Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Wilgo with his tail


Dogs talk with body language and a tail is an essential signalling mechanism. If a dog has no tail to wag, no tail to lower, no tail to stick out stiffly, it cannot express its emotions. That means other dogs may find it difficult to understand what it is saying.

If is as if we cut off a bit of our tongues – we could still talk, but not very well. It is now illegal to cut off a pet dog’s tail in the UK, except in the case of working dogs. A vet has been prosecuted for docking a dog’s tail without the proper paperwork.

Docking proponents argue that the tail has to be cut off to avoid injury. Yet there are working dogs that go beating in full cover, which keep their tails on – Irish water spaniels are an example. To mutilate a dog for life “to avoid injury” is like cutting off a leg to avoid breaking it. Weird or what?

No, tails are cut off primarily for the sake of fashion. The UK has now acted to make docking a tail illegal unless the vet sees a working dog certificate. Docked dogs cannot be shown. We who buy pet dogs can do our bit for dog welfare. If you are buying a working breed, ask the breeder to keep the tail on. Old fashioned breeders of working dogs may otherwise have them docked.

If you are buying a traditionally docked breed in a country where docking is still legal, insist that the breeder keeps the tail on! Dog breeders in countries where this mutilation is still legal, are often very much in awe of an elderly and hide-bound hierarchy of judges, who fight against change.


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