of the ARC Tail Docking Committee
From the ARK - 2nd Quarter 1999
Rottweiler we recognize.
your eyes. Visualize a Rottweiler. Carefully study the
distinguishing features that make you recognize this dog as a
Rottweiler rather than a Bullmastiff or Labrador Retriever or the
mixed breed dog who lives on your street. Visualize this Rottweiler
in action. See him move. See him play. See him greet you at the
door. These attributes and characteristics, which distinguish the
Rottweiler from any other breed of dog, are called breed type.
answer a few questions. Did your imaginary Rottweiler have a tail?
How important was this in describing the dog that looks like a
Rottweiler? Did the imaginary Rottweiler who greeted you at the door
wag his whole rear end?
you're probably asking yourself what all this has to do with tail
docking Actually, it has everything to do with why we dock tails on
and Lore of Tail Docking
been much written about why Rottweiler tails were originally docked.
Most dogs with docked tails do work hunting, herding, droving or
draft work. The hunting dogs (gundogs and working terriers) often
had to work in dense vegetation and briars and the tail would get
injured in the brush. Terriers went to ground after foxes, badgers
or other game, and the docked tail facilitated working in a confined
space. The other working and herding dogs, as well as the hunting
dogs, were docked for hygiene reasons.
and herding dogs worked livestock. Now, I'll ask you to visualize
again; imagine you are in a barnyard in the spring If you have ever
had the pleasure of doing chores around a barn, you know that
stockdogs' tails, if not docked, will become fouled with the feces
of the stock. On our dog's ancestors, this build up of feces acted
like a weight on the tail and caused the tail to bang the hocks and
become sore and sometimes cut. The feces also harbored bacteria and
attracted flies, so the injured tail would become infected, causing
the dog to become sick and possibly die. Since the Rottweiler was
developed for cattle droving and general utility work on the farm,
his tail was docked to prevent injury, sickness and death. In my
opinion, docking prevented cruelty to working dogs.
you have heard the lore of the "tail tax", which
supposedly was a luxury tax imposed on owners of nonworking dogs.
Since most working/herding/hunting dogs had docked tails, I suppose
this makes sense and could be the reason the Rottweiler tail is
docked closer to the body than many of the smaller breeds in these
Rottweiler owners have never seen a puppy's tail docked. I'll
describe the process to help you understand what happens to puppies.
Basically, there are 2 methods of docking, both performed at 2-4
days old. I prefer cutting the tail with surgical scissors, which is
fast and does not seem to traumatize the puppy or the dam. In this
method, the tail is clamped and snipped off close to the body. My
puppies have always seemed to object as much to the being held
upside down as they do to the cut. The puppies quiet down
immediately and go right back to sleep. If their dam is there, they
will nurse right away. Rottweiler mothers do not seem concerned that
there's a tail missing, and will go about their business of cleaning
and feeding the puppies.
second method of docking is banding. A band, usually an orthodontic
rubber band, is placed very tightly around the tail, close to the
body. The tail shrivels up and falls off in 3-7 days. Again, neither
the puppies nor the dam seem to be bothered by the procedure.
with tail docking, many Rottweiler owners have never seen puppies
less than a week old. We have all seen TV movies of newborn horses
or cows struggling to stand and walk. Puppies are not like foals or
calves. When puppies are born, they cannot see, hear, regulate their
body temperature or walk. Their eyes do not open until 10 - 14 days
and their ears are sealed shut until their third week. They must be
kept in a warm environment, since they will die of hypothermia if
pushed away from the dam and other puppies (if the breeder does not
intervene and put a heat source in the whelping box). Young puppies
cannot urinate nor defecate without the stimulus of the dam licking
them. They have activated sleep, which causes puppies to twitch.
This jerking and twitching helps puppies develop muscle tone and
motor control. In short, puppies less than a week old are not fully
developed neurologically. For this reason, I do not feel puppies are
traumatized by tail docking at 2-4 days.
important to note that the tails are docked at 2-4 days old. Tail
docking performed on adult dogs is major surgery and can affect
balance, since the dog has grown up with this big rudder on his
rear, and he is fully developed neurologically.
Rottweiler tail was docked before the ADM, the American Rottweiler
Club or the Kennel Club (UK) developed a breed standard. Therefore,
all standards have described a dog with a docked tail. As the breed
clubs worked to refined the breed standards, Rottweiler structure
changed and from the 1930s until today, Rottweilers became more
heavily boned and muscled. This structure, including a level topline,
shorter back and medium length croup are the design of an almost
square, broad and deep dog who is capable of trotting for long time
periods without tiring. This tailless structure has a center of
gravity located in the front half of the dog The standards say that
the Rottweiler's tail carriage is "an extension of the topline".
To add a long, heavy tail to the structure described in the standards would change the center of gravity, moving it towards the rear of the dog This would lessen the Rottweiler's ability as an endurance trotter, unless the croup we desire today changes. Mechanically and kinematically speaking, it must be lengthened and rounded if the desired tail carriage is down to facilitate the mechanics of trotting tirelessly for a long time. Likewise, if the desired carriage is curled tightly over the back, a short croup would be necessary. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and Bernese Mountain Dog breed standards, the Rottweiler's closest relatives, call for a long, rounded croup. Alternatively, the Akita, who is also a broad dog, has a very short croup.
Rottweiler has a tail set often seen in Sweden.
is an elongation of the topline.
the undocked Rottweiler structure I have described compare to your
imaginary Rottweiler? In the crude drawings I have included with
this article, I have taken the same dog and put different tail types
on her. Would you recognize the dogs with tails as Rottweilers?
for Tail Type
Let's imagine for a moment that the Rottweiler's tail is left undocked. Since tail type has not been a breeding criterion for over 100 years, someone would have to select a desired type, which would probably be similar to the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog's set and carriage. The length of hair on the tail and straightness of the tail vertebra must be considered. If you have bred dogs at all, you realize that structure cannot be changed overnight. It can take generations to get a gene pool of Rottweilers with the correct tail. Since the tail of a Rottweiler will be very noticeable, tail selection will suddenly move from no consideration at all to major consideration in the selection of breeding stock. Healthy, correct temperament, typey (sans tail) animals may be overlooked for inferior animals with the desired tail. Dog shows being what they are, some exhibitors will break tails to "set" them, which is cruel to the dog and deceiving for anyone who unknowingly breeds to that animal. All of this will be a travesty for the Rottweiler.
dropped tail shows the greatly lengthened croup.
responsible breeders have tried to breed Rottweilers with good
temperaments and have tried to provide them with the best
environment to reach their full potential. Researchers have found
that puppies subjected to mild stress learn to adapt and can better
handle stress as adults. It is this reason that many of s place our
puppies in the refrigerator for a two minutes during their second
week. (Bet you reread that sentence.) Unless you have read
Rutherford and Neil's "How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live
With", or have read all you can on enriched environments, you
probably think I have lost my mind. However, exposure to mild stress
in a controlled manner is a good thing. Therefore, a case can be
made for tail docking of very young puppies helps them handle stress
better in later life.
again, I'll ask you to recall your imaginary Rottweiler. Did he wag
his whole rear end when he greeted you at the door? If so, a long
tail would probably become injured by beating it against the wall,
the table, etc. Tail injuries do not heal well, can bleed profusely,
cause "water tail" and can lead to painful amputation for
an adult dog. In countries such as Sweden, where tail docking has
been banned, there has been an astounding increase in tail injuries
of previously docked breeds. This is not mere speculation; many
studies have been done with statistically large populations to
warrant clubs such as the Vorsteh (Pointer) Club, with the backing
of the Swedish Kennel Club, to urge a reconsideration of the
have never seen nor dealt with a tail injury or the long
convalescence of an older dog requiring amputation of the tail,
please ask your veterinarian to describe it. Docking at 24 days old
of a puppy whose nervous system is not fully developed is definitely
preventative medicine in this case.
Rottweiler, as we know it today and have known it for the past 100
years, is an animal with a docked tail. The docked tail is part of
who the breed is.
Board of Directors adopted a policy on docking and cropping which
approves the process when performed on puppies and under the care of
a veterinarian. This organization recognizes the concerns of all dog
breeds and their owners. They did not adopt this policy because
"it's what we've always done", but, rather, after
considering the facts on all sides of the issue.
Tail Docking Committee has also given careful consideration to the
issue, as well as the current state of affairs in Germany. The
Committee recently recommended to the ARC Board that the wording
regarding the tail in the current breed standard should be left as
it is and we saw no reason to start the ARC breed standard revision
process at this time. The committee and I welcome input. For those
of you who do not know who's on the committee, we are: Linda Michels,
Chairman, Joe Hedl, Anna Williamson and Peter Piusz.