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Docked and Natural Bobtails

Docked or natural bobtails 4 inches or less in length are a requirement of the Australian Shepherd ASCA, AKC, and CKC breed standards.

Tail docking is full amputation of the tail.  This procedure is typically done between 1 and 3 days after birth, but may be done as late as 5 days after birth.  Docking too close may result in spinal damage.

The history of why tail docking became a part of the Australian Shepherd breed standard is very convoluted.  It is popular belief that docking originated as a way to spare the dog risk of injury while working around livestock and farm equipment while also easing grooming requirements for the owner.  However, the origin is far more unnerving.   Working dogs were once exempt from taxation and as undisputable branding of working dog status the tails of working dogs were docked.   Today, tail docking is considered to be a cosmetic upholding of the breed standard as opposed to a relief from taxation or a procedure for the safety of the animal.  As such, the practice of tail docking is now being increasingly banned or simply voluntarily excluded by veterinary practices throughout some provinces and states, including Maryland, Alberta, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Docking is said to be painless if the procedure is done to newborns as their nervous systems are not yet fully developed.  However, recent studies have discovered that newborn puppies have more neurological transmitters than adult dogs or humans.  This heavily suggests that although a newborn puppy's nervous system is developing, it likely is capable of feeling more pain, not less.  This theory is supported by documentation of increased weight loss, lack of weight gain, increased risk of infection, and overall stunted development of docked litters in comparison to their undocked counterparts.   Phantom pain in animals (comparable to the pain suffered by humans who undergo the severance of an extremity) is medically recorded in many docked species of animals.

Natural bobtails are dogs born with 1 or more missing tail vertebrae, resulting in a shortened tail.  It is very important to note that although a dog may visually be a full tail, it is still possible for it to genetically be a natural bobtail.  This is DNA testable through T-box gene.

Ironically, due to the breed standards requiring a tail length of 4 inches or less, natural bobtails are often docked regardless as tails may not be short enough to meet breed standard.  Furthermore, natural bobs 

if left undocked often have a deformed clubbed or kinked appearance.

A natural bobtail should not be bred to another natural bobtail.  Puppies that receive 2 copies of the bobtail gene; 1 from each parent typically die in gestation.  Those that survive may have spina bifida or other lower spinal cord defects and very short lifespans. 

This breed detriment is completely preventable through DNA testing and responsible breeding.

Hartspride does not dock our puppies and does not breed natural bobtail to natural bobtail. 

For more information regarding tail docking and natural bobtails please click the links below:

Docked and Natural Bobtails and Dewclaws: Text


A dewclaw is a fifth claw located on the inside of the leg a few inches up from the paw.

It has been common practice to remove dew claws on dogs as they are subject to being torn out in some cases.  However, the practice of dewclaw removal in puppies is now being increasingly banned or simply voluntarily excluded by veterinary practices throughout most provinces and states, including Saskatchewan.

Hartspride does not remove the declaws on our puppies.

For more information regarding dew claws please click the link below:

Docked and Natural Bobtails and Dewclaws: Text
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