Australian Shepherd Tail Docking – A Tale of Tails

Australian Shepherd

If you have decided to buy an Australian shepherd dog and are looking at the aesthetic pictures of this lovely breed on the internet. Of all the features which would have attracted you, one thing which might have confused you is why some Aussie shepherds have tails while others are tailless or have docked tails. So before moving forward, let’s put some light on the docking of the tail.

Tail docking artificially shortens a dog’s tail through surgery or banding to stop its growth. This process doesn’t completely remove the tail but rather shortens it.

Are Australian Shepherds’ Tails Docked?

Many Australian shepherds are born without tails and are known as bobtailed dogs, while some are born with natural tails. Only some of the Australian shepherd dogs are born tailless, but the majority of the dogs do possess a tail and then are made tailless artificially due to various reasons such as, to meet the breed standards, to prevent injury, etc.

Wondering why and how Australian shepherd tails are docked? Is docking safe and beneficial? Why not breed a bobtailed shepherd?

To answer all of your questions I have compiled this article to let you know the essential information about the Australian shepherd tail

Bobtailed Aussie Shepherd Statistics

One out of five Australian shepherds is born with a bobtail (having no or a short tail) which means that not all the Aussies have a short tail. With a short tail, the vertebrae number also varies by 1 or 2 in Aussie’s case. In the case of an Australian shepherd with a normal tail, at the caudal end, the vertebrae get smaller thus producing a tail with tapering ends. But in the case of a bobtailed shepherd tapering effect is not produced due to the absence of a few caudal vertebrae and this produces a blunt tail.

Bobbed Tails and Natural Tails Australian Shepherd- How to Distinguish?

Based on tails Australian shepherds are of 2 types

1.   Naturally bobtailed Australia shepherd

2.   Natural tail Australian shepherd

It is easy to distinguish them by checking the tail length of both dogs.

Naturally Bobbed Tails Aussie Shepherds

Almost 47% of the Aussies shepherds with natural bobtails, and tails are of quarter length or longer but 10% of these dogs have a kinky tail (curved or unnatural tail). Furthermore, it is difficult to differentiate between an Australian shepherd having a natural bobtail and an Aussie whose tails have been docked as both looks the same.

Natural Tails Aussie Shepherds

Natural tails Aussie shepherds are easily distinguished from the bobbed tails ones as the length of their tails exceeds 4 inches (kennel club standard length). The length of their tail and fur is almost equal, and it becomes tough to properly take care of their tails as they may get tangled.

Is It Safe to Breed Bobtailed Aussies?

Naturally bobbed tail Aussies are available. One may think that like other dog breeds, why not breed this dog to get more bobtailed dogs to end the docking process of dogs?

This breeding process is not normal at all but very complicated and mostly it causes the death of puppies which everyone avoids not only breeders.

The gene which produces this bobtail in Aussies is known as the bobtail gene or T gene mutation (C189G) and is an incomplete dominant gene. The length of the tail or whether the tail would be curved or straight is not determined by this gene. For an Australian shepherd to get a bobtail, only one pair of this gene is required. But if the breed gets 2 copies of the bobtail gene then the puppy will die. Besides death, other complications may arise like spina bifida, negative effects on the gene pool, and imperforate anus

Spina Bifida

In this mutation dog fails to properly develop a normal anus or tail area and this complication always leads to the death of the dog.

Imperforate Anus

In this congenital disease anal opening is not fully formed and this may prove fatal for your Aussie’s health.

Gene Pool is Negatively Affected

 One of the main reasons why breeders avoid breeding bobtailed Aussies is that it negatively affects the gene pool and limits the variety of genes in the gene pool. To get a natural bobtail, other important factors such as coat colors, temperament, health, work ethic, and many more have to ignore by breeders.

With this breeding, the specific length of the tail cannot be achieved furthermore these bobtail dogs possess a sub-tail that is not liked by many owners, which is either kinky or too long.

Why Dock Aussies Tail?

After 3 days of their birth, most Australian shepherds get their tails docked. Behind this process, there are several reasons few of them are discussed here

To Achieve Standard Length of Breed

Most people like to have a bobtail Australian shepherd bobtail to meet the standards set by the American kennel club or Australian shepherd club of America. According to these standards the length of the tail, either through docking or naturally, should be 4 inches or 10.16 cm and never exceed this limit. And this bobtail is considered an identifying feature of the Australian shepherds. To meet this standard most people docked their puppy’s tails at an early age

No Curvier Tail

Australian shepherds born with natural bobtails do also have defects in their tails. Their tails are short curly or kinky, lacking tapering ends due to the absence of a few vertebrae. This feathery-looking tail is mostly considered malformed and to give a normal aesthetic look to the tail most people and breeders prefer docking.

Sometimes the tail is perfect but the owner simply docked the tail for aesthetic preference.

Fewer Injuries

Besides the above reasons, most of the owners prefer the docking of the tail to avoid tail injuries. For the Aussies involved in outdoor activities, the docked tail is good. A few potential injury examples are given below.

  • Grabbing the guard or police dog by the tail may lead to a tail injury (during a pursuit)
  • Stepping on the tail, during working with other large animals may lead to an injury
  • During hunting or herding, these dogs may hurt the tips of their tails in under a bush

Grooming Becomes Easy

Docking the tails also makes grooming much easier due to better cleanliness or sanitation. The grooming of dogs with long hair can be tough specifically around the tail end. If the regular brushing is not done, there is a risk of matting fur around the tail. Additionally, debris, dirt, waste, or plant material can easily stick to long hair, further damaging the tail.

Some people are against this docking process and argue that it doesn’t have any effect on the health of animals.

Australian Shepherd’s Tail Docking Process

Surgical removal of a puppy’s tail is known as docking and this procedure should have been carried out within 3 to 5 days after the puppy’s birth to avoid more pain.

Docking of the tail can be done by following the 2 ways given below.


Most breeders and veterinarians prefer surgical removal of the dog’s tail using surgical scissors. This involves cutting mussels, cartilages, tendons, and several nerves. After surgery tail area is closed by sutures to avoid any infection.

Banding Technique

Some breeders use this less painful technique to remove the tail. It involves a tight rubber band that is used to prevent the supply of blood to the tail, hindering its growth. After a long time, the tail will drop off.

Disadvantages of Tail Docking

This tail docking process is very controversial and a highly debated topic in the dog-loving world. There are various side effects of tail docking.

Tail Docking- A Painful Procedure

Although some people state that tail docking is not a painful procedure but scientific knowledge opposes this statement. When born, puppies do have a basic nervous system and they can feel the pain as this procedure is done without using any anesthesia.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain around the tail is another risk factor that can develop in Aussies after tail docking. Secondary nerve spinal tumor or nerve sensitivity can lead to this long-lasting serious pain.


It is a condition in which dogs cannot properly hold their bladder due to tail docking. It is a rare condition and has a deep impact on the family line of the dog


The tail is used for communication by the dogs, and removing the tail makes it difficult for the dog to properly socialize themselves.

AVMA Don’t Approve This

AVMA also doesn’t think tail docking is a beneficial procedure, which is a huge veterinarian organization in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Australian Shepherds born with long tails?

Almost 80% of the Aussies have a long tail by birth, but this long tail has many defects in it.

How long does it take for a tail dock to heal?

Within 2 to 3 days, bandages are removed, and to make the healing process a bit faster make sure to keep the tail clean, dry, and urine free.

How much does it cost to get a tail docked?

Tail docking can cost anywhere between $10 and $20 per dog.

Can you dock a 2-year-old dog’s tail?

The answer is no. Make sure to dock the tail as soon as possible as long as the dog is in your control. After getting old it may be out of your control making the docki9ng process a little dangerous for their health.

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