“Most public understanding of cropping docking and dew claw removal is riddled with misconception — mainly that these procedures are cosmetic and cruel.”
This could not be further from the truth.
These procedures predate dog shows by hundreds of years and are done to preserve the health and function of various breeds.
As breeders, it is our responsibility to preserve form and function in our breeding programs. These programs abide by a breed standard outlining conformation and temperament and are designed to ensure the dog’s ability to do the work it was intended to do. As breeders, it is also important to educated others about why these procedures are necessary for various breeds. Please pass this web page on to friends and your veterinarian.
Why are dogs’ tails docked?
The main reason for docking is to avoid tail damage. Injuries are difficult to heal due to decreased blood circulation in the tail. There is also a few breeds that required docking for hygienic reasons. It is important to understand that not all tails required docking. Docking depends on the breed, the formation of the tail (many are thin without much hair for protection), and the work required of the dog. For example, “a number of gun dog breeds have to hunt through heavy vegetation and thick brambles, where their fast tail action can easily lead to torn and bleeding tails.” 1 Terriers bred to hunt below ground for purposes such as fox control have their tails docked to a length which is is more practical when working in a confined space.” 2 And “breeds which have an enthusiastic tail action, are also liable to damage even in the home”, and can cause injury to small children. “For long haired, thick coated breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier and Old English Sheepdog, for example, docking avoids the hair around the base of the tail becoming fouled by feces. Even with constant grooming and washing, such fouling is unpleasant. If allowed to get out of hand, it can lead to severe problems of hygiene.” 3
“Since docking was banned in Sweden in 1989, there has been a massive increase in tail injuries amongst previously docked breeds. Within the 50 undocked Pointer litters registered in that year with the Swedish Kennel Club, 38% of dogs suffered tail injury before they were 18 months old and in 1991, the number of individuals with tail injures had increased to 51% of the group.” 4 A UK study by G. Diesel, D. Pfeiffer, S. Crispin, and D. Brodbelt in 2010 also confirmed that docking bans are unwise. The study showed that tail injury did not just occur in working animals. 36% of the 16,000 tail injuries occurred in the home. 44% of the injuries were recurrent with 33% (5,000 dogs) requiring amputation per year. Http://randd.defra.gov.UK/Document.aspx?Document=AW1403_9160_FRP.PDF
Is docking cruel?
Docking, at the age of 2 to 5 days old, causes minimum discomfort because the tailbone is still soft and the nervous system that relays pain signals is undeveloped. Docking causes no more discomfort than ear piercing on humans, is over in seconds, and has a benefit for the life of the dog. Some “puppies are docked while they are asleep and do not even wake up. After docking, puppies will immediately return to their dam to feed, and there is no evidence that development or weight gain is in any way arrested by the docking procedure.” 5
A common misconception is that a dog, which has been docked as a puppy, will have problems with balance or communication. This is simply not true. If, “ however, tail damage occurs during adulthood and docking has to be carried out for therapeutic reasons, normally under anaesthetic, a dog can be seriously distressed and the healing process can be painful and protracted.”6
Why are ears cropped?
The upright ear is the natural ear on all wild canids (wolves, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, etc.) and their canine cousins. Evolution and the survival of the fittest has seen to it that all wild dogs are equipped with the most effective hearing device: and erect, cupped ear. The drop ear seen in many purebred dogs does not exist in nature because it is far less efficient in terms of hearing. Cropped ears complete the working dog’s physical equipment to make them an elite family companion” and functional working dog.
There are functional reasons for cropped ears: Traditionally, “a neatly cropped ear was less of a “handle” for attacker to hold on to and received less damage in confrontation with other animals. “The second has to do with sound localization.” Ear shape allows for the sound to be more accurately heard. An erect ear “can localize sound to within a 5 degree cone, whereas a drop ear can only localize to within a 20 degree cone”. Since some working and herding dogs “do SEARCH AND DETECTION as well as SEARCH AND RESCUE, cropped ears have a decided advantage.” Most people don’t realize that a man made drop ear comes with some decided disadvantages. There are far less ear infections in erect as opposed to drop ears. Given that the number one dog insurance claim in the US for 2008 was for ear infections, erect ears have a significant health advantage. http://www.petsugar.com/Top-10-Insurance-Claims-Dogs-Cats-2882052
What are dew claws and why are they removed?
“Dew claws are like thumbs. They are the first digit on a dog. And unlike digits 2,3,4 and 5, are not used for walking. They are located a short distance up the leg on the inside surface. They are usually removed at the same time the tail is docked, at 2 to 5 days of age. At this age, the bones that make up the [dew claws] are tiny and soft… “ so removal” is easy. If the dew Claws are not removed at 2-5 days of age, like the tail dock, one should wait until the pup is old enough to anaesthetize safely.”
The Dew Claw is in the evolutionary process of disappearing. If an adult dew claw is snagged and ripped off, it causes a great deal of bleeding which could result in death for dogs working in remote areas or shock from loss of blood. Injury is painful and requires surgery.