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Puppy Tails

All of us have seen a dog wagging their tail and we all know that if the tail is wagging that usually means they are friendly. Dogs use their tails for communicating emotions (pleasure, fear, friendliness, dominance, playfulness, defensiveness, inquisitiveness, aggression, nervousness and submissiveness) to other dogs as well as to us common humans. Tails are also used for balance in jumping and running. All American Cocker Spaniel puppies are born with tails. So why do most breeders in the United States dock (cut off part) of newborn puppies tails. Docking of Cocker Spaniels tails is a practice that started when the dogs where used as hunting dogs. Frequently their tails would get caught in the underbrush when they were flushing out game. Hunters and breeders would typically perform the procedure on puppies between 3 and 7 days of age. They would take a pair of shears and just snip the end off and cut out the dewclaw at the same time. No anesthetic is involved. After many years of this practice this has become the standard for all show dogs and is still practiced by many breeders either by the breeder themselves or by a vet.


“Cosmetic tail docking has been banned in a number of countries including Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Denmark. Several other European countries including Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Austria have also ratified a European Convention that prohibits the cosmetic docking of tails. In the United Kingdom tail docking can only be carried out by a registered veterinary surgeon. The practice is opposed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which describes it as an ‘unacceptable mutilation’. “ rspca.org.au


Removal of the dewclaw is a procedure typically done at the same time as the tail is docked. Declaws are the fifth toe that dogs are born with on their front feet. Some dogs do have a dewclaws on their rear feet or even double dewclaws. When dogs run their front feet often bend to the point where their dewclaws come in contact with the ground providing extra traction especially when turning or running on slippery surfaces. Dewclaws can also be used to help them climb or hold objects while chewing on them. An important distinction to make is whether or not the dewclaws are firmly attached to a dog’s foot. In general, if your dog has a single front dewclaw, it will be. You’ll be able to wiggle the dewclaw a little bit (mostly in a forward and backward motion), but you can feel the bones that connect it to the leg. Rear and double dewclaws tend to only be attached by skin and are much more mobile. In cases where the dewclaws are not attached to the dog’s foot this is a simple procedure and probably causes little pain but in the case of the front dewclaws the are usually firmly attached to the dogs’ foot and should be surgically removed by a veterinarian. In cases where the breeder removes the dewclaw anesthetic is not used and the breeder will just take a pair of hemostats to hold the claw and then just snip off the claw breaking the bone and cutting through the skin and fur. When the dog is this young bones and muscles have not fully developed so the procedure is simple and quick to complete but just watch a YouTube video and you too will see the amount of pain this causes the dog.

Since most dogs of any breed are purchased as a pet in the USA my question is why do we still subject them to the painful process of clipping their tails and dewclaws. If a pet owner decides that this is what they would like to do to their fur baby they can have both procedures performed by a veterinarian at the same time that they have the animal spayed/neutered.


Just my opinion, as a breeder, on the subject is do not dock tails and remove dewclaws leave it to the new owner to get this done should they so choose to do so. And a long natural tail on a Cocker is a beautiful thing.



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