Poodle Tail Docking: Everything You Need to Know

Categorized as Poodle FAQs, Poodle Breed Information, Poodle Puppy

Poodle tail docking is a procedure in which the tail of a poodle or another breed is cut short. The most common breeds that undergo this procedure include Poodles, Doberman Pinschers, Australian Shepherds, and Basset Hounds.

The practice of tail docking has its origins in hunting. Some animal advocacy groups are opposed to tail docking for ethical reasons, but many veterinarians view it as a safe and beneficial procedure when done by an experienced practitioner early in the dog’s life.

Dogs like poodles with long fur or hair may have their tails docked to prevent matting or staining of their coats. The poodle is one such breed that requires regular grooming and clipping due to its hair type.

In this article, I will be covering everything you need to learn about poodle tail docking. If you are a pet owner, or even just considering getting one, it is crucial to be aware of the facts and understand the reasons for this procedure.

Poodle Tail Docking What it is and should you avoid it

Do Poodles Really Need Their Tail?

Before I discuss what tail docking is, let’s first talk about what a dog’s tail is used for in general.

A tail is primarily used as a means of communication through wagging. When a dog wags its tail, it’s sending a message to whatever or whoever is nearby. The rate at which the tail is moving communicates how strongly the dog feels about what it is experiencing.

Poodle Tail Docking: Everything You Need to Know 1
Closeup of a toy poodle’s tail in a park

If you look at a dog with its tail up, it’s generally doing so to get your attention because it’s feeling happy and positive. On the other hand, if the tail is tucked between its legs, it’s communicating that it is feeling highly agitated.

An anxious poodle will also tuck its tail between its legs when encountering an unfamiliar situation. If the dog has done something wrong, you may notice the dog holding its tail low as a way of expressing remorse or shame

Dogs don’t communicate with words. In many regards, the tail is a dog’s “voice.”

Okay, so now that we know that a poodle’s tail helps them communicate better, let me now tell you what poodle tail docking is.

What is Poodle Tail Docking?

Tail docking in poodles is exactly what it sounds like—the process of shortening the length of a poodle’s tail.

The procedure is completed by cutting the tail at one of its naturally occurring joints, and the result is not an amputated stump but a smaller set of vertebrae, muscles, and skin.

Poodle Tail Docking: Everything You Need to Know 2

Tail docking procedures are typically carried out on puppies who are less than three days old, and they’re performed without anesthesia.

Animal rights activists argue that cutting or crushing the tails of puppies without anesthesia under 3-5 days old shows a lack of respect for an animal’s right to natural development.

Are Poodle Tails Docked?

Yes, poodle tails are docked.

Poodles are born with a tail, but it was a common practice for the tail to be surgically removed (docked) within the first few days of life.

In many countries, docking has been banned for most breeds of dogs (including poodles) for ethical reasons due to its perceived cruelty and lack of functional purpose.

Poodle Tail Docking: Everything You Need to Know 3

However, in the United States, this procedure is still often performed on poodles.

Docking is an outdated practice that should not be continued in today’s time. The act of tail docking is considered cruel by a lot of people, but others consider it a necessity.

Why Do Poodles Have Their Tails Docked?

Tail docking is a controversial practice that has both proponents and opponents.

The history of docking a dog’s tail is a long and storied one, with many different reasons for doing so. In order to understand why people dock their dog’s tail, it is first important to understand the reasons why people started docking their dog’s tails and then compare if those reasons still stand in present times.

Many believe the practice started with the idea that cutting off the tail could help prevent rabies, which was an issue in medieval times. People have traditionally docked the tails of working dogs such as poodles because a tail can get injured during hunting, fighting, or other activities.

Poodle Tail Docking: Everything You Need to Know 4
A black poodle running through an obstacle course

However, early references tended to suggest that docking was appropriate only for dogs with long tails—those whose tails might be injured if not docked.

Docking tails emerged for many reasons, but primarily it was proposed to improve the appearance of certain breeds like poodles. The most consistent argument for docking is that it improves the dog’s hunting game; however, even in this case, owners mention that they want to enhance the dog’s beauty.

In the mid-1950s, the Kennel Clubs in the United States instituted rules for pedigree dog shows that required poodles to have their tails docked regardless of where or how the practice originated.

Veterinarians, who are educated and trained to treat animals, tend not to support cosmetic tail docking. The history of veterinary opposition to cosmetic tail docking is long dating all the way back to 1854.

Tail docking of some breeds of dog like poodles may be based on a belief that their non-working members face similar risks to working dogs, but more commonly it is to conform to a distinctive breed appearance or the breed standards put in place by Kennel Clubs.

Survey data show that only a small fraction of pet dogs experience tail injuries severe enough to warrant docking.

It has been reported that the incidence of tail injuries in dog populations is between 0.21% to 0.39% each year.

It is therefore my personal belief that tail docking of dogs, even when their breed has been developed to work or hunt, is a cosmetic procedure if it is not for medical reasons.

When Is a Poodle’s Tail Docked?

Your poodle will have his tail docked before he reaches the age of just 5 days. This is because it is relatively less painful at this age as the nervous system is not fully developed at this age.

But, what about older poodles? Can they not get their tails docked?

An adult poodle can get its tail docked, it is usually because the dog has had an injury or suffering from other medical reasons that call for the procedure. It is possible for a poodle to injure or develop health issues with its tail, such as tumors, that are out of your control. In order to prevent this from happening, you may have to have your poodle’s tail docked even as an adult.

Newly docked poodle puppies with their mother
Newly docked poodle puppies with their mother

The procedure cannot be done by just anyone; a licensed veterinarian must perform the procedure.

Also, take note that while it may seem like a minor procedure, complications could arise, so make sure you choose a capable and trustworthy veterinarian.

How is a Poodle’s Tail Docked?

There are a couple of methods that people use to dock a dog’s tail. The most common method is by using a pair of scissors to cut off a dog’s tail when they are about 3-5 days of age.  

A vet docking a poodle's tail
A vet docking a poodle’s tail

Another method that is considered to be more inhumane by people is what’s known as banding. Banding a poodle’s tail basically means that you tie a rubber band tightly so that it constricts the blood supply to the entire length of the tail.  The part that gets constricted of blood supply “dies off” and eventually falls off within 7 to 10 days.

Banding is a “bloodless” way of docking a dog’s tail. However, data is required to establish which of the two methods is less painful and safer for the puppy.

P.S. Some pet insurance companies won’t cover you if you wish to get your poodle docked. It’s important to check with them before getting your dog’s tail docked!

Poodle Tail Docking Length

A poodle’s tail is traditionally docked in a surgical procedure called “docking”. The breeder must hold the dog’s tail in a straight line such that it aligns with the dog’s body.

Generally speaking, vets often cut off from 1/4 to 1/3 of the end of the poodle’s tail.

Every poodle is different which it leaves it to the vet to determine the proper length to dock.

To meet the needs of different-sized poodles, individual guidelines are as follows:

Standard Poodle: Leave 1/2 to 2/3 of length (which comes to approximately ½ inch)
Miniature Poodle: Leave 1/2 to 2/3 of length (which comes to approximately 1 1/8 inches)
Toy Poodle: Leave ½ to 2/3 of length (which comes to approximately 1 ½ inches)

Here’s an over-the-shoulder look at a veterinarians’ note for docking a poodle’s tail.

Close up of a vets note on poodle tail docking
Close up of a vets note on poodle tail docking

Where Can I Get My Poodle’s Tail Docked?

I get asked this question a lot.

Especially, when there are so many videos on YouTube that teach people how they can dock their dog’s tail at home. But, I strongly advise against following those “tutorials”. If you must dock your poodle’s tail, please get it done by an experienced vet.

While it may seem like a minor procedure, complications could arise from this procedure, so it is important to choose a capable and trustworthy veterinarian to perform this task. 

For example, if the owner chooses an inexperienced veterinarian or one who does not have adequate experience in performing this type of operation, there may be complications such as infection at the site where the tail was cut off. 

In addition, there may also be bleeding during or after the procedure which could lead to other complications such as shock or even death if not treated immediately by medical professionals who are trained in emergency medical procedures.

How Much Does Docking a Poodle’s Tail Cost?

The cost of docking a poodle’s tail varies widely depending on the veterinarian, but it averages between $15 and $75 per puppy.

The price of any veterinarian visit can vary widely depending on many factors, including the method used, the cost of the veterinarian, and the availability of the clinic.

Tail docking an adult poodle is a complicated procedure that requires general anesthesia and proper medication to heal properly. Docking the tails of adult dogs is expected to be more expensive than docking the tails of puppies, and prices can vary widely.

The practice of tail docking for adult dogs is controversial and can be painful, potentially causing infection or even death if done improperly. It should be avoided completely and done only if it’s required for medical reasons.

Poodle Tail Docking After Care

Poodle tail docking is a controversial subject in the world of dog-owning, but few people know all the details.

But if your veterinarian recommends docking or you personally want your poodle puppy’s tail to be docked, here are some important tips that will help you and your dog through this process:

  • It is crucial for you to take care of your dog after surgery. After surgery, make sure you keep the dog in a clean, dry, and urine-free environment. The dog’s bedding needs to be kept clean and dry to help the tail make a fast recovery.
  • It is generally recommended that you remove the bandages within two to three days of the procedure or as your veterinarian recommends. The vet will use only small and safe scissors to snip the bandages, so as not to hurt the dog’s tail tip.
  • To ensure proper healing, the area of the incision must be checked regularly for redness, swelling, or discharge. Any of these signs could mean that your puppy’s tail is infected. Closely monitor your dog licking the spot, perhaps due to anxiety or stress, and avoid excessive grooming. Try to keep the area from becoming too wet or soiled.
  • Last but not least, schedule a visit to your veterinarian within 5 days of your dog’s surgery to make sure everything has gone smoothly and your puppy is on track to make a full recovery.

Poodle Tail Docking Problems

Poodles have tails, and they’re pretty important.

Tails are major communication tools for dogs, who rely on them to express their emotions and intentions. They can show fear, aggression, excitement—you name it! And since dogs are so expressive with their tails, docking them is a big deal.

Poodle Tail Docking: Everything You Need to Know 5
Close-up photo of a poodle docking tail surgery

It’s also painful: the procedure involves cutting off the tail with scissors or clippers and stitching the stump closed. This can cause infection or permanent nerve damage, which is why I don’t recommend it for any reason except medical necessity.

There has been some research on whether or not docking affects a dog’s ability to move or feel pain in its tail region (and therefore makes it more likely to bite). The evidence is inconclusive: some studies have found that dogs who had their tails docked may have underdeveloped pelvic musculature, while others found no correlation between these two factors at all.

In short: if you want a dog who will be able to express themselves clearly through their body language, don’t dock their tail!

Is Docking Your Poodle’s Tail Legal?

Now that you have a fair idea of what poodle tail docking is, you might be questioning Is this even legal?

If we’re talking about the legal status of Tail Docking in the United States then the answer to that question is Yes, it is legal in the United States.

Canada has no national law banning cosmetic surgery on domestic animals. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association opposes all cosmetic surgery, including tail docking and ear cropping. Several Canadian provinces have provincial legislation against these procedures.

Throughout the UK, ear cropping and tail docking are illegal unless performed by a veterinarian for medical reasons. This practice is referred to as mutilation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

In many countries of Europe, these practices are illegal. Romania and Bulgaria are no exceptions.

Tail docking is illegal in all states of Australia.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which campaigns against tail-docking and ear-cropping has been successful in the past in prosecuting a dog breeder for docking the tails of his puppies.

“Docking is an unnecessary procedure that causes animals unnecessary pain and distress,” said an inspector, who investigated the case on behalf of the RSPCA. “This sentence highlights how seriously the courts take this issue.”

In many countries, veterinarians and the general public support such bans and guidelines but breeders in favor of routine tail docking remain vocal.

Many countries have banned the practice of tail docking, as it is considered cruel and unnecessary.

This world map shows all the different regions in this world, along with their legal status of poodle tail docking.

LEGAL STATUS OF TAIL DOCKING AROUND THE GLOBE

This world map accurately shows all the different regions in this world, along with the legal status of poodle tail docking.

AKC on Poodle Tail Docking

Tail docking is a controversial practice that has both proponents and opponents.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes tail docking, stating that there is no scientific evidence to support the benefits of cosmetic alteration of the dog’s body.

However, some breeders will still dock their puppies’ tails for reasons ranging from aesthetics to perceived necessity.

The American Kennel Club, however, disagrees. When AVMA drafted their new policies on tail docking and ear cropping they were opposed strongly by the AKC.

The AKC believes that these procedures are necessary to protect the health of dogs and help them perform well in competitions. They also believe that they are a part of the breed’s heritage.

The AKC is an organization that focuses on breeding dogs for show purposes. They have strict rules about what dog breeds should look like, and they are against any changes to these rules.

Can a Poodle’s Docked Tail Grow Back?

Once a poodle’s tail is docked, it does not grow back. A dog’s tail is like an arm for humans—if an arm is cut off, it will not grow back. 

Docking a poodle’s tail is an irreversible procedure so a lot of thought should be put in before making the decision to get your puppy’s tail docked.

My Stance on Poodle Tail Docking

It may seem like an obvious choice, but I can tell you with certainty that tail docking is a divisive and controversial practice. While some might find it easier to maintain their poodle’s appearance by removing its tail, there is no real medical reason to do so.

Personally, I have chosen to leave my own poodle’s tail intact. When I adopted Alex at age of twelve weeks, she was completely unaltered: all four legs had full fur growth and her tail was all-natural. While it has grown longer than the original breeder would have preferred (the ideal length is four inches), I appreciate the warm yet elegant curve it creates from her body and how she uses it to express happiness when we play together in the park.

Also, as a dog owner who is extremely invested in my pet’s well-being and comfort, I want to avoid putting her through any unnecessary pain or stress—and docking her tail would be exactly that.

Many dog owners believe their dogs are their “private property”, and they should have the right to do whatever they want with them, be it ear cropping, dewclaw removal, docking, you name it.

Controversial take, but, I generally do not agree with their opinion. It’s a personal preference, but I do not feel obligated to follow it out of a commitment to maintaining breed standards.

In modern times, the argument that it’s important to prevent injuries while the dogs are working seems irrelevant in most cases.

Let me know what you think about docking a poodle’s tail. Do you think it makes sense or not?

What are your thoughts on poodle tail docking

Takeaways

If you’ve got a poodle or a dog of another breed with a docked tail, you may have already noticed that when they get excited, they tend to wiggle their hind end. This is because the tail provides balance and tells the dog’s brain where its body is in space. A docked tail makes it more difficult for them to coordinate themselves—and it’s also likely painful!

If you’re considering getting your pup’s tail docked, consider these pros and cons:

  • Tail docking your poodle can lead to lifelong neurological problems.
  • It can hamper their ability to communicate with other dogs.
  • Docking may not protect your dog from injuries such as lacerations, fractures, or dislocations.

That being said:

  • Tail docking can protect against serious infections like necrotizing fasciitis and pyoderma which are common in poodles who live on farms or ranches. However, more evidence and data is required to back this claim.

We would love to what your thoughts are on this controversial topic. So, do let us know in the comment section down below!

By Nancy Williams

Hi! My name is Nancy Williams, and I'm a poodle owner. I started PoodleGo because I was tired of not being able to find high-quality information about how to care for my poodle. I wanted to help others who were also frustrated with the lack of good poodle information on the internet. I spend every spare moment reading about poodles, talking to other poodle owners, and learning more about best practices for caring for my dog. I love seeing a healthy, well-groomed, happy poodle—and hope that my site will help you get there!

5 comments

  1. I’m totally for docking the tail. As humans, we get piercings and tattoos. As long as it’s done when the puppy is no more than 5 days old, I think it’s totally acceptable. Shame on you for making responsible pet owners feel guilty for going with the breed standard!!!

  2. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I came across this in my search for something concerning this.

  3. I purchased my baby a couple of days ago and I had no idea that her tail was docked. The breeder never told me. I was disappointed to say the least, because I would have liked to have made that choice to have her tail docked or not docked, especially since I paid the $2500 to purchase her. My first poodle! I would never consider putting a dog through that kind of pain. I tear up just considering what she endured. I am totally against docking, unless it is medically necessary.

    1. Traci, I can understand exactly what you’re going through right now. I was in a similar situation back when I got my poodle as well.

      Unfortunately, what’s done is done.

      Just make sure to give your puppy all the love and care you can give them.

      Thank you for voicing your opinion.

      People like you help provide a different perspective on poodle tail docking which is very much needed.

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