Gilberts' K-9 Seminars News & Review
Copyright (c) 2005-2009 Gilberts' K-9 Seminars
TAIL DOCKING, By Pat Gilbert

A Canadian reader asks: “Tail docking” is a great question, as an Aussie (Australian Shepherd) owner/breeder/exhibitor it is one item that is often discussed on our Aussie lists. The standard calls for the tail of our dogs to be no longer than 4", natural bobtail or docked. It is not a disqualification to have a longer tail.  Due to the recent tail docking bans in Europe we are now seeing dogs with full tails being shown, obviously in Europe it is a non issue and is not even considered when judging.  When dogs come to North America to show, especially for Nationals, there is much discussion as to what the judges should do with the tail.  Some feel that they should just ignore it. Others feel that a tail over 4" should be considered a fault.   For those who feel it should be considered a fault, they have to decide how great the fault is.  A dog with a long tail is faulted, but is that fault more or less severe than a dog with a very narrow chest, missing teeth, narrow skull, etc?  Having a tail does not interfere with their ability to move correctly, and most should still be able to do the job they were created for if they have a tail.  At a recent ASCA Nationals, an Aussie from Europe, with a full tail was given an AOM.  That judge felt having the tail was not so great a fault, as this was deserving of the win.  For myself, I would consider a tail longer than the 4" in my breed to be a fault.”
Response: We travel to other countries and abide and judge by their breed standards. Why then must we accept their dogs by their standards in our country? Their dogs should meet the requirements of the CKC standard and I don't care who imported the dog or from where it came. Does it meet the CKC standard? The CKC Standard states under General Appearance: “An identifying characteristic is the natural or docked bobtail.” That’s pretty strong language “identifying characteristic” - it is the only identifying characteristic called out in the Standard. Under Neck and Body it states: “Tail is straight, not to exceed 4 inches (10.2 cm), natural bobtail or docked.” No, it does not state a disqualification neither does it call a three legged Aussie a disqualification.
The tail more than 4 inches is not in accordance with the breed Standard. The Standard does not describe a tail longer than four inches. How can a judge know that the tail over four inches is proper? What does the longer than 4 inch tail look like? A Whippet tail, Pointer tail, Akita tail, German Shepherd tail, or a Australian Cattle Dog tail? Is it straight, curled, or what shape is it? Does it hang down, or does it point straight out behind the dog, or what is its carriage? What is the coat on the tail, plumed, feathered, straight, or devoid of coat?
How I would deal with a dog presented to me of another breed would depend on the wording of the breed standard. If it says "must be docked" then a complete tail will be excused as "not in accordance with the breed standard'. If it says "may be docked" then a complete tail will be taken as another aspect of the dog. When it says “Tail … not to exceed four inches” then the dog should be excused as not in accordance with the breed Standard.
Having a complete tail on the Aussie may not interfere with its movement BUT it sure does interfere with its function. Mind you the tail only gets damaged on a working Aussie and not often on a show dog. Some of the Aussies are born naturally bobtailed. Now what?
What's the big deal? Well, tails were and are docked for functional reasons. Even if you don't take your dog in the field, others do. Try fixing a broken, split and bleeding tail on a perpetually tail wagging Sporting dog and then come talk to me about it doesn't matter. If you have ever had a Terrier's tail snap or break in your hand as you were pulling the dog out of a hole, you would understand another reason for docking.
There are centuries of medical and animal husbandry history that supports the benefits to the animals of both cropping and docking. Each of these medical procedures serve a purpose, they eliminate or reduce the risk of injury or infection at a later time in life. Concerned animal welfare people are supportive of procedures that provide a benefit to the animals. It is unfortunate that any medical procedure that removes pain and suffering and has a proven value to the animals and their owners has become the focus of the animal rights agenda.
If the parent club tells me that I must accept a full tail, then they need to describe the complete tail. I want to know, tail carriage, shape, length, furred, plumed, short hair, and everything else about it. That is going to be very difficult because many of the docked breeds were bred for generations with no thought to tails other than set on and possibly thickness at the base as they were docked. That also involves changing the breed standard. Until the standard changes I must as a judge abide by the words of the existing standard.
OK extrapolate from there. What do I do with an Irish Setter from LaLa Land that walks into my ring with a docked tail? Is it just a fault or is that dog missing a key element to the beauty of the Irish Setter? How about a docked Labrador Retriever? There is a whole paragraph in the CKC Breed Standard about its appearance. BTW a docked Lab under AKC is a DQ.
Think too that a lot of this to dock or not to dock is part of an insidious animal rights agenda. Let's think very carefully before we get hit by another Animal Rights train.

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