Why Are Boxers Tails Docked? – Everything You Need to Know

Portrait of nice German Boxer dog with docked tail

Boxers are celebrity dogs. They are known for their iconic appearances and their multitudes of colors. But if there is anything controversial about this breed, it’s their docked tails. In the first place, why are Boxers’ tails docked?

Up until today, tail docking on Boxer dogs remains a hot topic in the canine community. Some say it is unethical, while others argue that it is something that has become a part of the breed itself. 

In this guide, I will discuss everything you need to know about Boxers with docked tails, including the history, pros and cons, and legalities of tail docking practices. 

What Is Tail Docking in Boxer Dogs?

Powerful male Boxer dog with docked tail and cropped ears stands on a green lawn

Tail docking in Boxers is a procedure that involves cutting off or amputating a portion of the dog’s tail. Tail docking or cropping is usually done while the Boxer is still a puppy. Nowadays, Boxer tails are docked mainly in adherence to the breed standard and to prevent potential tail injury. 

The docking of dogs’ tails has been a common practice for some dog breeds for a long time. In fact, this procedure has already become a part of the breed standard for some dogs, such as the Boxer dog.

Other dogs that commonly have docked tails include Australian Shepherds, Jack Russel Terriers, Rottweilers, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Australian Cattle Dogs. 

Unsurprisingly, many dog enthusiasts are against this practice and deem it unethical. They argue that tail docking negatively impacts the life of a dog, especially on how its body naturally functions.

Meanwhile, Boxer owners historically administer tail docking procedures believing that such practices prevent rabies. However, this assumption has already been long refuted.

Some dog breeds also have their tails docked because of the nature of their tasks as working dogs. The tails of herding dogs, for example, are docked to prevent them from getting stomped or stepped on by cattle when they herd. 

Why Do Boxer Tails Get Docked?

Originally, Boxer tails were docked because breeders and dog owners thought back then that such practice prevented their dogs from developing and spreading rabies. However, this baseless assumption has been long debunked.

Going back to 18th century England, a tax law was imposed on all dogs except for working dogs with docked tails. To avoid paying taxes, owners opted to dock the tails of their dogs.

The tails of working dogs like Boxers were also docked to prevent injuries while they were doing their tasks. Herding dogs’ tails are at risk of getting caught by the gate or stomped by the livestock they herd.

As Boxer dogs were also historically bred to hunt and hold down large wild animals such as bears, deer, and wild boars, a few reasons why they have docked tails have something to do with hunting.

People thought back then that cutting off a Boxer’s tail would improve the dog’s speed and make it more agile, which would be advantageous for hunting. 

However, it has been proven that the exact opposite of getting faster and more agile is what happens when the Boxers’ tails are docked off. 

Boxer owners also had their Boxers’ tails docked and ears cropped so wild animals won’t be able to hold on and bite them while they hunt.

As guard dogs, Boxers’ tails are also docked for the same reason, but this time to prevent intruders from grabbing on to them.

In the United States, most Boxer dogs are docked in adherence to the Boxer breed standard of the American Kennel Club (AKC)

The Boxer breed standard of the United Kennel Club (UKC) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) also require Boxers’ tails to be docked. 

Hence, a Boxer dog with an undocked tail will be severely penalized on a dog show. 

READ NEXT: Male vs. Female Boxer Dog: Which Is Better?

Are Boxers Born With Tails?

Boxer dog with natural tail in a spring meadow

Nowadays, it is rare to see a Boxer dog with an intact natural long tail. However, most Boxer dogs are actually born with tails. 

The tail of a Boxer puppy is intact at birth. The Boxers with short tails that you see nowadays have mostly undergone tail docking. 

However, with the recent introduction of the bobbed tail gene, some Boxers are born with naturally short tails or also known as bobbed tails. 

Typically, Boxer dogs that inherited the bobbed tail gene will have nearly absent tails or short tails that are about two inches long. 

Watch this video of Boxer puppies with intact and bobbed tails:


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Is It Legal to Dock a Boxer’s Tail?

Tail docking in Boxers and other breeds is considered to be a legal practice in most parts of the United States. There are only two states where this procedure is restricted: Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

Just for emphasis, tail docking is not banned in Maryland and Pennsylvania. It is only restricted, which means it is allowed so long as the requirements of the government are met.

In Maryland, the law requires that dog tail docking and other similar procedures such as dog ear cropping and declawing should only be done by a licensed veterinarian or a registered veterinary technician.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, owners are only allowed to dock the tails of their puppies while they are less than five days old. Puppies older than the stated age should only be docked by a licensed veterinarian.

Aside from the United States, dog tail docking is also legal in many countries such as Japan, France, India, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Peru, Philippines, and Taiwan. 

On the other hand, many countries have completely banned the practice, such as Australia, some Canadian provinces, Chile, Croatia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and Switzerland.

If you plan to have your Boxer dog’s tail docked, make sure to research tail docking regulations in your area and find out if it is legal. 

READ NEXT: Boxer Ear Cropping: Should You Crop Your Boxer’s Ears?

Why Is Boxer Tail Docking Controversial?

Docking Boxer tails remains controversial to date because some people, including veterinary professionals, argue that such a procedure is unnecessary and poses a danger to the dog’s health if done improperly.

People who oppose tail docking deem the practice senseless and unnecessary because it no longer serves a purpose for companion-type Boxers other than for cosmetic reasons. 

Since most Boxer dogs today are bought as companion pets, there is no longer the need for their tails to be cut as means of preventing them from suffering injuries while they herd. 

In addition, the supposed health benefits of tail docking, such as protection from rabies and faster and more agile bodily function, are baseless and unscientific. 

Many veterinary organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), firmly oppose cosmetic tail docking. 

They believe that having a dog’s tail amputated and ears cropped for cosmetics is unethical. This is why they encourage the American Kennel Club and other canine clubs to remove tail docking on dog breed standards.

Tail docking is also considered to be unethical and cruel. Anti-tail docking advocates contend that cutting off the tail of Boxers is a painful process that brings no significant advantage or benefit to dogs. 

Authorities also point out that docking a Boxer dog’s tail negatively impacts the dog’s ability to communicate. Canines use their tails to express emotions and communicate by moving their tails which is similar to body language.

Some dogs also use their tails for balancing and stabilizing their body while running or swimming. Hence, docking a Boxer’s tail might affect the dog’s performance and normal functions.

Because of these reasons, many countries around the world have already banned tail docking and ear cropping on dogs, while other countries have put heavy restrictions on such practices. 

Do Boxer Dogs Need Their Tails?

Boxer dog with tail docking done walks on leash

Just like with other dog breeds, Boxers are born with natural tails for various reasons. Aside from its aesthetic contributions, the tail affects a dog’s movement, balance, and canine communication.

Boxers use their tails to counterbalance while they are moving and performing tasks. Working dogs like Boxers use their tails to navigate when they run or swim by swinging them to one side of their body. 

Boxer dogs also use their tails to communicate as a form of body language. Tails are like human eyebrows. They aid dogs in expressing emotions such as happiness, excitement, fear, and anger. 

If a Boxer dog approaches you while wagging its tail softly, it means that it is happy to see you. An excited Boxer will also swiftly swing its tail. 

Meanwhile, Boxer dogs with their tails between their legs express fear or submission. They do this to mask the scent coming from their anus. Dominant dogs will set their tails high to release more scents from their anal glands. 

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Pros and Cons of Tail Docking in Boxer Dogs

The opinion of the canine community is divided when it comes to docking a dog’s natural tail. Some argue that it is cruel and unnecessary, while others say it is advantageous and beneficial. 

In this section, I listed down some of the pros and cons of docking a Boxer dog’s natural tail. Check them out and decide for yourself which side weighs more. 

Here are some of the pros of docking a Boxer dog’s natural tail:

  • Injury prevention. Boxers with docked tails are less likely to suffer from tail injury since their tails are cut short. Working dogs with long tails are at high risk of suffering from a condition called happy tail syndrome or splitting tail. Dogs suffering from this tail injury have deep wounds that are difficult to heal.
  • Breed conformation. A Boxer with tails docked is considered more desirable in the show ring since the Boxer breed standards of different kennel clubs specifically mention that Boxer dog tails should be docked. A Boxer with a long tail will surely get severely penalized on a dog show. 
  • Advantageous for working Boxer dogs. Tail docking is still deemed advantageous for Boxer dogs that are raised for herding. Cutting off the Boxer’s long tails will prevent them from getting their tails stomped by livestock they herd.

Here are some of the cons of docking a Boxer dog’s natural tail: 

  • Tail docking delimits the communication ability of Boxers. A Boxer with a docked tail may become less able to express its emotions. In general, Boxer dogs communicate emotions with their owners and other dogs through the use of their tails. 
  • Tail docking is a painful procedure. Contrary to popular belief, puppies actually feel pain when they undergo tail docking. This is according to a 1996 study. In addition, researchers also found out that tail docking can cause long-term pain to dogs.
  • Tail docking can lead to complications if done improperly. Tail docking is a procedure that involves cutting off tendons, skin, muscles, and bones. Hence, if it is not administered correctly and safely, complications such as infection and excessive bleeding could arise.

Tail docking is a permanent and irreversible procedure. Hence, you should carefully think about it before deciding to have your Boxer’s tail docked. 

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Boxer Tail Docking: How and When It Is Done?

Fawn Boxer wth docked tail stands on green lawn

Generally, a Boxer’s tail should be docked 3 to 5 days after birth. Many believe that puppies at this age don’t have similar pain perceptions as adult dogs since their nervous systems are still underdeveloped. 

For puppies older than five days old, anesthesia should be administered in cropping their tails.

A Boxer’s tail can be docked in two ways. The tail can be docked by cutting it off using a sharp object or by cutting the supply of blood using a rubber. 

Most veterinarians and Boxer breeders prefer using scalpels, surgical knives, and scissors to cut off the muscle, tendon, and cartilage of the tail. Tails docked through this method usually have cleaner cuts once healed. 

The second method of docking a Boxer’s tail is by cutting off the blood circulation in the tail using a rubber which is also known as banding. 

A rubber is tied tightly to the part of the tail that should be removed to cut off the blood supply and promote necrosis. The tip of the tail will automatically fall off once the process is done.

Nonetheless, there is a high risk of infection if this method is done improperly. More often than not, the tails of puppies docked through this method are also deformed.

The length of the tail that should be cut off varies from breed to breed. For Boxer dogs, the general rule is that ¼ inch of a puppy’s tail is equivalent to an inch for an adult dog. 

This means that if you want your Boxer to have 3 inches docked tail, you should leave ¾ inch when you dock the tail of your puppy. 

Health Concerns Associated With Tail Docking in Boxer Dogs

Tail docking also has negative impacts on the health of Boxer dogs and any dog for that matter. 

A Boxer with a docked tail may develop a condition called amputation neuroma or a nerve tumor. This is common for dogs that had undergone tail amputation because of tail injuries or had their tails cut for cosmetic reasons. 

A Boxer with a docked tail suffering from this condition experiences hypersensitivity and pain on the docked area. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) also assert that docking can cause life-long pain and trauma to dogs which could affect how they respond to pain.

Furthermore, puppies may also develop infections, tail deformity, and other health complications, especially if the docking procedure is done incorrectly.

AVMA also mentioned in a literature review on their website that most dogs that had their tails docked have a higher incidence of incontinence and may have less developed muscles around the pelvis. 

READ NEXT: Boxer Dog Lifespan: How Long Do Boxer Dogs Normally Live?

Frequently Asked Questions

German Boxer with docked tail in the park

Is Tail Docking Painful?

Tail docking is a painful procedure since it involves cutting off muscles, cartilages, and nerves. Thus, tail docking is done while the puppy’s nervous system is still developing, and anesthesia is required for older dogs. 

An article published by the American Kennel Club (AKC) states that tail docking should be done at a very young age or shortly after birth while the puppy’s nervous system is still developing so it will feel little to no pain. 

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) asserts that painful procedures such as tail docking, when done while the puppy’s nervous system is still developing, could cause negative long-term changes to how a dog responds to pain later in life. 

Is It Cruel to Dock a Boxer’s Tail?

Tail docking in Boxers and other dogs has left the canine community divided. 

Those who are against docking tails, especially cosmetic tail docking, argue that such a practice is cruel and unnecessary. 

Since docking tails offers no clear scientific and medical benefits, many pet enthusiasts want to put an end to tail docking procedures on dogs. 

Meanwhile, advocates emphasize the importance of tail docking in defining and preserving the characters of some dog breeds. 

Simply put, docking a Boxer’s tail may be cruel if it is done incorrectly or done for no other reason than cosmetics. Besides that, it is sometimes justifiable to dock a Boxer’s tail.

How Much Does Docking a Boxer Dog’s Tail Cost?

The cost of tail docking may vary depending on your location and the docking method. On average, you should expect to pay around $20 to $100 for puppy tail docking.

However, the cost could greatly increase if the dog is older since anesthesia will be required for the tail docking procedure. Typically, tail docking with anesthesia costs around $200 to $500. 

How Long Should a Boxer’s Tail Be Docked?

The general rule for Boxer tail docking is that a ¼ inch of a puppy’s tail left will end up being an inch of an adult dog’s tail. 

Since the desirable tail length for Boxer dogs in the United States is 3 to 4 inches, you should leave at least ¾ to 1 inch of length from your puppy’s tail when docking it. 

Final Thoughts: Should You Dock Your Boxer’s Tail?

Docking your Boxer’s tail is purely a personal choice. Always remember that docking is a permanent and irreversible procedure. Hence, you should carefully weigh down the pros and cons of tail docking.

Nonetheless, with or without tails, the Boxer dog proves to be a loyal and amazing guard dog and pet to have!

How about you? What do you think about tail docking? Would you have your Boxer dog’s tail docked or not? Tell us what you think in the comment section! We would love to hear your side. 

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