Why Do Rottweilers Get Their Tails Docked?

Why do Rottweilers get Their Tails Docked?

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When you visualize a Rottweiler, you may or not be seeing a tail. Rottweilers can have docked or undocked tails, and both have some advantages and disadvantages. 

Why do Rottweilers get their tails docked? Rottweilers get their tails docked so that the tail won’t be caught when pulling carts, grabbed when fighting off an assailant, or bitten or stepped on by livestock when herding. People may also choose to dock their Rottweiler’s tail for aesthetics, for dog shows, or to avoid damage to their home.

If you’re considering a Rottweiler as the next breed for you and wondering whether you should have a dog with a docked tail or not, here is everything that you need to know about Rottweiler tail docking and the advantages and disadvantages of this procedure.

Why Rottweilers Get Their Tails Docked

Let’s take a look at a handful of the most commons reasons why Rottie get their tails docked.

Carting

Among the many jobs that Rottweilers have had throughout history has been as cart dogs. Rottweilers are powerful, muscular dogs with strong haunches and paws that are excellent at ripping into the soil, which makes them great cart dogs. 

Rotties have been pulling carts since they traveled with Roman conquering armies. They pulled carts in battle, drew the carts of farmers to market, and have pulled plenty of children around for fun as well. 

Many Rottweiler owners find that training them to pull a cart is one of the most efficient ways to wear out their energy, encourage self-control and obedience, and have a lot of fun at the same time. Many breeds of dogs that have historically been bred for carting typically have docked tails. 

If it wasn’t docked, the tail could get in the way of the cart, rigging, and wheels, making it a dangerous situation for the Rottweiler and potentially causing damage to the cart as well. 

Carting is an age-old activity for Rotties and it’s literally in their blood. It’s also a great way to give them some great exercise! As long as it’s safe, you can have your Rottie pull all kinds of things and all you really need to start is a pull harness. My favorite is this one on Amazon and I think the red looks the best with the Rottie’s black fur.

Convenience in the Home

If you ever had your legs and thighs walloped with a muscular dog’s tail or seen a coffee table cleared with a single sweep of a long tail, you may already appreciate the benefits of tail docking. 

Rottweilers are big dogs, often weighing over a hundred pounds, and the uncropped tail is quite strong. A Rottweiler with an intact tail could trip or hurt people, especially children and the elderly, completely unintentionally.

You also will probably find that you need to remove any objects from low tables like coffee tables or end tables if you have a Rottweiler with an undocked tail. The more excited your Rottweiler gets, the faster that tail goes, and the more likely it is to knock something over. 

Even if a Rottweiler’s tail isn’t knocking things over, it may be making a mess. A Rottweiler may lay down in the dirt or drag their tail through the mud, then wag their tail against your walls. Needless to say, it won’t take very long for your home to become dirty with a Rottweiler tail constantly smashing up against everything.

Rottweilers can’t do anything to control their tail, so there’s not much to be done about the problem other than removing it.

Aesthetics

Many people choose to dock a Rottweiler’s tail because of the aesthetics of it. A docked tail tends to make a dog look a bit more menacing. Most dogs that have been used for fighting other dogs or animals, such as pitbulls, also have cropped tails, along with cropped ears. 

While Rottweilers have not traditionally been used for dogfighting or pitting against large animals, the aesthetics of these pursuits remain, and many people think that their Rottweiler looks tougher if it has a docked tail.

Guard and Attack Dog

One of the roles Rottweilers have had throughout time is that of guard and attack dogs. In fact, the Rottweiler has one of the greatest bite forces of any breed of dog. They are intelligent, loyal, and brave, all of which make them excellent protectors of home and family.

The tail can get in the way of a dog’s work as a protection or bite work dog. The tail can be grabbed by an assailant, enabling them to get the upper hand on the Rottweiler long enough to hurt it or get away. On the other hand, a docked tail leaves very little to grab to try to keep the biting end of the dog away.

Herding Dangerous Livestock

Rottweilers have herded livestock since the very beginning. Farmers quickly realized that Rottweilers are exceptionally good at herding difficult livestock that other herding breeds may not be able to handle. 

Rottweilers don’t just bark and chase to intimidate livestock into behaving. They will also bite, body slam, and otherwise use physical force to control difficult livestock like cattle and hogs. 

Most of the time, a long tail is helpful in herding, since it may help with balance and fast maneuvers. However, when a Rottweiler is body-slamming, biting, and otherwise interacting extremely closely with livestock, the tail can become a liability. 

Livestock may bite at the tail to fight back against the dog or the tail could easily be stepped on, especially when the Rottweiler is holding on and its body is low to the ground.

If You Want to Show Your Rottweiler

If you want to show your Rottweiler at AKC events, they need to have a docked tail. While not every breed club demands a cropped tail in the Rottweiler, most reward it, and it’s hard to win without it in the AKC. 

That means that no matter how well your Rottweiler fits the breed standard in every other way, if their tail isn’t cropped, they won’t be able to win shows. People who do compete with Rottweilers with undocked tails often find that they don’t win, even if they believe their dog to be a winner. Closely related dogs often win if they have cropped tails.  

If you want to show your undocked Rottweiler, the UKC makes no distinctions between whether the tail should be docked or not. 

Generally Avoiding Injury

There is a lot of logic and understanding in why docking a Rottweiler’s tail may be able to help them avoid injury when herding livestock, but research also suggests that tail docking prevents injury in a number of breeds of various types and jobs. 

There are a variety of reaons why tail docking may prevent injury, but the research suggests that in general, it may be a better option to remove the tail to prevent suffering than to leave it. 

Why Would Rottweilers not Have Their Tails Docked?

Many people prefer to keep their Rottweiler tails natural. A number of breed organizations including the UKC and the FCI allow an undocked tail or even require the tail to be undocked. There are plenty of advantages to not docking a Rottweiler tail:

Aesthetics

Just as many people think that a Rottweiler’s tail is attractive as believe the tail looks better docked. A Rottweiler’s tail is naturally quite long, arched, and with a slight plume. 

It is black at the top and rust-colored underneath. It’s quite strong and muscular, and able to be very expressive as to the Rottweiler’s personality. Many Rottweiler owners prefer the look of the undocked tail to the docked variety.

Expression

Dogs use their tails to express themselves in all kinds of ways. You probably know that a dog with a wagging tail is happy or excited, but the subtleties of tail expression go much farther than wagging.

A dog may drop the end of the tail in a moment of hesitancy or confusion. A tail held straight out and stiff could indicate coming aggression, while a tail out and dipped down may show insecurity. 

East dog uses their tail a little bit differently to express themselves, but the better you know your Rottweiler and their tail, the more they will be able to communicate to you using their tail. Some Rottweilers may understand that they do not have a tail to communicate with and may be able to figure out other ways to express themselves using their ears and face,

However, it is doubtful whether dogs can really understand that they are missing a tail or that they would have used a tail to express themselves otherwise. Therefore, by cropping your Rottweiler’s tail, you may miss out on aspects of expression that they would otherwise have been able to communicate to you.

Agility

A Rottweiler with a tail may be more agile than one without since aminals use the tail as ballast to counterbalance their weight. If you want your Rottweiler to compete in agility sports or any other dog sports that require them to be as agile as possible, you may opt for an undocked tail.

The Rottweiler’s strong tail developed, probably, as an aid in herding. Rottweilers need to be extremely fast, athletic, and strong to herd difficult livestock. 

The tail may help a Rottweiler to pivot, change directions quickly, and regain balance if they start to fall over. Most times, with most types of livestock, an undocked tail can be an advantage. 

Here is a Rottweiler working relatively easy livestock, tame sheep, with an uncropped tail.

The only cases in which a docked tail would be preferable is when a Rottweiler is working difficult livestock. They may try to bite the tail or may step on the tail.

Cost

Having a litter of Rottweiler tails docked comes with an increased expense for the breeder. Therefore, you may be able to buy your Rottweiler puppy with an un-docked tail at a reduced cost. 

Since hind dewclaws are often removed at the same time that tails are docked, be sure that if you are choosing an undocked Rottweiler, you know whether the dewclaws have been removed. Hind dewclaw removal is desirable for most people in a Rottweiler, as dewclaws can easily get hung up on things and pulled off, causing pain and injury.

How Much is a Rottweiler Tail Docked?

Tail docking doesn’t always happen at the same place or look the same. Many breeds of dogs, such as pointers and poodles, have tails docked about halfway down the length. 

Dogs that have tails cropped because they’ll be in the bush and undergrowth, like Pointers, have the tail cropped halfway down to avoid the end being damaged while still allowing the tail to communicate and help balance the dog.

Dogs that have tails cropped to keep them from being caught up in carts or grabbed by assailants, like the Rottweiler, have closer cropped tails. Typically only one or two vertebrae are left in the tail when it is removed. 

This creates an extremely small knob, just long enough to stick up to show alertness or tuck down to show fear. It is short enough that it cannot easily be grabbed by an assailant and is much too short to be bitten or stepped on by cattle.

Sometimes Rottweilers that are being raised as pets and not for show dogs or working dogs may have their tails cropped longer. Leaving five or six vertebrae instead of only one or two gives the Rottweiler a lot more expression with their tail while also preventing it from wrecking your house.

Is it Cruel to Dock a Dog’s Tail?

Tail docking has been banned in countries worldwide, including In the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. These bans have followed actions taken by the animal welfare society as well as many pet owners, veterinarians, and breeders. While tail docking is still unregulated in the United States, many groups are pushing to have the practice banned in the States as well.

The argument for the cruelty of docking a dog’s tail is related to the fact that the procedure is often performed without anesthesia and without any clear medical benefit to the dog. While the AKC and breeders often state that the puppy cannot feel their tail being docked because their nervous system isn’t fully developed, science tells us that a dog’s basic nervous system is fully developed when they are born, making it very likely that they can feel every bit of pain when the tail is docked.

Why should a puppy be put through the pain of having the tail docked if there is no benefit to the dog?

Furthermore, tail docking may prevent dogs from being able to communicate appropriately with other dogs or people and may inhibit their agility or mobility. In some cases, there can be side effects from tail cropping that can result in more problems for a Rottweiler.

However, the argument is also made that cropping a dog’s tail makes later injury to the tail less likely, which is kinder to the dog in the end. The debate about whether it is cruel to dock a dog’s tail is still raging, with fierce arguments on either side and the world divided into places where it is banned or allowed.

It is likely that ongoing research into the effects of docking versus not docking will help us to determine whether this practice is cruel or helpful, and which dogs do better with docked tails versus those that suffer from the practice. 

Why Aren’t Rottweiler Ears Cropped?

You may notice that many other types of dogs that have docked tails, such as the Dogo Argentino or Pitbull, also have cropped ears. However, Rottweiler’s ears are practically never cropped. Why is this?

Cropped ears have never been in the breed standard for Rottweilers. It may be that the drop ears were more functional in helping Rottweilers to smell and follow livestock. Communication with livestock and with people has always been very important in the jobs that Rottweilers have held, so keeping ears to allow for greater expression was important. This is especially true since Rottweiler tails are so often cropped, reducing their ability to express themselves in that way.

Rottweilers were not historically used to fight with other dogs or against large animals in rings as much as many other bully type dogs were. Dogs like Pitbulls and American Bulldogs had cropped ears in order to avoid having their ears shredded by other dogs in a fight. 

Both the ears and tail were considered a weak spot that were best removed to avoid having them injured in the ring. Since Rottweilers have not typically been used to fight in this way, there would have been no motivation to crop the ears.

People who have used their Rottweilers for fighting very likely would crop the ears. There’s no reason that a Rottie’s ears can’t be cropped, it’s just not commonly done. 

Rottweiler Dewclaw Removal 

Rottweilers typically have their hind dew claws removed at the same time that the tail is docked. Many breeders still have the dewclaws removed even if they don’t choose to dock the tails. 

Like removing the tip of the tail, removing dewclaws can be painful. Most veterinarians agree that hind dewclaws should be removed. Hind dewclaws don’t occur in most breeds but may pop up in some breeds like Rottweilers. 

Hind dewclaws are usually insecurely attached and very likely to get caught up on things and cause problems. Many breeders believe that front dewclaws have the same problem and should therefore be removed. Typically dewclaws on the front are removed by most Rottweiler breeders. 

However, there is a strong argument to not remove the dewclaws on the front, especially if you intend for your Rottweiler to be a working dog. Dewclaws can help your Rottweiler to grip terrain, assailants, or cattle. 

The differences may be slight, but it’s worth looking into whether or not it’s best to remove your Rottweiler’s front dewclaws. If you intend to show your Rottweiler with the AKC, dewclaw removal is necessary, but it may not be essential if you are showing with other breed organizations. 

Rottweiler Tail Docking History

The Rottweiler is one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and people have been docking their tails for a very long time. At the earliest point, the Rottweiler’s tail was likely docked to prevent it from getting injured when the dog was pulling carts, herding livestock, or fighting on the battlefield. 

Later on, myths developed that docking a dog’s tail can prevent the spread of rabies or increase the dog’s strength, neither of which is true. During times when poor people were not allowed to hunt game, dogs’ tails were often required to be docked because it was believed that a long tail made the dog better able to hunt game. 

By the time the Rottweiler breed standard was originally drawn up in Germany around 1900, tail docking was well established in the breed. When the AKC breed standard was formalized in the 1950s, docking remained in the AKC breed standard and is still there today. 

However, in other parts of the world, the Rottweiler had a different experience with tail docking. Around the 1990s, bans on docking began to be put into place in Europe and throughout the world.

Currently, the majority of Rottweilers born and showed in the USA at AKC shows have docked tails, while the majority of Rottweilers born and showed overseas may have undocked tails. 

Should I Choose a Docked or Undocked Rottweiler?

The more humane choice is to NOT dock your Rottie’s tail. It’s a painful procedure that’s done without anesthesia.

But if you’re deadset on having a Rottie with a docked tail you can adopt one that’s already had the procedure.  You can find purebred dogs in shelters and Rottieweilers are sadly not that uncommon.

Are you planning to show with the AKC?

If you want your Rottweiler to be a show dog and you want to win at the AKC, it may be best to go ahead and choose a dog with a docked tail. Rottweilers with undocked tails are unlikely to win at AKC events, no matter how well they meet the breed standard in every other way.

How much are you willing to spend?

Rottweilers with docked tails typically cost more than those with full tails, but the difference may not be more than a few hundred dollars at most. If you intend to use your Rottweiler for active work in which their tail could be injured, it may end up costing you more to not have the tail docked at the beginning. However, if your dog will be a family pet, it may be worth saving the money on a tail that has not been docked.

How particular are you about your home orderliness and cleanliness?

A Rottweiler with a tail can wreak havoc on your home much quicker than one without a tail. If you plan to have a Rottweiler with a tail, you will need to clear things off of low surfaces and be ready to either clean your dog’s tail when they come in from inside or frequently scrub down your walls and furniture. If you are very particular about your home, a Rottweiler with a tail may not be best.

What do you want your Rottweiler to do?

If you intend for your Rottweiler to be an active protection or bite work dog, it may be best to dock the tail. Assailants can grab the tail of an undocked attack dog, rendering them helpless long enough to hurt them. 

Rottweilers that work as herding dogs can benefit from the tail due to increased agility and mobility, or the tail may be a problem since it can be stepped on or bitten by livestock. Whether or not to dock your Rottweiler’s tail depends a lot on what your dog’s job will be.

Legality in your area

In the United States, tail docking is not controlled, but in other parts of the world, it can be punished by fines or even jail time. Make sure that you know whether it is legal to dock your dog’s tail in the country that you’re in. If you plan to dock your Rottweiler’s tail and travel, it’s a good idea to have a veterinarian’s note clarifying that it was done legally in the US.

Socialization with other dogs and people

If you’d like a social butterfly of a Rottweiler, it is best to leave the tail undocked. Rottweilers can use their tails to communicate with other dogs and people. 

A Rottweiler with a docked tail may be perceived to be more dangerous or aggressive than one without. In fact, some of the records of bites from Rottweilers to people may result from an inability of a Rottweiler with a cropped tail to appropriately communicate with people. 

Therefore, if you’d like your Rottweiler to communicate well with other dogs and people, the tail is a good idea. On the other hand, if you want an effective guard dog, docking is a better option.

Enjoy Your Rottweiler Docked or Natural

If you are choosing a Rottweiler puppy as you are next pet, you have the option of docked or undocked tail. Both docking and leaving the tail natural appear to have some potential benefits and drawbacks. Consider your lifestyle, your goals for your dog, and your personal preferences to determine whether you should dock or not.