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Doberman Tail Docking: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Black and tan Doberman dog with cropped ears and a docked tail

Doberman Pinschers are regarded as highly athletic and the fifth-smartest breed. However, if there is one thing that has been a topic of discussion about this breed, it is the Doberman tail docking.

Bred initially as personal guards, Doberman tails are viewed as weak points that need to be docked. Yet, many believe this procedure is pointless and cruel.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about Doberman’s docked tail, including its history, how it’s done, its legality, and the potential significance and consequence of this procedure.

What Is Tail Docking in Dobermans?

Doberman dog with tail docked standing with yellow dandelions in spring

The majority of Dobermans undergo a tail docking process, which is the removal of part or all of the dog’s tail. It’s typically performed five to seven days after the birth of a Doberman Pinscher puppy to avoid complications.

The ultimate reason for this practice today is to maintain the breed’s standard appearance, particularly if a dog owner intends to participate in dog shows.

As a result, many individuals have the misconception that the natural state of Doberman Pinschers is with short tails and upright ears rather than curly, long tails and floppy ears.

Doberman tail docking began as a common practice to reduce the risk of serious injury and infection, allowing Dobermans to excel in their guard dog duties.

Furthermore, this practice is quite prevalent in the dog world. Some of the dog breeds that commonly have docked tails include the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Rottweiler, Miniature Schnauzer, and Brussels Griffon.

History of Tail Docking in Dobermans

Have you already encountered individual dogs of the same breed that vary in appearance, with some having tails and ears of different shapes and lengths?

If so, then it must be a Doberman Pinscher. 

In the late 1800s, Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector and pound keeper, developed the Doberman, which carries his name today, to serve as his security and working dog.

Dobermann decided to dock his dog’s tail due to the risks associated with his line of work. He assumed the tail was a weak spot that an attacker could use to control the dog.

In addition, there was also a demand for watchdogs at that time. They are used by the military and police enforcement to serve as the official watchdog and messenger during World War II.

Furthermore, other dog owners used them to protect livestock from predators and to hunt wild animals.

However, Dobermans have much thinner tails than other dog breeds and floppy ears that can be grabbed and torn during a fight with other dogs or even people, making them seriously injured.

Therefore, the tail of a Doberman dog is docked to make it perfectly suitable for tedious tasks and its safety.

Why Do People Dock Doberman’s Tail?

Doberman with tail docked lying outdoors on a cut green grass

Before tail docking in Dobermans became standard practice, ancient people already used this procedure to prevent rabies, ward off demons believed to be possessed by a dog’s tail, and distinguish working dogs from hunting dogs.

Ear cropping and tail docking are medical procedures that are only performed for health reasons, but over time, they have become customary for a variety of other reasons.

Here are some of the reasons why people dock Dobermans’ tails:

To avoid injuries

Doberman Pinschers are extremely playful and active due to their high energy levels, athleticism, and alertness.

Their hyperactive personality can lead them to serious accidents, such as running into hard objects, coming into contact with sharp corners, or getting into fights with other animals and getting your dog a broken tail.

Also, the Doberman breed always wants to be close to its owner, so they occasionally run into situations that may be bothersome to other people.

For instance, when its thin tail whips around quickly, it may slap someone in the face or push off and break things.

Given that Dobermans’ long tails are thinner and more prone to painful breaking, many owners will have their dogs’ tails docked as a preventive measure.

For cosmetic reasons

Due to its beauty and nobility, a Doberman is regarded as royalty of the canine world. Therefore, a Doberman with a tail docked and cropped ears for cosmetic reasons has become the norm for everyone.

If your Doberman does not have the classic looks, it will typically look more like a hound dog, a mixed breed, or other dog breeds. As a result, a natural Doberman with floppy ears and a long tail is uncommon in many countries.

To adhere to the breed standards

There are two major breed standards for Dobermans that have been the bases of breeders for years.

It outlines information about what the Doberman breed is supposed to look like, particularly for evaluation in dog circuit shows in determining which dogs will be the champions of the breed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard is primarily followed in the United States, where Doberman owners prefer to have their Doberman tails docked.

Meanwhile, in Asia and Europe, Dobermans must maintain their natural tails, according to the Federation Cynologique Internationale (AISBL) standard.

However, kennel clubs are now discouraging cosmetic alterations like cropped ears and docked tails and will disallow participation of Dobermans that had undergone such procedures in competitions.

For working dogs

The person who originally bred the Doberman had his dog’s tail docked from the beginning to make it more appropriate for its work.

Docking the tail will prevent an attacker from grabbing the dog’s tail and controlling it. Also, due to their reputation as fierce and devoted protectors, a docked tail makes them appear more dangerous.

To minimize discomfort

Tail docking on an older dog will be considered an amputation that requires a more complicated procedure and will cause pain and discomfort.

Hence, it is advised to dock newborn puppies because their nerve endings have not yet developed into tails. This way, they won’t feel any pain.

Here is a video explaining why tail docking in Dobermans is done:

Why Doberman Tail Is Cut (Explained)

Doberman Tail Docking Procedure

Portrait of a Doberman with docked tail in the park

In comparison to other dog breeds, undocked Dobermans have thin, dense, and curly tails, which make them stand out more. Nonetheless, it doesn’t stop some dog owners from docking their pets’ tails.

Typically, tail-docking procedures are carried out one to five days after the puppy is born. Tail docking, unlike ear cropping, does not require anesthesia. 

Therefore, having your Doberman docked later than seven days after it was born can be quite a painful experience.

Furthermore, there are two methods for performing tail docking: the banding method and the surgical method.

In the banding method, the Doberman’s tail is tightly banded using a rubber ligature or a small rubber band. Due to the restriction of blood flow, this could cause the tail to fall.

During a surgical procedure, a Doberman puppy’s tail is cut using a scalpel or surgical scissors. The wound is stitched or sealed with surgical glue to keep it closed and to heal faster.

Your pet will feel pain and lose some blood during the procedure, which is completely normal. Additionally, the stitches may irritate your dog, so watch out for any chewing around the tail.

Additionally, according to the AKC breed standard, a Doberman’s tail must be docked at approximately the second joint. When they reach adulthood, the remaining nub should be about two to three inches long.

Further, avoid performing tail docking by yourself without consulting an experienced veterinarian to minimize any unnecessary pain and complications your Doberman may experience. 

Is It Cruel to Dock a Doberman’s Tail?

Including dewclaw removal, the American Kennel Club recognizes ear cropping and docking tails as “integral to defining and preserving breed character and enhancing good health.”

In contrast, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has never supported ear cropping and tail docking in dogs. They have been requesting to have these surgical procedures taken out of the breed standard ever since.

They contend that there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the benefits of tail docking, even in guard dogs like Doberman Pinschers.

Many professionals claim that a puppy will not feel pain if its tail is docked after birth because the nerve endings in the tail have not yet developed.

However, it’s observed that dogs shriek and whimper during operations, which indicates that they are in pain.

They may also develop an illness as they age, which is referred to as neuroma. It’s a nerve tumor that may cause pain and irritability to your pet when its tail is touched.

A docked tail also takes longer to recover than tail injuries caused by minor accidents.

The Downside to Tail Docking in Dobermans

Young black and tan Doberman dog tail docking

Although many breeders are still in favor and committed to performing this practice, it is deemed unacceptable by the majority of veterinarians and the general public in several countries for different reasons.

Here are some of the downsides of tail docking in Dobermans:

Development of chronic pain and stress

It was originally believed that the incomplete growth of nerve endings in the tail would make tail docking painless, which is why no anesthesia is used.

However, this is not the case. Young Dobermans, on the other hand, have poor pain tolerance and will experience even more discomfort than older dogs.

It’s also asserted that a Doberman puppy can develop nerve tumors that heighten pain sensitivity. Moreover, its stress levels will rise because of the cortisol surge and increased heart rates during the procedure. 

Difficulty with locomotor balance control

A Doberman’s tail is connected to its spine, which is made up of vertebrae and other important tissues to achieve good stabilization.

Dogs require long tails to support the back muscles and control their balance when running, jumping, turning, and making certain movements.

However, it is now recognized that a docked tail has a negative impact on how your pet’s brain functions and that there may be some movement difficulties following the procedure.

So when compared to a Doberman with an intact tail, it will struggle more with balance and agility.

Socialization disadvantages

Wagging tails is a form of canine communication aside from barking, grunting, and groaning. Dogs use their tails to convey emotions like excitement, rage, or joy.

However, a Doberman dog with a docked or short tail will be restrained from communicating effectively with other dogs.

For instance, instead of wagging their tails, they will wriggle their butts as their alternative way of communicating, which may lead to misunderstanding.

Tail docking can also affect your dog’s ability to interact with people because it’s generally believed that observing the dog’s tail is an efficient way to understand it.

Post-operative health problems

Aside from the risks of infection and a long healing time, docking a Doberman’s tail may result in severe complications.

Studies show that a docked Doberman will lose some of its pelvic diaphragm muscles, leading to an increase in perineal hernias.

This will also cause your dog to have abnormal bowel movements and trouble defecating. Consult a veterinarian when your dog exhibits this to identify proper treatment.

Additionally, female Dobermans who have had their tails docked and spayed are more likely to experience urinary incontinence or loss of bladder control.

Complex surgical procedure

Unlike dewclaw removal, tail docking is more complicated because it involves amputating skin tissues, cartilage, nerves, and blood vessels. Moreover, veterinarians argue that using anesthesia will also risk the Doberman’s life.

Is It Legal to Dock Your Doberman’s Tail?

Young black and tan Doberman dog with cropped ears and a docked tail standing outdoor

Tail Docking in Dobermans is currently controversial, with many countries outright prohibiting them or limiting their use to medical purposes only.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has strongly condemned tail docking, claiming that it is abusive and impractical for a Doberman, whether it is a puppy or an adult dog.

It’s not only because of the health risks involved but also because of the method used to achieve the desired aesthetic for their dogs.

In Australia and some regions of Europe, tail docking is already banned. In Canada, it’s still permitted at the federal level, but it’s prohibited in most provinces.

Meanwhile, in the United States, it’s legal for anyone to perform tail docking at home without proper medical equipment or an anesthetic.

However, some states, like Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, already have imposed restrictions.

In Pennsylvania, they only permit a licensed vet to dock your dog’s tail after five days since birth. While In Maryland, it’s only permitted for medical reasons and can only be carried out on a dog between 5 and 12 weeks old.

Ethics of Tail Docking in Dobermans

Tail docking is generally viewed as unethical when it is done without anesthesia, more so when it is done solely for aesthetic reasons rather than to prevent future injuries.

Usually done for health reasons, tail docking is a routine procedure to protect working dogs from future injuries without anesthesia. However, it’s now more intended for cosmetic purposes than medical ones.

In the United Kingdom, veterinarians registered in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are the only ones authorized to practice veterinary medicine and surgeries.

The veterinary surgeons admitted that docking was not in the animals’ best interests and that, if it must be done, they have to ensure that the animals will benefit.

Given these facts, it is good practice to always ensure that the breeder or seller provides you with a certificate to verify whether a qualified veterinarian has docked your Doberman puppy.

How to Find Vets That Perform Tail Docking

Reputable and ethical breeders from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) can recommend credible tail docking veterinarians for your Doberman puppy.

You can be confident that these recommended veterinarians have the expertise because the DPCA is the only national Doberman member breed club recognized and sanctioned by the American Kennel Club.

Additionally, you can look for local veterinary clinics in your area that perform tail docking for dogs. Just be diligent in doing your research if they operate ethically to ensure your puppies are safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Black and tan Doberman dog with docked tail wearing a leather collar

Are Dobermans Born With Tails?

A Doberman is a dog breed that is naturally born with floppy ears and a thin, long, and curly tail. However, the majority of Dobermans have docked tails because they undergo tail docking surgeries right after birth.

How Much Does It Cost to Dock a Doberman’s Tail?

Tail docking of newborn Dobermans costs between $10 and $50 per puppy, while an adult Doberman requires a more complicated procedure. Adult Dobermans tail docking can cost as much as $525 to $815.

How Long Does It Take for a Docked Tail to Heal?

Once the sutures that closed the tail tissue had been absorbed by the skin, the docked tail would have already healed. Yet, if it is non-absorbable, it needs to be removed five to seven days later.

Moreover, a temporary bandage is used in adult dogs that can be taken off after two to three days.

Final Thoughts

Tail docking is still a controversial topic. Although it is a common practice, there is no concrete proof that it can benefit Dobermans, nor can it outweigh the potential harm it may cause.

Furthermore, there are also several arguments in favor of tail docking’s privileges. However, don’t be pressured by what many do, but consider how tail docking Doberman dogs affect their safety and well-being.

Now that you have everything you need to know about tail docking your Doberman, we would love to hear your comment on how comfortable you are with having this procedure done for your own pet.