Poodle Tails Docked or Natural?

Poodle Tails Docked or Natural?

Poodle tail docking is a controversial topic among breeders, dog owners, and animal activists. The pros and cons are abundant. However, it is a topic, breeders have the deciding factor on when planning to breed poodles.

poodle tail docked vs undocked
poodle tail docked vs undocked

A Poodle’s tail is most often docked in order to prevent injury or to attain a certain cosmetic look. AKC breed standards require poodles to be docked in order to participate in any sanctioned contest. While procedural complications are rare, the AVMA opposes tail docking in poodles unless medically necessary.

The following will tell you everything you need to know about tail docking. From the reasons why breeders choose to dock poodle’s tails to the full detailed procedure.

Origin of Poodle Tail Docking

  • The custom of docking dogs’ tails is very old. There are reports referring as far back as the ancient times in which Romans docked their dogs’ tails in order to prevent them from contracting rabies. 
  • Around the 17th century, dogs in England were taxed if they were kept as “pets” or companion dogs. Working animals and farm dogs however were not subjected to the tax. Many working class dog owners and farmers started to dock their dogs’ tails in order to not be taxed for them.
  • Even though nowadays many breed registries claim that their dogs (primarily hunting dogs) need to have docked tails in order to prevent injuries, this was less common in the past.
  • In fact, it was seen as a sign of wealth if dogs did not have their tails docked (meaning that their owners could afford to pay the “companion dog tax”). Only dogs with unusually long tails or previous tail injuries had them amputated for medical reasons.
  •  The AKC (American Kennel Club) was formed in 1884.
  • They established the so-called “breed standard” for all dog breeds registered with them, including notes on the desired tail appearance. Some dogs, particularly many working dog breeds, were required to have docked tails by this breed standard. All Poodles (Standard, Miniature and Toy Poodle) fall under this rule.
  • In the European Union tail docking has been banned since 1998. All Poodles coming from Europe have long, natural tails.
poodle tail natural
poodle tail natural

Why Do Poodles Get Their Tails Docked?

  • The reasons for tail docking are purely cosmetic. There is no physical benefit for the dog in having a docked tail. The AKC does not permit Poodles with natural tails to be shown, so owners of show dogs dock their dogs’ tails in order to be able to participate in dog shows.
  • At this point many Poodles get their tails docked simply because “it has always been done this way”. It is important to evaluate if there is really any point in docking the Poodle’s tail – especially for pet dogs there is no reason to do it.

Docked Tail In Pet & Sports Dogs

  • If you want to keep your Poodle as a companion animal or you do dog sports with him, consider picking a dog with a natural tail. For dog sports such as agility or dock diving it is actually an advantage if your dog has his tail – he will use it like a rudder for keeping balance, jumping and making tight turns. Below is a picture of a Poodle skillfully using his tail to run across a narrow dogwalk.
  • If you pick a type of Poodle that will not be a show dog, such as the Parti Poodle or a mix like the Bernedoodle, there is also no reason to not leave the tail intact!
poodle tail docked too short
poodle tail docked too short

The Correct Length to Dock Your Poodles’ Tail

The correct length to dock a poodle’s tail depends on the type of poodle you own. This list below gives you approximate tail lengths in inches when docking your poodle’s tail.

Poodle Size Correct Tail Length (AKC guidelines)
Toy Poodle Leave ½ to ⅔ of length (about ½ inch)
Miniature Poodle Leave ½ to ⅔ of length (about 1 ⅛ inches)
Standard Poodle Leave ½ to ⅔ of length (about 1 ½ inches)

If you plan to have your poodle participate in conformation shows, make sure to check out the AKC’s guidelines. The AKC (American Kennel Club) has specific grooming and tail docking requirements.

Are Poodles Born With Tails?

  • Yes, Poodles give birth to puppies with long, natural tails. In litters where docking is performed, it happens at 1-2 weeks of age. The procedure should preferably be done by a veterinarian to ensure a sanitary process. Owners who attempt to dock their puppies’ tails at home can put the pups at risk for infection and long-term complications.
  • Regardless of your Poodle’s color and size, consider leaving a natural tail on him.

What Is The Tail Docking Procedure?

Docking is a procedure in which portions of an animal’s tail is removed. Poodles, like other breeds of dogs, have naturally long tails which are then cut to produce a smaller tail.

There are two ways to conduct the poodle’s tail docking procedure:

The Banding Technique

Banding is very controversial and is not recommended. A special type of rubber band is tightly wrapped around the desired length of the dog’s tail. This will cut the blood flow to supply to the end of the tail. The tail will then fall off in a few days due to a lack of blood flow.

Cutting the Tail

  • This procedure is recommended if you are considering docking your poodle’s tail. The procedure is conducted with surgical scissors or a scalpel and is done quickly.
  • Something to take into consideration is no anesthesia or analgesia (a pain reliever) used when breeders dock the tails of the 3 to 5-day old poodle puppies.
poodle with long tail
poodle with long tail

How Do You Care For A Natural Tail In Poodles?

  • If you have a Poodle or Poodle cross with a natural tail, you will need to apply the same grooming regimen to their tail as to the rest of their body.
  • Poodles’ hair grows long and it will mat and tangle if not shampooed and brushed regularly. A Poodle with a well-maintained natural tail looks beautiful – but so do the many different cuts that groomers can give him.
  • You need to keep in mind that the tail tends to mat easily and will get dirty quickly, so pay extra attention to it when you are brushing your Poodle.
toy poodle tail docked
toy poodle tail docked

Controversy Surrounding Tail Docking

Tail docking is a controversial topic among breeders, dog owners, and anyone who stands up for animal rights.

Both sides on the tail docking spectrum have very strong opinions on the pain caused to poodles and other dogs while going through the tail docking procedure as well as the need to dock or keep the tail length.

Many individuals believe tail docking is needed when poodles are out hunting with their owners. Some people believe docking their poodle’s tails would prevent their dog from injuring itself while:

  • Hunting
  • Running
  • Swimming

Other individuals, on the opposite end of the spectrum, believe long tails help their poodles hunt, and their long tail work as a rudder in the water when they swim to retrieve animals. 

Out of all the different breeds of dogs, poodles tend to be the most aware of where their tail is at all times. Poodles will lower their tail going up steep areas or when they are concerned about their surroundings and will raise their tail when they are feeling confident in their environment.

Is It Cruel to Dock Your Poodle’s Tail?

The topic of tail docking gets more controversial when it comes to the pain the puppies endure during the tail docking procedure.

Some breeders and dog owners say the procedure is not painful since it is being done when the puppy is just a few days old. Other breeders and dog owners say the procedure is very painful to the puppies.

Is the Procedure Painful?

  • Even if the puppies are a few days old, they will still experience some level of pain. At 3 to 5 days old, poodles have a fully functioning nervous system and will be able to feel when their tail is cut off, whether they make a noise or not.
  • When you are docking a puppies’ tail, you are cutting through muscles, tendons, around seven pairs of highly sensitive nerves, and rupturing bones and cartilage connections.
  • During the healing process, the puppies will have inflammation at the end of the docked tail until it is fully healed. The level of pain is hard to determine because each puppy has a different level of pain tolerance and reaction to the pain.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes the clipping of ears and tail docking if it is only for the use of keeping a certain cosmetic look for the dog. Tail docking is painful.
  • Keep in mind if the procedure goes wrong, the poodle or any type of dog can lead to long-term nervous system issues. You may be cutting some of the supracaudal scent glands, which help in olfactory signaling.
  • Some poodles and other breeds will often have a side effect of chewing on their docked tail after the procedure is done. This is known as Neuropathic pain (also known as phantom pain or phantom limb pain) where there is an injury in the nerves either in the peripheral or central nervous system.

Thoughts on Making the Decision to Dock

If you plan to have your dog’s tail docked make sure you research all your possible questions and keep in mind what was discussed above. Tail docking is not a requirement, but more of a cosmetic preference among dog owners and breeders.

The practice of tail docking dates back to old conventions that do not have a use or application anymore. Unless you are planning on showing your dog in AKC shows which require a docked tail, you can pick a Poodle with a natural tail.

Make sure to pay attention to grooming your dog’s tail! It can mat easily.

If you are trying out dog sports or your Poodle is an active companion dog, he will benefit from having a tail for staying balanced and turning tightly.

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