Why do some dogs have short tails?

Why do some dogs have short tails?

Have you heard the tale of the puppy dog tail? We all come in all shapes and sizes but the history and reasoning behind the various dog lengths and shapes are fascinating. And not something that comes up in conversation often. 

Why do some dogs have long tails?

Why do some dogs have short tails?

It seems like a simple question enough but we were surprised to find more than we were fetching for. In this blog post, we give the details on the why behind short tails and dog breeds.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: docking.

As opposed to cropping which is in reference to the altering of dog ears, docking is the practice of removing parts of a dog’s tail. And the process is ugly especially if you’re reading it on Wikipedia first, but if you do, know that docking has evolved. So while it’s still a questionable practice, it’s not as gruesome or cruel as painted plainly on Wikipedia.

Here’s what they share:

Tail docking occurs in one of two ways. The first involves constricting the blood supply to the tail with a rubber ligature for a few days until the tail falls off. The second involves the severance of the tail with surgical scissors or a scalpel.[2] The length to which tails are docked varies by breed, and is often specified in the breed standard.

But if you dig deeper into docking on Pets WebMD, you’ll learn that docking isn’t just a random chop of the tail. It’s done within a set timeframe and with professionals involved. They explain that the process includes surgical scissors when the dog is only a few days old and the tail is still soft. The procedure is also referred to as bobbing.

“Docking’s usually performed by a veterinarian or breeder without anesthesia, the rationale being that although it certainly causes pain, the puppy isn’t fully alert yet and won’t remember it,” says Emily Patterson-Kane, PhD, an animal welfare scientist at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Patterson-Kane doesn’t support the procedure herself. 
- Pet WebMD

Is docking ethical?

Back in the day, people used to think that docking would prevent rabies, improve the endurance and stamina of a dog, among other things. Today, docking is looked at as an unethical practice if it is for cosmetics purposes and not for health reasons. 

Modern professionals and veterinarians are in agreement that unless a dog is faced with an extreme injury or spreading disease that can’t be cured in other ways aside of docking, tail docking is an unjust and cruel practice. This was also agreed on by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

What about short-tailed breeds? Why do they have short tails?

There are various short-tailed breeds that have little to no tail to their bodies, and science has more to say about these fur babies.

In the 2009 Journal of Hereditary, a study titled ‘Ancestral T-Box Mutation is Present in Many, but Not All, Short-Tailed Dog Breeds’ noted the presence of a mutation. These 18 breeds included in the study were explained to have the T-Gene C189G mutation.

This mutation leads to varying degrees of short and stubby tails. 

However, the study does exclude a handful of short-tailed dog breeds, so the nature behind their tails not being short due to a mutation is something we’ve yet to explore.

Is your dog’s breed listed as one of the breeds with the T-Gene C189G mutation?

Australian Shepherd

Jack Russell Terrier

Austrian Pinscher

Karelian Farm Dog

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog


Bourbonnais Pointer

Polish Lowland Sheepdog

Brazilian Terrier

Pyrenean Shepherd

Brittany Spaniel

Savoy Sheepdog (Berger de Savoie)



Croatian Sheepdog

Spanish Waterdog

Danish-Swedish Farmdog

Swedish Vallhund

Stay on schedule with your dog’s checkups and veterinarian appointments to avoid missing devastating health risks.

For more doggie photos and pup-related fun, follow us on Instagram at @joyrideharness. And for a more detailed blog post about finding the best size dog harness for your pup, check out this blog post!

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