Depending on where you live, you may not often see an Australian Shepherd with a tail. This is because the Australian Shepherd dog breed is one of many dog breeds that have historically had their tails docked.
However, tail docking is a controversial topic, have their tail’s docked when they are very young. The practice of tail docking has been widely banned in the UK, except when a vet deems it necessary due to injury or they can be shown to be a working dog.
Does an Australian Shepherd have a tail at all?
Quite simply, the reason many people think that Australian Shepherds don’t have a tail, or a very short one, is that many have been docked.
Approximately 20% of Australian Shepherds are born with short bobbed tails. However, most Australian Shepherds are born with a much longer tail length.
Within the UK, tail docking has been made illegal except on medical grounds, or if it can be shown the dog meets the criteria to be a working dog.
However, in the USA, docking is not illegal. This means that the USA’s AKC and British Kennel Club breed standard differs with regard to the tail.
How Short to dock an Australian Shepherd Tail according to AKC Breed Standard?
The American Kennel Club breed standard states:
The tail is straight, docked or naturally bobbed, not to exceed four inches in length.
Australian Shepherd Breed Standard Tail in UK
The UK Kennel Club breed standard says:
Previously customarily docked.
Undocked: Set on following the line of the croup. Of moderate length, not kinked. In overall balance with the rest of the dog. Moderately feathered.
May be naturally bobbed.
How Many Australian Shepherds Have A Docked Tail?
If this ASHGI survey, is representative, around 2/3 of all Australian Shepherds are in the USA.
When they asked about docking, only 27.12% of people responded that they had not had the tail docked. However, over 80% of owners outside the USA had not had their Australian Shepherd docked.
So, if you are in the USA, you are very likely to see an Australian Shepherd with a docked tail, whereas you are very unlikely to see one with a docked tail elsewhere.
The Bobtail Gene
As mentioned above, roughly 20% of all Australian Shepherds are born naturally bobtailed. This may cause you to ask why all Australian Shepherds are not bred for this trait. The answer is two-fold.
Having the Gene Does Not Mean Your Australian Shepherd’s Tail Will Be Short Enough
The first is that Aussie puppies with one copy of this gene will be born with a naturally bobbed tail, although how short is not determined by the gene. This means there is no assurance that the tail will be under the 4″ required for the American Kennel Club standard.
In fact, according to the ASHGI survey mentioned above, as many as 47% of bobtailed Australian Shepherds have tails over 1/4 length, which would require docking to meet the AKC breed standard’s preferred tail length.
Genetic Dangers of Breeding Bobbed Tail Australian Shepherds
The second issue is that the specific Bobtail gene, otherwise known in the scientific world as the T-gene mutation C189G, can determine whether a puppy has a natural bobbed tail, but is what’s called an “incomplete dominant gene.”
This means that Australian Shepherd puppies with two copies of this gene are often born with genetic defects and often die in utero or have to be put down.
So, if a bobbed tail Australian Shepherd breeds with another bobtail, there is a high chance that pups in their litter will have two of these genes.
Having two of these genes carries a threat of a Spina Bifida or other severe issues. Some of these puppies are born in such a state that they require euthanasia.
This can be tested for, so if you intend on adopting an Australian Shepherd puppy then do ensure they are a healthy Australian Shepherd. If you are looking to breed, then also be very careful.
Why Do People dock Australian Shepherd Tails? Is it bad for Australian Shepherds to have tails?
The simple answer is no, it is mainly down to the breed standard.
It is claimed that tail docking prevents tail injuries, but the British Veterinary Association (BVA) disputes this, claiming that there is far more harm done in the docking process than the risk of docking the dog’s tail.
But if you’re in the USA an Australian Shepherd without a tail may be what you expect, but do keep in mind local laws and the welfare of the dog.
Is tail docking cruel or painful to puppies?
Docking a dog’s tail was considered unpainful if done within 5 days of birth. However, this assumption is now widely discredited. The BVA states that tail docking inflicts significant pain and the dog’s tail should not be docked unless there is a medical reason.
(tail docking) is an outdated practice that involves cutting or crushing muscle, nerves, and bone without anaesthetic in puppies under 5 days old. Evidence indicates that it inflicts significant pain on puppies and deprives dogs of an important form of canine expression in future life. In addition, poorly performed docking can cause chronic pain.
A Dog’s Tail is how Dogs communicate
Tails are used by dogs to communicate their mood and feelings, and tails can tell them a lot about themselves.
A dog’s tail is how they show whether they are happy or sad, excited or depressed, friendly or aggressive.
A dog without a tail finds it harder to communicate with other dogs leading to a decrease in a dog’s ability to socialise and interact with other dogs.
A Dog’s Tail helps them maintain balance
Tails are also used by dogs to help them balance and maintain their balance while running, jumping, and turning.
A dog without a tail struggles to maintain their balance while on the move and so may find moving difficult and awkward, leading to a greater risk of injury.
At what age should you dock an Australian Shepherd tail?
Traditionally tail docking was carried out by the breeder at the age of 2-5 days old, while their nervous system is still forming.
However, this is now illegal in the UK and should be reported to the RSPCA. If there are issues with tail injuries or you need your dog’s tail docked for working purposes, it must be done by a vet.
Your vet will be able to tell you if the tail can be legally docked and when to do it.
In conclusion, there are many questions you should ask yourself before docking your Australian Shepherd’s tail, or deciding to have it docked for you.
Are the benefits worth the risks? Are you following AKC Australian Shepherd breed standard?
If you are considering having your Australian shepherd’s tail docked, make sure to do some research on the procedure.
Apart from being banned for the most part in the UK and many other countries, both the BVA and ASPCA released statements saying that they oppose this practice.
Tail docking is meant as protection for sheepherders who use dogs in their work, however, there is little evidence it offers any benefit whatsoever to the dog itself. It can also cause intense pain during recovery, which can last up to six months or more if done incorrectly by someone without experience with veterinary medicine.
- 1 Does an Australian Shepherd have a tail at all?
- 2 How Short to dock an Australian Shepherd Tail according to AKC Breed Standard?
- 3 Australian Shepherd Breed Standard Tail in UK
- 4 How Many Australian Shepherds Have A Docked Tail?
- 5 The Bobtail Gene
- 6 Why Do People dock Australian Shepherd Tails? Is it bad for Australian Shepherds to have tails?
- 7 Is tail docking cruel or painful to puppies?
- 8 A Dog’s Tail is how Dogs communicate
- 9 A Dog’s Tail helps them maintain balance
- 10 At what age should you dock an Australian Shepherd tail?
- 11 Conclusion