Tail Docking Australian Shepherds: A Controversial Subject

A gorgeous merle Australian Shepherd posed against a gray backdrop.

Australian Shepherds are herding dogs who have friendly temperaments and are loyal protectors.

The breed standard requires the Australian Shepherd tail to be less than four inches long, and most breeders or owners will dock their tails at an early age.

Why are Australian Shepherds’ tails docked? Australian shepherds have docked tails to adhere to the breed standard and help protect them from injury. Their tails may also be docked to help enhance their ability to work and to make grooming easier, though it is really an unnecessary cosmetic procedure.

If you have an Australian Shepherd and are thinking about getting its tail docked or are curious about why some Aussies have their tails docked, read on to learn more. 

5 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Have Docked Tails

Most people prefer to have their Australian Shepherd’s tail docked, but not everyone does it for the same reasons.

Here are some of the most common reasons why Australian Shepherds have their tails docked.

To Prevent Tail Injury

Because Australian Shepherds are working dogs, there are a lot of ways their tails could be injured.

They could be stepped on by livestock, caught in fences or traps, and get burrs, ticks, and insects attached to them. Docking the tails reduces the risk of any of these issues and others.

For Hygienic Reasons

Undocked Australian Shepherd tails can be long, messy, and easily matted. When dogs are working on farms or ranches, they can get muddy and have burrs and ticks stick to them.

Docking the tails of breeding bitches makes the birth process slightly less messy as well.

Docking the tail generally makes grooming and hygiene easier.

Simply for Appearance

Some Australian Shepherd owners dock the tails just because they prefer this look. It makes the coat look nicer, and it creates a sleeker appearance to the dog. 

To Adhere to Breed Standard

The breed standard requires the Australian Shepherd to have a tail that is less than 4 inches long.

While dogs without docked tails are still allowed to compete in club events, if the tail is not docked, they can be penalized for having a full-length tail.

Many breeders who are breeding for standard dock the tails of their puppies.

Tradition

Australian Shepherd tails have been docked for many years, and many people do it to simply continue the tradition.

In the 18th century, dogs who were not working dogs were fined. In order to show that the dog was a working dog, owners would dock the tails.

Australian Shepherds are working dogs and would have been among the many breeds that had their tails docked.

Controversy Over Docking Aussie Tails: Pros & Cons

A beautiful Australian Shepherd standing in the grass beside a winding path.

While tail docking is common for Australian Shepherds, not everyone agrees with it. Some people find it inhumane and unnecessary.

Still, the breed standard requires the tail to be docked, and many breeders continue to dock tails for this reason alone. 

Tail Docking Pros

  • Decreased risk of injury
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Easier to groom
  • Fits breed standard
  • Better hygiene

Tail Docking Cons

  • Is a painful procedure
  • Could lead to complications
  • Risk of nerve damage
  • Dog to dog communication issues

How & Why Tail Docking Originated

Tail docking has been done for hundreds of years. The ancient Romans docked the tails of their dogs because they believed it protected them from rabies.

In the 17th century, England imposed a tax on all companion or pet dogs.

Herding dogs, ratting dogs, and select breeds of hunting dogs had their tails docked to show that they were working dogs. 

The repeal of the dog tax in 1796 and the discovery of a rabies vaccine in 1885 reduced tail docking, and many people began to feel it was unnecessary.

Veterinarians stopped docking tails because they found that the process was painful, dramatic, and caused more harm than good. 

Today many veterinarians still refuse to dock tails for cosmetic reasons or breed standards, but there are some breeders and veterinarians that still prefer to dock the tails of some breeds.

Related Questions: 

How Many Sizes of Australian Shepherd Are There?

There are four different size variations of Australian Shepherd. The standard Australian Shepherd stands between 18 and 23 inches tall and weighs between 40 and 60 pounds. 

The Miniature Australian Shepherd stands between 14 and 18 inches tall and weighs between 25 and 40 pounds.

The toy variety is 10 to 14 inches tall and weighs between 15 and 35 pounds. The teacup variety is less than 10 inches tall and can weigh between 4 and 9 pounds.

Why Are Australian Shepherds So Vocal?

Australian Shepherds have a natural instinct to herd and protect, and they were bred to be very vocal to let their owners know when the livestock was in danger, to alert the livestock, or to scare away predators.

They can be trained to be less vocal.

Conclusion 

If you are thinking about adopting an Australian Shepherd and are trying to decide if you want to have the tail docked, it’s a good idea to understand the reasoning behind tail docking for this specific breed.

You should also consider the pros and cons of docking the tail and whether or not you will be showing your dog and care about the breed standard and cosmetic preference.