I'm interrupting this dormant dog-blog to write about my entry into the world of children's literature - there will still be the occasional mention of my erstwhile doggie companion who is still a pup in spirit, if not in size.

16 Mar 2012

Tails, you lose

Went for Friday walk with GQ and Dougie where she shared yet another doggie story. Again about Peter the poodle. 
Tail docking machine, 19th century. Photo: Science Museum UK. 

The story was prompted by a small black poodle that joined Pip and Dougie for a romp. I commented on the poodle’s cute little pom-pom tail and GQ revealed that it had been docked!

I thought tail docking went out with the last century, like foot binding or something.
But GQ said when she bought Peter from a breeder, she’d already docked his tail. Apparently she’d tied a cloth around the end tightly until it dropped off. Yuck!
GQ believed that in the UK, where she’d bought Peter, tail-docking for certain breeds was a prerequisite for entering them in dog shows. Well that may have been the case in the past. But since 2006, UK laws have outlawed the showing of dogs with docked tails where there is a paying audience.
Tail-docking has been illegal in Australia since 2004. Docking has been done traditionally for cosmetic purposes, particularly for show dogs.

The RSPCA says that more than 70 breeds of dogs traditionally had their tails cut off a few days after birth.  And it sounds like it hurt like hell...
Docking a puppy's tail involves cutting through muscles, tendons, up to seven pairs of highly sensitive nerves and severing bone and cartilage connections. Tail docking is usually carried out without any anaesthesia or analgesia (pain relief). Puppies give repeated intense shrieking vocalisations the moment the tail is cut off and during stitching of the wound, indicating that they experience substantial pain.”
And then there’s the social role of the tail. Again from the RSPCA: the tail’s position and movement can indicate friendliness, a desire to play, submission or a warning signal. It also helps humans, and in my experience especially kids, to know if a dog is friendly or not.
So now I know. Next time I admire a dog’s pom-pom tail, I’ll think twice.


  1. Here's a thought: are humans sullen and uncommunicative because we have lost our tails?

  2. Great point! It's funny, while the majority of owners will stop for a chat, I have noticed that some maintain their sullenness and uncommunicativeness (?) while their dogs are wagging their tails and desperate to stop for a chat. Their owners just yank them, say 'C'mon Rover!' and keep walking. Their loss...