Tail docking in dogs, also known as canine caudectomy, started over 2,000 years ago and was first created to protect hunting dogs, as it was thought that their tails made them easier to catch by predators. In England, this soon became a regular surgery starting in 1786. When working dogs had their tails docked, the owners received a tax break.
The most common reason to dock in recent history is to decrease injury risk to working dogs—dogs who hunt, herd, or otherwise work in the field. The reasoning behind it is these dogs have long, strong tails that get beat up and bloody in fieldwork or hunting,” Dr. Kangas explains. “Since certain breeds have a smooth, short coat, there is not a lot of protection on the tail.”
Many people don’t see a need for docking anymore, other than for controversial cosmetic purposes.
Dr. Kangas sees two primary reasons why docking is not as common as it used to be:
· Purebred dogs are not being used as traditional working dogs, but serve more as companion pets. “They are more like family members that don’t necessarily have the same lifestyle that would require docking,” Dr. Kangas explains.
· Changing views on minimizing surgery. “More people are skipping surgery on things that could be considered cosmetic rather than functional,” Dr. Kangas says.
Dr. Mahaney says there are a few benefits to having a shorter tail, even if they don’t apply to the majority of dogs.
“There are less body tissues—skin, muscle, vertebrae, blood vessels—and hair to potentially become damaged or dirty,” Dr. Mahaney says. “But most dogs don’t have mobility problems that prevent them from standing or walking and having normally functioning bowels, so they’re able to maintain a clean tail.”
Dr. Mahaney also thinks docking in the modern era is largely for aesthetic purposes. With purebred dogs, tail docking is done to suffice the standards for the breed as established by an organization like the American Kennel Club,” Dr. Mahaney explains.
Tail amputation for medical reasons is technically not considered docking. There are definitely medical reasons to amputate tails,” Dr. Kangas says. “There may be reasons to dock preventatively, too. Tail amputation is far more dangerous than tail docking when the dog is a newborn.”
Docking for cosmetic purposes is a hotly contested topic, with many dog owners and vets staunchly opposing the practice and even advocating outlawing the procedure. Although there is a decline in the number of dogs who need their tails docked for functional or medical purposes, those cases still exist. As the Wade story explains, it’s risky to assume every dog with a docked tail had it done purely for looks.
The practice is banned or restricted in 36 countries; in the United States, docking must be performed by a licensed veterinarian but some vets are voluntarily refusing to perform this procedure, as it is believed to be largely cosmetic in this day and age.
Anywhere between 50 and 70 breeds are known to have their tails docked, including:
· Pit bulls
· German shorthaired pointers
McNabs and their Tail tale:
Fact: Alexander McNab never docked the tails on his dogs! Every picture and drawing of Alexander’s dogs that has ever been ever turned up has shown the dog with a full tail. Alexander’s dogs worked sheep. Sheep have never been known to step on the tails of dogs, so there was no reason to dock them.
So, when did docked tails in McNabs show up? Around the turn of the century Alexander hosted the very first McNab Herding trails on his ranch, by this time, quite a few of the locals owned one or more of his dogs.
The event was rather uneventful until a rancher from Boonville who brought out his two McNabs. When it came to his turn to take his dogs into the field, the dogs immediately made a beeline for the sheep and before anyone could react all of the sheep lay dead. After a lot of cussing and apologizing for his dogs behavior, the cowboy explained that he had been working his dogs on cattle, a few of the other ranchers were interested in seeing how the McNabs worked the cattle. So, Alexander brought in a few head of his cattle and the rancher turned the dogs out into the pasture.
The ranchers watching his McNabs working the cattle were so impressed that it changed their ideas of what these dogs were capable of doing.
The downside of turning their dogs loose on these bigger creatures was the risk factor for injury. Having your prized and highly valued McNab getting kicked or stepped on could cost you a dog, so to prevent often fatal tail injuries, the ranchers began docking tails. There are other reasons given, but I can’t see a McNab slow or stupid enough to get his tail stuck in a stock gate, some other breeds yes, but not a McNab.
Natural Bob Tails:
There are working breeds that carry a natural bob-tail gene, although it’s not an original McNab trait, somewhere along the lines a McNab was crossed with one of these dogs and the gene was carried and passed down (Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattledog, Black Mouth Cur and Queensland Healer were the more common breeds to have a natural bob tail gene).
There are some McNab lines will produce a Natural Bob Tail offspring ever now and then, others (as in my lines) it’s not uncommon for ½ or the litter to be Natural Bob Tailed pups. They seldom have the same length tails. It can be as short as you see most herding dogs tails cut, all the way to a 7/8” long tail (usually missing the white tip.
Not sure if anyone else has as much experience as I do being as my male Maverick (RIP) passed the natural bob tail gene down to Chaser. Chaser and Flora have been producing puppies since the middle of 2019, I would say a third of the puppies they have produced have had natural bob tails of varying lengths as well has long tailed puppies in each litter.
I have spent hundreds of hours watching them play in my puppy playground which features all kinds of challenging obstacles, balancing boards and other activities that require coordination skills. Never once have I seen a long-tailed pup show more coordination than a natural bob tailed pup and vice-versa. I will have one pup that stands out in every litter and it bounces back between it being a long-tailed and the Natural bob tailed pup.
Pk, so that’s the tale of McNab Tails! Hope you enjoyed reading this, you are now one of the “informed”
David A Procida
And not to forget, thank you Russ Oakley for your valued input!
Top Gun McNab Shepherds
Marana, Arizona, United States
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