIGHT ON THE MONEY!
Tail Docking & Ear Cropping is physiologically cruel & useless!

Tail docking is EXTREMELY painful. Just step on pups' tails by accident!
by: Gypsy19129

Any person, medical degree in Vet medicine or not, can never honestly nor scientifically say/prove, tail docking is "PAINLESS"!
Painless really? Just accidentally step on any puppy's tail; the scream will give you enough evidence that it IS INCREDIBLY PAINFUL!
While I won't get into a religious or cultural argument, as a graduate RN working in an Neonatal Newborn unit, tail docking reminds me of the very distinct, high pitched screams heard when newborn males were Circumcised. At least male Circumcision has a cultural & religious history. I'm not of the belief that removing the male foreskin helps maintain improved cleanliness. In fact, the foreskin has a function to protect the most highly vascular, highly neural sensitive part of the male penis!
The connection here is the dog's tail is similar in vascularitiy & sensory pain neurons as ANY distal appendage.
Therefore, Tail Docking causes young puppies incredible pain!
Anyone who has watched an appendage lopped off can attest to the unusual blood curdling cries a dog screams out when just their toenail is accidentally cut let alone when a thick appendage like a tail is totally AMPUTATED without Lidocaine or any form of neurogenic nerve sensation abatement.

Any breeder, ANYONE IN FACT, who practices tail docking or ear cropping is nothing more than a sadist HITLERESQUE criminal!

One faulty opinion
by: Anonymous

Oh the usual drivel of bleeding hearts.

A few days of puppy pain are hardly a big deal. Altering their reproductive organs cause more pain and we do that. So get over it and stop being so stupid.

Auzzi's tales don't tuck like border collie's. For a pet? Sure leave the tail. But for a working dog as they are breed to be? Lets give them the best chance.

And none of our docked Auzzies have ever had balance issues. That's just bull crap.

Tails
by: Aussie Ollie

I breed Aussies and Aussie Border crosses. I do have the tails docked and dews clipped. Two of my girls have their tails, 2 girls are docked, and my male is docked. I prefer the docked tail, but do hate having it done of course. In 3 years of breeding, I have only had one request for a natural tail.
Although a tail may act as a rudder, my docked dogs are very well balanced and incredibly athletic. They are also able to show emotion by wiggling their bobbed tail and their whole butts...which they do with a long tail also. And it's not just tails that dogs use to show us emotion and mood...some are very expressive with their eyes, and especially their ears...you can totally read a dog by their ears.
It's a legit debate, and I can see both sides...but right now, the preference is for the docked tail...

Choices are made
by: Anonymous Breeder

Great article with one side of the argument, or should I say one opinion. I am an Aussie breeder and have been breeding Aussies for 17 years. We've had naturally bobbed/docked tail pups, docked the tails of the pups and left tails intact as well. The mention of a breeder requiring the pup being chosen before 3 days to have the tail left intact as being a ridiculous request. We maintain a waiting list and only breed well researched, DNA verified parentage lines of Standard working lines. No show lines and never never never merle to merle. Our litters are chosen and deposits paid from the day they are whelped to 2 weeks old. Our lines are proven and personality is something that develops throughout the dogs lives, with early development being the responsibility of the breeder,(A caring, educated and responsible breeder) and passed on to the person or persons adopting the pup. If you choose to wait until the puppy can prove to you it's personality and bond to you...that again is your choice. The breeder needs to make the decision to dock or not within the first few days of the pups life. Like or understand it or not, in my experience of breeding Aussies, an Aussie pup with a tail would likely not get adopted by someone wanting a working Aussie. I've had only 2 requests in 17 years of breeding for an Aussie pup with a tail. We track our pups for as long as the owner(s) will keep in contact. We still have Aussies from our first litters still living. Never a single report of hip dysplasia, epilepsy. All that have passed were either natural or accidental deaths. We have an agreement with each adopting family that for any reason they can't or decide not to keep the dog that they bring them back to us. In 17 years we've had 3 and none were the fault of the dog. We re-home each and they are reported to be the best dogs they've ever had. We've considered requiring the people that adopt our Aussies take an IQ test and require them to be smarter than the pup. Bottom line is that an Aussie pup with, or without a tail, is a personal choice each person or family has to make when searching for that perfect Aussie. I have families that want full tails and families that insist on them being docked. I would also like to mention I interview the prospective person(s) before I make the choice to let them adopt my pups. Many don't make it to the waiting list for whatever reason I choose. Do all the readers here realize some of the same countries that outlawed tail docking also outlawed dogs being spayed or neutered? The veterinaries in those countries are very busy treating damaged or broken tails and wounds from dog fights. Well maybe not but another example of governments taking your personal choices away, one at a time. If you feel you need the government to dictate everything you can or cannot do, maybe it's time to move to one of those wonderful caring & compassionate countries. As far as I am aware, it is still your choice!!!

My two Aussies: 1 natural short tail/1 docked thank God
by: JennieShadow

Why do I say this:
My first Aussie has a naturally short tail and was donated to my trainer with his brother for the reason that it is dangerous to breed the short tail gene in case the other breeding dog's records do not clearly record any naturally short tailed dogs which causes the severely data aging hip and back consequences listed so eloquently in that very first post.

My second Aussie is from a sheep and cattle herding breeder and from a recent incident I can very clearly see why it is so very important to have their tails docked. I was told long ago that 3-4 Aussies would take the sheep out for 3-5 days and they would often come back with terribly chewed up, mutilated tails. I was laughed at by a border collie breeder of 20 years who said, "We send the border collies out the same way, and we've never had any trouble!"

This 4 yr old, my dear Mosie, recently had a sore on his foot just below what I would call his wrist (being unaware of the exact name for that part). We treated it and treated it under a dr's care, but he couldn't leave it alone. Finally, after it had gone on too long with him digging into his skin almost to the bone, we put a veterinarian cone collar on him and kept it on for 3 weeks while the medicine and Benadryl helped it to heal finally. If this had been his tail we would have had to amputate it as an adult because it would have stuck out far beyond any cone could cover, which would have been much crueler than a preventative early docking.

I need to add that watching my dear pup suffer with this irritating pain and chewing was devastating to me and all who know him, and the hair has yet to grow back.

Finally, Mosie is my Service Dog, and he was unable to work all this time. However, imagine a group of herding dogs with Mosie's same irritation and determination to remove it being down that long one at a time for weeks and months and then not only losing all that time herding while suffering terribly and recovering painfully but also losing the ability to grow fur to cover those parts they need covered to safely do their jobs. And how many of their tails would have to be docked as adults and then more pain and recovery.... And healthy sheep and cow and duck herders out of business. These dogs from the ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) are still herders.
I am so grateful my very caring and responsible breeder protected Mosie from further unnecessary suffering by docking his tail at birth. It was a tiny burr he could not get out.

beautiful tails!
by: Anonymous

my boy has the most beautiful long tail that seems to act as a rudder when he's flying after his frisbee!!

Interesting
by: Jeanne

That was interesting that you linked naturally bob tails to a genetic defect. The only Aussie I have had with a natural bob tail was from a fatal white litter. Of my other three Aussies i have had over the years two were docked and one was naturally long. What a tail! Very beautiful and she would hold it like a flag in the breeze. The next Aussie I get will have a tail if I have a say in it. Love my Aussies and the tail is a wonderful thing!

Expressiveness
by: Anonymous

I have no idea if my Aussie has a naturally bobbed tail or if there was no tail at all, though my vet thinks it's just naturally like that. I also have a Great Pyrenees with a huge tail and I haven't noticed any difference in the expressiveness of my dogs. Her little nub goes up and her ears go forward when she's interested, her whole rear end wiggles when she's excited and happy - it's not the same "language" as my Pyr speaks, but she's absolutely clear on all her moods. It took me a bit to get used to, but I think there's only missed communication if you're expecting a dog with no tail to communicate the same way as a dog with a tail. It's different, but not worse! As far as docked tails go, my dogs are pets and competitors in sports and companions for activities - I actually like that it's less to have to keep free of mats, but I wouldn't dock deliberately. Most of my dogs tend to be rescues though, so a decision to dock as a baby is usually made long before I get a dog.

Working Dogs Need Their Tails Cut.
by: Anonymous

The tails of working dogs were/are removed for that reason: they WORK. IF they have livestock step on their tale they CAN easily get into situations where they are killed or maimed. We have 3 Aussies (really Basque as they originate here as CAN be seen in photos or paintings hundreds of years old!), on a sheep ranch in the Basque Country...incredible, thinking, devoted dogs.

Dew claws
by: Anonymous

I believe in removing dew claws. They are too easy to get stuck in a fence or somewhere where they can be ripped off, which I'm sure is much more painful than having them removed at a young age. And I like my dogs with docked tails. It's the way the breed is supposed to be. If you don't like it get a different type of dog...

tails
by: Gayle-Big Run Aussies

As a breeder, I will no longer be docking tails after 20 years of soul searching and observation for many of the reasons cited by Brooke.
I also feel that other dogs misread tailess dogs. My sweet girl has been attacked so many times, because other dogs see her as being frightened with a tail tuck. Sera is a sweet therapy dog and has been attacked while on the job.
We also compete in agility and tails act as rudders in performance and some of the top Aussies in agility have tails.
I do not judge others for their decision to dock. It is just not for me.

A tale of two tails.
by: Morpheous

I have one of each, one natural one docked. It doesn't slow either of them down athletically it seems, and they express themselves very well regardless of the missing appendage. Nicknamed "Wiggles" and '"Lil Wiggs" they shake their rear ends furiously to let us know they are happy to be with us. I am against mutilation in general, unless its really for the well being of the animal, for serious herders producing working dogs, this may be the case. Love my Aussies.

God's handiwork
by: Lori

Thank you for eloquently expressing what many believe. Our family loves Aussies, but we hate the amputation that most breeders insist upon. Aussies have poor balance because of their lack of a tail. It is sickening and depressing to see. This is why we instead chose English Shepherds. Dogs tell us so much with their tails. Cropping ears and docking tails are cruel practices that serve only the whim of the breeder. I contend that anyone wishing to cut off parts of animals should first volunteer for his own ear-cropping and limb-amputation. That would put an immediate end to the practice.

born with a tail
by: Devery

I own a aussie with a docked tail that I know should be there to help support his balance and joy or disappointment. I really wanted the breeder to leave his tail but he would not hear of such nonsense. Born with a tail should die with a tail.

docking
by: Pen Pearce

My Aussie has a naturally bobbed tail. When we first got him it was strange to us and we really wanted one with a tail but there we no naturally tailed pups.
We really like him not having a tail now. He has a very short tail and he is certainly able to wag it and does so with great enthusiasm. He lacks nothing from not having a tail.
HOWEVER I am against docking full stop. It is not necessary.
We also had a Border Collie who was solo proud of his tail.
So, naturally bobbed is okay but NOT docking. I think docking is now illegal in Australia thank goodness.
Pen Pearce

A tail of two puppies.
by: C. Martin

I believe in the natural look, if god wanted to look different he would have made that way. I have had two Aussies and they both had the most beautiful tails. I wouldn't have changed that for anything. It seemed to balance them and never interfered with anything did. Whether it was herding or play frisbee. I say leave them natural.

mine has no tail
by: MrJohn

My aussie rescue came with no tail though she can express emotion with her jiggling butt. I asked when I got her if it was docked or natural and the humane society did not know and I just hoped it was natural but now I'm not so sure. She is spayed so no worry about inbreeding.
I do oppose chopping dogs up to look like something they aren't naturally.
One funny thing is my wife, after having Sadie for a year or more, said to me with alarm that Sadie has a growth on her rear. How she missed it for that long, I don't know.

Tails and Stumps
by: Anonymous

Couldn't agree with you more!!
When I asked why they docked tails I was told so that the cows or sheep did not step on their tails. I was told I could have an aussie with a tail if I chose a dog with in the first day or two. Which is ridiculous to me. How can you bond that quickly with an animal so young? You don't know the personality yet. I hate that they do that to the dogs. I love my aussie, but we lack so much in our relationship because she doesn't have her tail. She can not tell me how she feels or express herself as you put it. I feel as you do. It needs to be changed! Its a stupid and useless act.

Aussie Tail
by: Kathy

Thank you for an excellent letter, Brooke.

My rescued, puppy mill breeder Aussie has a beautiful, full tail. Yes, it grows foot long hair that can tangle and pick up debris, but brushing and the occasional trim takes care of that nicely.

I hope your message makes others reconsider docking. It seems to exist for traditional purposes only.

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