Why Do Australian Shepherds Have Docked Tails?

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The Australian Shepherd, slim, strong ranch dogs are regulars on the rodeo circuit and are inextricably linked to the cowboy lifestyle. Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized working dog with a sharp eye. Australian Shepherds come in a variety of colors, including merle (a striped pattern with different shades of blue or red). They exemplify tough and nimble stock movers in every manner. 

They have an uncontrollable urge to herd anything: birds, dogs, and kids. They are astonishingly bright and are very capable of fooling an unsuspecting beginner owner. In a nutshell, this is not a suitable pet for everyone.

Here we will learn about Australian Shepherds and dive deep into why they have docked tails.

Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd

The tail of a sheepdog is normally long and bushy, but it is frequently cut as adolescence approaches due to outdated restrictions that refuse to recognize any dog as a sheepdog or exempt it from taxation until its tail is clipped. However, many people who enjoyed the sport of coursing and were bothered about appearances used to trim the tails of their greyhounds and avoid paying the charge by referring to them as Sheep-dogs, which contradicted the regulation’s own objective.

On this page:

  • Size
  • Why are Australian Shepherds Tails Docked?
  • Why do Breeders Dock the Tails of Australian Shepherds?
  • The Medical Advantages of Docking Tails
  • Should Australian Shepherds Tails be Docked?
  • What Length Do You Dock an Australian Shepherds Tail?
  • Conclusion


The Australian Shepherd is somewhat longer than he is tall, standing between 20 and 23 inches at the shoulder for males and 18 to 21 inches for females. Males weigh between 50 and 65 pounds on average, while females range between 40 and 55 pounds.

Breeders of Australian Shepherds do not consider these dogs to be authentic Australian Shepherds. The breed is intended to be a practical working dog capable of herding difficult cattle for kilometers through rugged size or snowdrifts, therefore it does not come in lesser sizes.


Weekly brushing sessions will help maintain the Australian Shepherd’s waterproof, double-layer coat. However, further labour will be necessary during the shedding season. Australian Shepherds frequently work and/or play outside, and it’s not uncommon for them to return home dirtier than how they went. However, unless they get themselves into a very sticky predicament, they only require a bath on a rare occasion.

Australian Shepherds Tails Docked
Australian Shepherds Tails Docked

Why are Australian Shepherds Tails Docked?

There are a variety of reasons why Australian Shepherds’ tails are docked, including tradition, identity, cosmetics, and function.

Tail docking has most certainly been used since prehistoric times. According to legend, the Romans docked the tails because they believed, that the muscles of the dog’s tail caused rabies.

In the late 1790s, a tax was imposed on dogs to finance the French war effort. Working dogs were excluded and had their tails docked to indicate their position.

The 1865 publication of Woods Natural History in London sheds light on the historical practice of tail docking.

“The Sheep-dog tail is naturally long and bushy but is often removed at the onset of adolescence due to obsolete rules that refuse to recognize any Dog as a sheepdog or exempt it from taxation unless its tail is removed. This regulation, however, sometimes contradicted its own purpose, as many people who enjoyed the sport of coursing and were unconcerned with appearances used to clip the tails of their greyhounds and cut paying the fee by referring to them as Sheep-dogs.”

As dogs help people in the field or hunting, their tails may act as a magnet for foxtails as well as a variety of other burrs and stickers, causing tail damage. As a result, tail docking was done to prevent harm and infection.

Why do Breeders Dock the Tails of Australian Shepherds?

Breeders who adhere to the AKC standard will dump the tails of Australian shepherds. In order to register their dogs with AKC and qualify them as show dogs, they must comply with the standard, which requires a docked tail.

Certain breeders who breed Aussies for display purposes dock their babies’ tails extremely short. They do this to ensure that the top line is flat while they are in the ring.

Breeders may be motivated to register their puppies with the AKC since it serves as a status symbol and provides a variety of benefits to the breeder.

Not only do they get credit for adhering to the standard rule, but they may also have an easier time finding a new home for their children while earning a higher income.

Because dogs must undergo extensive genetic testing and health exams, many purchasers prefer to purchase an AKC-registered puppy to verify that they are healthy and purebred.

The Medical Advantages of Docking Tails
The Medical Advantages of Docking Tails

The Medical Advantages of Docking Tails

Tail docking really provides a beneficial medical reason for the Australian Shepherd breed. While the aesthetics of tail docking appear to be harsh, this regular operation has a level of medicinal advantages.

There are various concerns that can develop into very complicated annoyances in Australian Shepherd dogs with a full tail. The first concern is for the dog’s safety since the dense hair of the tail frequently becomes entangled in bushes and high vegetation, potentially trapping the dog or resulting in a dislocated tail. Additionally, sanitation becomes a severe issue as feces becomes trapped in the matted fur of the tail, resulting in a horrible mess for both the dog and owner.

Due to the genetic composition of the Aussie breed, the tail’s final third is fragile and sensitive, leaving it prone to breaking or splitting, which would inflict far more pain and trauma than tail docking.

Additionally, when performed properly, tail docking is a painless surgery that leaves the puppy with no recollection of the event. Some have advocated for tail docking to be performed only while a puppy is sedated. Unfortunately, pups are much too small for anesthesia without risking serious medical consequences, and waiting until they are old enough for general anesthesia would result in a horrific experience filled with intense pain that they would definitely remember.

Should Australian Shepherds Tails be Docked?

First of all – if you bring your Australian Shepherd home with a tail, do not cut the tail. This process should be done well in advance. It can be very painful and certainly a traumatic experience for the adult Aussie.

But if you have not yet chosen your puppy and have a choice with your breeder, you may want to consider skipping this process. They will be the same dog with or without a tail, although tails may help communicate in the way a dog expresses its feelings.

What Length Do You Dock an Australian Shepherds Tail?

Australian Shepherds’ tails are frequently docked between the ages of 2-5 days. There are two methods for docking. One is to make a surgical cut about 2-3 inches below the base of the tail using special shears; the other is to band the tail in the same place and allow the remaining part to swing or fall on its own.


The docking procedure should be performed by a professional veterinarian to avoid problems such as infection or nerve damage.  Eight-week-old dog tails will have vertebrae that need to be carefully handled. Docking pups at such a young age is necessary as the cartilage is still weak and the bones have not yet grown. Hope this article helped you in understanding everything about tail docking Australian Shepherds. 

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