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Have you ever wondered why the tails of certain dog breeds, such as boxers, are shortened? This practice is called tail docking and dates back to ancient Rome. Whether you’re considering adopting a boxer, debating the pros and cons of docking your boxer’s tail, or curious about the practice in general, here's the long and short of tail docking.
Historically, tail docking was thought to prevent rabies, increase a dog's speed and prevent injuries. For hunting and herding breeds, tails could collect burrs and foxtails, causing pain and infection. Herding dogs with longer tails risked being caught in gates behind livestock.
In 18th-century England, there was actually a tax on all dogs — with the exception of docked-tail working dogs. So, dogs were routinely docked to avoid this tax. But even after the tax was lifted, the practice continued, with a number of dog breeds incorporating docked tails into breed standards.
Today, tail docking is still common for boxers and other breeds for health and cosmetic reasons. Yet, the practice is not without controversy.
Proponents argue that the procedure is not painful and can prevent future health problems. It should be noted that tail docking is not a surgical procedure in the typical sense of the word; the procedure — which doesn’t require anesthesia or sutures — is done before the puppy's cartilage is fully formed, usually between 3 and 5 days of age.
A number of veterinary organizations around the world oppose tail docking. Those who oppose tail docking say the procedure is cruel and unnecessary. They contend that dogs use their tails to communicate with other dogs, as well as people. So, a dog without a tail might be less able to convey fear, aggression, playfulness and other emotions. In addition, certain dog breeds use their tails as rudders when swimming, and some dog breeds use their tails for balance when running. In this case, active dogs with docked tails can be at a physical disadvantage.
In the end, it doesn't really matter whether your dog's tail is docked, unless they’re competing in an AKC event. Tail or docked tail, boxers make energetic, loyal and loving companions that can be great friends to children and even cats (if your pet is properly socialized and introduced).
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