The Truth About Tail Docking in Rottweilers

You don’t have to be an expert on the breed to know what a Rottweiler looks like. These dogs are known for their large, muscular bodies, their black-and-tan coloration, and their short tails. What many people do not realize is that not all Rottweilers are born with short tails – some breeders still dock the tails of their Rottweiler puppies. Tail docking is a highly controversial subject so you would be wise to learn the basics about it before you decide which side to take in regard to your own Rottweiler.

The History of Tail Docking

When it comes to altering the length of a dog’s tail there are several terms you might come across. Docking and bobbing are the two most commonly used terms and they are often used interchangeably. When a breeder uses the word “cropping” it is usually a reference to the ears, not the tail. Tail docking has been a common practice for many dog breeds for hundreds of years. At one time, it was believed that docking a dog’s tail could strengthen his back, increase his speed, and even reduce his risk for rabies. While these things may not be true, tail docking was also performed for a practical reason – to reduce the risk for tail injuries in working and fighting breeds.

For many years, tail docking was a very common practice for certain breeds like the Rottweiler. In modern times, however, tail docking is more commonly performed for cosmetic purposes than for practical purposes – the main exceptions are for hunting and working breeds. There are two main ways in which tail docking is accomplished. One method is to sever the tail using a scalpel or surgical scissors – this is usually done when the puppies are just 10 to 14 days old and it is done without anesthesia. The second method is to use a rubber ligature to restrict blood flow to the tail, causing it to fall off.

Should You Dock Your Rottweiler’s Tail?

While there are some practical benefits for having your Rottweiler’s tail docked, you need to seriously think about whether it is really something you want to do. In most cases, tail docking is performed without anesthesia – just think about how painful it would be to have someone cut off part of your body without anesthesia! This is the reason why many countries have actually banned tail docking. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of them. Most Rottweiler breeders do encourage tail docking for this breed and it is usually performed when the puppy is 2 to 3 days old – after this point the bones become stronger and the nerves develop so docking becomes more difficult and more painful.

The Rottweiler’s natural tail is certainly nothing that could be considered ugly or undesirable. It is a normal dog tail that grows as an extension of the spine and it generally tapers to a point. There are rare cases in which Rottweilers are born with naturally bobbed tails but it is uncommon. If you do choose to have your Rottweiler puppy’s tail docked, seriously consider having a trained veterinarian perform the procedure with anesthetics. Although a puppy’s bones are mostly cartilage for the first 24 to 48 hours after birth, the nerve endings have already developed so the procedure can be very painful.

Tail docking is a very controversial procedure among veterinarians, breeders, and dog owners – there is no right or wrong side of this issue. In the end, it is up to you to do the research and to form an educated opinion regarding where you stand on the issue. There is certainly no requirement that your Rottweiler’s tail must be docked and you should get a second opinion from a vet before having it done.

Photo credit: Mario Castro/Flickr