Do Australian Shepherds Have Tails? Bobbed Tail vs. Normal Tail

Australian Shepherd tail

Have you been spending time looking at delightful pictures of Aussies online and noticed something strange about their booties? Are you curious to know whether Australian Shepherds are naturally tailless?

So, do Australian Shepherds have tails? It depends on many factors. If you’re interested in finding out more, keep reading as I explain to you all you need to know about the Australian Shepherd’s tail with pictures included!

Are Australian Shepherds Born With a Tail?

Australian Shepherds do have tails. The AKC standard indicates that the Australian Shepherd tail is docked or naturally bobbed. Although they’re known as one of the dog breeds that are tailless, only one in five Aussies will have a naturally bobbed tail with lengths up to four inches.

It’s important to note that kennel clubs such as ASCA, AKC, and CKC, only recognize purebred Aussie with a tail length that does not exceed 4 inches and full-sized normal tail length usually goes beyond that.

Interestingly, 51% of Australian Shepherds born with bobbed tails were reported to have ‘very short’ or ‘absent’ tails. And a significant minority of Aussies with ‘very short’ tails can pass kennel clubs standards without necessarily having to dock it as most owners would do.

Tail or no tail? Australian Shepherds definitely have tails! The only question should be whether they’re visible or not.

Australian Shepherd With a Bobbed Tail vs. Australian Shepherd With a Normal Tail: What Do They Look Like?

Aussies with tails can vary between one with a bobbed tail and another with a normal full-length tail. Normally, they’re easily distinguishable by checking out the length of their tails.

Here are some pictures that can help you better visualize and differentiate the two:

Australian Shepherd With a Bobbed Tail

Red merle Australian Shepherd with a bobbed tail

Aussies with a bobbed tail can either be natural or manufactured. Rare Australian Shepherds born with this feature can have ‘absent’ tails that can be seen from the photo above.

Australian Shepherd with a bobbed tail_2
Photo from @rioaussie1 (IG)

For Aussies with natural bobtails, 47% of them are indicated to have tails that are quarter-length based on 2009-2010 ASHGI health survey data.

Additionally, keep in mind that it would be difficult to distinguish Australian Shepherds with a naturally bobbed tail from Aussies that have undergone a docking procedure because they look the same.

Australian Shepherd With a Normal Tail

Australian Shepherd with a normal tail

For Australian Shepherds with a normal tail, it’s fairly easy to distinguish them from Aussies with ‘very short’ natural bobbed tails.

Again, full-length normal tails usually exceed the kennel clubs’ traditional length standards of four inches. Prior to instituting docking bans, Aussies with normal tails traditionally undergo a docking procedure.

Standard-sized Aussies with full-length normal tails are usually matched with fur that’s equally as lengthy, so they might be difficult to take care of because of the increased risk for tail matting and tangling.

To have a better understanding of what it’s like to live with an Australian Shepherd with short and long tails, take a look at this video:

Short tail vs Long tail in an Aussie |Life With Aspen|

Australian Shepherd Genetics: What Creates the Natural Bobbed Tail?

Like the merle gene, an incomplete dominant gene has been found to cause bobtails in Australian Shepherds. To simply put, a naturally occurring mutation in the T Locus gene can result in a ‘short’ naturally bobbed tail in Aussies.

To further explain the genetics that creates their natural bobbed tail, here is a summary showing natural bobtail DNA testing for Australian Shepherds:

  • N/N: No natural bobtail variant. Most likely, this genotype will result in Aussies having a ‘normal’ length tail. It’s unlikely that they would transmit a natural bobtail variant to their offspring.
  • N/BT: 50% are expected to develop a natural bobtail. Aussies with this genotype can transmit 50% of the natural bobtail variant and 25% of the embryonic lethal genotype to their offspring.
  • BT/BT: An embryonic lethal genotype that carries two copies of dominant T-gene can lead to lethal deaths in Aussie puppies in the utero. It’s expected that such a genotype will lead to fetal death, so there’s no record of this that can be seen among live Aussies.

Note that the N represents Normal for No Natural Bobtail trait of a dominant T-gene while BT represents the Natural Bobtail trait of a recessive T-gene.

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd: Everything You Need to Know

The Controversy About Breeding Bobtailed Australian Shepherds

As mentioned in the summary earlier, having two copies of the dominant T-gene can result in fetal deaths in Australian Shepherds.

According to the Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Institute (ASHGI), the defects associated with bobtailed Australian Shepherds are very prevalent among the breed and it can’t simply be ignored by pet health organizations.

In fact, about 2% of Aussies born with natural bobtails developed NBT-related defects that are bad enough to require euthanasia.

Breeding bobtail Australian Shepherds can result in serious health defects such as spina bifida or other lower spinal cord defects.

Minor defects include kinked tails, which don’t pose much health risk but could be unsightly for Aussies to have. There is also a risk of small litters due to reabsorption of fetuses.

This controversy gives a strong reminder to breeders to never mate two Australian Shepherds with naturally bobbed tails as this will likely result in severe health-related issues or fetal death.

Bobtailed Australian Shepherd Health Issues

If you’re planning to own a bobtailed Aussie pup or already have one, it’s good that you’d be familiar with the possible health complications that can come with it.

Listed below are the common health issues typically linked to bobtailed Australian Shepherds:

  • Spina Bifida: A lower spinal defect in Aussies that can cause the vertebrae to fail from fully developing. This inherited congenital abnormality in the spine can lead to an incomplete vertebrae formation in the developing embryo. Depending on its severity, your Aussie can have a completely malformed and even exposed spinal cord.
  • Imperforate Anus: A type of atresia ani, this is also a congenital defect that’s common among puppies and kittens wherein their anal opening does not form fully. If not corrected, this could be fatal for the health of your Australian Shepherd.
  • Transitional Vertebrae: The lumbosacral region is the part where these congenitally malformed vertebrae occur most frequently. Although clinically insignificant, this can cause increased wear-and-tear in physically active Aussies who frequently engage in activities that require spinal flexibility.
  • Chronic Muscle Tension: Docking your Aussie’s tail to form a bobbed variety may cause long-term pain; the evidence, however, remains not to be conclusive enough.
  • Neuroma: Also, a docked tail can develop a nerve tumor which makes your dog snappy and may cause pain when their tails are being touched.

Australian Shepherd Tail Docking: Why Do Breeders Dock Aussie’s Tail?

Australian Shepherd puppy with a normal tail in winter

First, let’s define docking as the surgical removal of several portions of an animal’s tail. Traditionally, farmers and ranchers cut off the tails of their Australian Shepherds to make them pass as sheep-dogs and reduce tail injuries during herding or hunting.

However, as the kennel club was established in the mid-1880s, tail docking among Aussies has been done more often to meet this breed’s standard and for cosmetic purposes.

Here is a list of the common reasons why breeders dock Australian Puppies’ tails:

  • To meet Kennel Clubs standard of the breed which indicates that purebred Australian Shepherd tails should not exceed four inches.
  • Undocked tails can be too long and messy that it can easily get matted and tangled.
  • For Aussies who engage actively in outdoor activities like running or herding, docking can prevent or at least minimize the damage caused by wagging tail injuries.

Although tail docking has long been a practice for most Australian Shepherd enthusiasts and even accepted as the standard for kennel clubs for purebred Australian Shepherds, there have been rising oppositions to this practice recently.

For instance, the American Veterinary and Medical Association (AVMA) strongly opposes cosmetic tail docking because they believe that the practice is not medically indicated. Rather, it’s simply performing an unnecessary surgical procedure for appearance purposes.

It’s good that you check your country’s policies first before deciding to undergo a tail docking procedure because there are countries that have recently banned docking in their areas for cosmetic purposes.

Tail Docking Procedures: How and When Tail Docking Is Done on Australian Shepherds?

Earlier, we’ve covered that breeding Australian Shepherds to have naturally bobbed tails can pose a fatal health risk when two copies of the T-gene is transmitted to an offspring.

However, also remember that Australian Shepherd tail docking length should not exceed four inches lest it will be considered faulty by kennel club standards.

So, if you’re determined to meet this bobbed tail requirement, docking their tails would be a much safer approach than purposefully breeding them.

So, when is the perfect time to dock the tails of an Australian Shepherd?

Most Aussies would get their tails docked within three to five days of post-birth. But larger and older breeds can still get their tails docked through surgery. To further explain this, there are actually two methods of tail docking and these are:

  • Banding: The most recommended technique which uses an orthodontic band to effectively cut off the blood supply at the end of an Aussie’s tail, constricting its potential to grow.
  • Surgery: Most veterinarians and reputable breeders use this method to cut off tails using surgical scissors. Sutures are common for larger breeds and are necessary for adult dogs.

Before you choose to dock the tail of your Australian Shepherd puppy, gather in-depth knowledge and remember to always put the health of your Aussie pup over aesthetics.

Commonly Asked Questions

Australian Shepherd puppy with a normal tail

Is Tail Docking Painful to Australian Shepherd Puppies?

Tail docking procedures can cause temporary discomfort to Australian Shepherd puppies since their nervous systems are not quite fully developed yet.

While your puppy’s wound in the tail is healing, minor inflammations and damage to the tissues can cause them pain.

How Long Does It Take for an Aussie Puppy’s Docked Tail to Heal?

Discomfort can last for about two to four days for docking carried out among dogs within three to five days of age as it heals. Docked tails on older dogs can take longer to heal.

How Much Does It Cost to Dock an Aussie’s Tail?

When getting yourself your first Australian Shepherd, you must take into account all costs that are part of owning this adorable, hardworking pet.

Tail docking is generally cheap, ranging between $10 to $20 per puppy. But older dogs will cost you way more than this due to diagnostics testing and anesthesia fees and can quickly go up to $500.

How Much Does an Australian Shepherd Cost? (2023 Price Guide)

Can an Australian Shepherd Puppy Die From Tail Docking?

Most Australian Shepherd puppies that have undergone a tail docking procedure within seven days of age from post-birth will usually bleed only small amounts of blood.

But If not performed correctly, there’s a chance that your dog can severely bleed from this procedure, and risks of infection or other complications may lead to death if not treated immediately.

Final Thoughts

By now, it should be clear to you that Australian Shepherds do have tails and they can differ between a bobbed tail and a normal full-length tail.

Whether you choose to keep your dog’s full-length normal tail or manufacture its bobbed tail, keep in mind that there’s really not much of a difference between the two as they’re both beautiful in their own ways.

Also, Australian Shepherd tail docking can be a much safer way to achieve a bobbed tail instead of purposefully breeding them. However, this should not mean that you’re supposed to easily conform to trends and standards.

Your Australian Shepherd’s overall wellness and welfare should always be your priority over aesthetics. After all, Aussies are sweet-natured, loyal, and hardworking whether they have naturally bobbed tails or not.

1 comment

Amin Ouardi May 15, 2022 - 8:57 pm

Many Australian Shepherds are bobtailed dogs with no tails, while others do have tails. But despite popular belief, the Aussies without tails are not always docked.


Leave a Comment

You may also like