Posts Tagged ‘HPR’s’

The following videos are of the tail docking procedure in a Jack Russell puppy. (It is very small. And yes, the puppy screams.)

Part I:


Part II:


Part III:


I am ambivalent to tail docking for several reasons.

It is true that  the puppy is in pain, but we haven’t banned circumcision or ear piercing in this country. I’ve not seen any evidence that the puppies remember the trauma of getting their tails cut off.

Phantom pain could always be an issue with this procedure. That’s why this procedure should be performed by a veterinarian. In many states, it is legal to do this yourself. I wouldn’t count myself among those who could do it.

I’ve not seen any evidence that Jack Russells or other terriers injure their tails if these are left intact. Feists and Dachshunds are undocked as a rule. You can’t tell me that Jack Russells have to have their tails docked. It’s just a tradition.

So in most breeds, this is cosmetic surgery.

However, in some breeds, there is some evidence that this preemptive amputation is actually beneficial.

Sweden banned tail docking for cosmetic reasons in 1989.

And when it did, there was an epidemic of tail injuries in German short-haired pointers within just a few years.

A study followed 50 litters of that breed.  38 percent had experienced a tail injury by the time they were 18 months old. By the time they were two, 51 percent had experienced a tail injury. (Yes, that’s a link from the Council of Docked breeds, a pro-docking interest group in the UK.)

These HPR breeds have whip-like tails with very little fat or cartilage on the lower part of their tails. If you’ve ever seen a gun dog work, they tend to wag their tails really hard when they are going on an air scenting mission.  As the dogs run through thick undergrowth, the lower part of their tails can get injured.

I would like a much bigger study on undocked HPR’s. The n in this particular study is somewhat low.

But many countries are banning docking, and it would be very easy to design a good longitudinal study of how often tail injuries occur within these breeds. If the risk is really that high, I think a case can be made for docking in these breeds.

However, I should also mention that sight hounds are particularly prone to these injuries. A common injury in greyhounds is the dog gets its tail caught in a door.

If you look at a greyhound’s tail, the whole thing is like the lower part of the HPR’s. It is like a thin whip, and it is very injury prone.

But none (as far as I know) has suggested that we should dock greyhounds.

Now, as I said before, I am very ambivalent when it comes to tail docking. Almost all of it is cosmetic surgery. However, there are cases in which tail docking really could improve the welfare of certain breeds.

This is an undocked vizsla, but it is one of the breeds that could benefit from tail docking. The lower part of its tail is not well protected by fat, fur, or cartilage. Photo by Béki Peti.

Although my views are ambivalent, my guess is yours are not.

So please feel free to leave what you think in the comments.

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