Why are Rottweiler’s Tails docked? What You Need To Know

A question mark over where a Rottweiler's tail has been removed or docked

Why are Rottweiler tails docked? Is it ethical or legal to dock your Rottie’s tail? Does docking hut the puppy? These are all questions that Rottweiler lovers may face at some point. Many people love the square, compact appearance of a docked tail. Docked tails in Rottweilers were once the norm, but they are becoming rarer, leaving many of us with questions about the practice.

The whole concept of tail docking is controversial, and people have strong feelings on the topic. But Kennel clubs around the World, including the FCI, UKC, and AKC breed standards, all allow both docked tails and non-docked tails in the Rottweiler breed profile. 

All Kennel Clubs that fall under the FCI are specifically not allowed to discriminate against a Rottweiler because it has a docked tail (or not). They only specify that a docked tail needs to be cut at the first or second vertebrae, and a full tail has to fit the breed specifications. 

So if the kennel clubs don’t require a Rottweiler’s tail to be docked, why dock them at all?

Why Are Rottweilers Tails Docked?

Historically, Rottweilers’ tails were docked because they pulled meat carts to markets, and it said the tail got in the way. Other reasons include so that a tail can’t be grabbed when the dog is attacked, or in the way. However, the real reason that Rottweiler’s tails were docked (and still are) is simply because it makes the dog look scarier.

But we will get to the real reason that studies show that Rottweiler tails are docked below, first let’s quickly cover some more of the history of Rottie tail docking. 

On a similar note, be sure to check out our article on why Rottweiler ears aren’t cropped. 

More historical reasons that Rottweiler tails were docked

  1. According to the AVMA, Rottweilers may have had their tails docked as far back as ancient Rome. The Romans believed that cutting off a dog’s tail and a bit of their tongue prevented rabies. You can read this article for more about how the Romans used Rottweilers
  2. There is a tendency for owners of working dogs, especially hunting dogs, to dock the tail as there is a belief that the tail is prone to injury when the dog is working in a physically intense environment. As a result, it was considered more practical to dock the tail early on to prevent these injuries. A broken tail is a terrible injury, so there is some validity to this reasoning.
  3. Unfortunately, docking rottweiler tails also became common in dogfighting, where these dogs were trained to be aggressive and forced to fight against other dogs for sport. Dogs engaged in dogfighting needed shorter tails to reduce their weak spots against the other dogs. As a result, those who used these dogs for this horrible pastime would also dock their tails.

Now that we have looked at some of the reasons put forward over the years for tail docking Rottweilers, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Rottweiler’s tails are cut off because people like how it looks. 

Cropping Rottweiler tails for aesthetic and cosmetic reasons

There are a number of reasons that people may give for cutting off Rottweiler tails, but at the heart of it is just because dogs with cropped ears and docked tails look scarier. In fact, studies show that “Modified dogs were perceived as being more aggressive, more dominant, less playful and less attractive than natural dogs.” 

One of the reasons that a dog with a docked tail is scarier is because it is harder to see their body signals. The dog loses much of their ability to wag their tail or otherwise indicate whether they are friendly or not. Similarly, cropped ears make it look like the dog’s ears are always alert and erect rather than relaxed, floppy, and friendly.

As many people want a Rottweiler as a guard dog, many people choose docked tails to make their dog look as intimidating as possible. Many breeders are also accustomed to having their dogs have docked tails and simply continue it as tradition.

There are a number of superstitions and old beliefs regarding clipping a Rottweiler’s tail as well. For example, some used to believe that it would increase their speed or improve their overall strength. This is simply not true. Dogs need their tails for balance, especially when moving fast.

When do they dock a Rottweiler puppy’s tail?

Usually a breeder will dock the tail themselves when the puppies are between 3 and 5 days old. They simply clip the tail off, sometimes without anesthesia. They make take the litter to the vet, but many breeders opt to do it themselves. This gives many people the perception that Rottweilers are born without tails.

How short do you dock a Rottweiler’s tail?

The breed standard for Rottweilers requires that docked tails are cut off close to the body. They require that the tail is removed within one or two vertebrae from where the tail departs from the body.

Does docking hurt tails hurt puppies?

Docking tails is a surgical procedure that removes a part of the dog’s natural anatomy. Even when done under anesthesia, it will hurt the puppy. Studies show that docking is painful and creates complications for dogs. 

Can you dock a Rottweiler’s tail at 8 weeks?

General practice is to cut off a Rottweiler’s tail in their first week of life. It is best if a veterinarian performs the procedure under an anesthetic. Many consider it cruel to dock tails after the first 7 days, and many veterinarians will refuse to do the procedure. That said, one-week-old puppies who have their tails docked still undergo pain at an extremely vulnerable stage in their life, so arguably, it is no more or less cruel to dock at the tail of an older dog. 

Why Rottweiler Tail Docking is Unnecessary

Now, on the other side of things are the people who believe that you should not dock your rottweilers tail

  1. Docking a rottweiler tail does not actually help them in any way. While it may (or may not) have helped them with their physical labor tasks in the past, they are no longer used in this way. This means that clipping their tail for this purpose is unnecessary.
  2. Tail docking is proven to painful to puppies regardless of their age. As puppies are born blind and deaf, and are extremely vulnerable in the first week of life, having them surgically lose a limb seems is a very extreme experience.
  3. Rottweilers need their tail to balance. It is a functional limb that helps their equilibrium when running or performing activities.
  4. The tail is a crucial part of dog body language. Removing the tail severely affects the dog’s ability to communicate friendliness, aggression, dominance, submission, excitement, or nervousness. By crippling a dog’s ability to communicate, they may suffer more behavioral issues later in life.

Common Beliefs on Rottweiler Tail Clipping

Many believe that it is not a ‘big deal’ to clip the tail of a rottweiler or any other breed of dog because it is a relatively simple procedure. The truth, however, is that unless you are planning to have a show dog in the US, then it is an unnecessary procedure, and it is most definitely painful for the dog during recovery.

Clipping off the tail of your rottweiler does not actually serve any purpose for them, which means it’s something that is done specifically for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons. Putting your dog through a painful procedure for nothing more than looks is not something I would consider as a responsible and loving dog parent.

What to Know If Your Rottweiler’s Tail is Docked

If you purchase a puppy from a breeder that has already clipped the tail, there are some important things you should know and consider. First, you need to find out more about how and where they had the tail clipped so you know more about the health and safety of your puppy.

Having a rottweiler tail docked with a veterinarian or other professional is expensive, and many are actually starting to refuse to engage in the practice at all. As a result, breeders who choose to have these dogs tails clipped may do so in a less hospitable environment.

They may hire someone who is not a professional to take care of the clipping. As a result, the puppies themselves may have health problems as a result of the improper way the procedure is completed and you will be the one to reap the consequences.

Make sure that if you do purchase a dog that has already had their tail docked, or if you decide to get their tail clipped, you work with a professional and speak with a veterinarian to get it done properly. This is the only way to make sure that they are as safe as possible throughout and after the procedure.

Banning Rottweiler Tail Docking. Is it legal to dock your Rottweiler’s tail?

Docking tails in the United States is still mostly legal. However, there are restrictions on tail docking in Maryland and Pennsylvania. However, many vets refuse to perform the procedure.

Many countries have actually banned the process of clipping or docking the tail of rottweilers and other dogs as well. In fact, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and Turkey have all banned the practice. This means there are no reputable places that you can go to get your dogs tail docked in these areas and you should avoid breeders who are selling Rotties with docked tails.

In some other countries there are exceptions made for working dogs, as it is still believed that docking may provide some level of protection to working dogs. Also, there are plenty of different breeders, veterinarians, and others within the field that are unwilling to participate in rottweiler tail docking for any reason.

There are also some people who are looking to have laws created in other parts of the world that would ban the practice of tail clipping for Rottweilers and other breeds of dogs as well. These individuals believe that it is a sort of cruel and unusual punishment to dock a dogs tail, and we would have to agree.

These individuals and others have also started to pressure the AKC to change their policy on Rottweiler tail docking and to encourage owners and breeders to keep the natural tail for their dog. In order to do this, however, it is important that the AKC change their breed standard to a natural rather than clipped tail.

Who is Against Tail Docking?

There are several different organizations that are actually against tail clipping. First, we mentioned there are several countries that have banned the practice, but there are actually nearly 40 countries that have chosen to ban the practice entirely. That means no one is allowed to engage in the practice.

The Rottweiler Club of North America has also banned the practice. This means that any dog that was born after January 1, 2019 is required to have a natural tail rather than a docked one if you wish to enter any of their events. And this follows the FCI Breed Standard.

The German ADRK is another one that has changed their standard to rottweilers with natural tails rather than docked and these organizations as a whole have made a huge difference in reducing the popularity of the practice throughout the world.

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association has taken a stance against the practice, which has led to many veterinarians in the country deciding not to support the practice either. Not to mention there are plenty of individuals that have turned away from the practice as well.

How are Rottweiler’s tails docked or cut off?

Typically, the process of docking a rottweiler tail can be done in a couple different ways but the safest way to do it is with a veterinarian. It typically happens once the puppy is a few days old. They will use surgical scissors or a scalpel in order to remove the tail safely and to monitor your dog for any health concerns after.

Others may choose to use a band to bind the tail so that it loses blood flow and will eventually fall off entirely on its own. This process is even less safe and leaves your rottweiler susceptible to health problems, including infection. It also takes much longer and can be even more painful.

Often, the dogs that go through either of these procedures are not given any form of anesthetic as it’s believed that they are too young to handle it. This is reinforced by the fact that the dogs are generally only a few days old/less than one week, when the tail docking procedure is carried out.

The idea is that puppies of this age do not have an advanced enough nervous system to feel the pain of the procedure and therefore it is the best time to do it. However, experience shows us that puppies of this age are most definitely able to feel pain and are definitely affected by the procedure itself.

Making the Right Decision for Your Rottweiler

If you are considering getting a Rottweiler for your family it’s important to think about all of the possible things that you’ll need to do in order to take care of them. Understanding the positive and negative about tail docking is extremely important as well.

You want to make sure that you review everything you can about what tail docking is and what it could do before you decide to do this with your dog. You also want to make sure that you carefully consider what it’s going to do to your dog if you decide to dock their tail. Although in most cases, it will be the breeder that does the procedure.

While there are aesthetic reasons that some choose to dock the tail of their Rottweiler, especially those that are planning to have their dogs in shows, there are no good reasons to engage in the practice outside of that. It is most definitely painful for the dog, no matter how early it is done, and there have been no reasons found to support the idea that it’s beneficial to the dog.

You want your dog to be healthy and happy, which means ensuring they have the right care and treatment from the beginning. And all of that starts with keeping your dog’s tail natural and making sure that your Rottweiler is happy and healthy from the first day you bring them home.

Conclusion

It’s your job to protect your puppy when they aren’t able to do it for themselves. That’s why it’s important to support breeders who encourage responsible practices with their dogs and to avoid those who engage in harmful practices like tail docking for no good reason.

About Tamsin de la Harpe 16 Articles
Tamsin has worked extensively in dog behavior problems and is passionate about canine nutrition. She has worked with trainers who specialize in Shutzhund and protection training, and worked with many Rottweilers. Her passion for dogs shows in her writing and she loves sharing her knowledge with Rottie lovers!