A hallmark of the Australian Shepherd and Mini Aussie breeds is a short bobbed or docked tail in countries where docking is permitted. Most Australian Shepherds and Mini Aussies are born with full long tails while some are born with short bobbed tails (NBT), and others are born with natural partial bobs, where the tail is mid length and appears stubby. Breeders have historically docked the tails when the puppies are born. Even without a tail, the wagging movement of the hind end still occurs.
Why Dock Tails?
According to the breed standard, there are numerous minor reasons to dock a Mini Aussie's tail, but following are the "BIG THREE" ..... Our program does dock tails and removes dew claws on ALL of our puppies, so please know we do not make any exceptions for this.
To Avoid Tail Damage ~ This is the most important reason for docking a tail. Australian Shepherds and Mini Aussies were raised in the rough Western areas of the United States, which, if you have never visited, have tough weeds, tall grasses, and plenty of other hazards. Working in this condition will easily lead to torn and bleeding tails, which, of course are very painful and hard to treat. If the tail is docked, the risk of injury is eliminated.
For Hygiene ~ Dogs with thick hair have a good chance of getting feces on themselves and caught in the tail. Docking can greatly reduce the hygiene problems for Aussies and Mini Aussies. It also lessens chances of matting.
To Maintain Breed Standard ~ Should the docking of tails be eliminated, hundreds of otherwise good breeding animals would be removed from gene pools and this could be a huge downfall for the breeds. We believe the latter two reasons are the most common reason for modern day docking as many Aussies are sold as pets.
How is Docking done?
There are two methods of docking. Some breeders use the technique known as "banding", in which a ligature, normally an orthodontic band, is placed over the end of the puppies tail at 24-96 hours old. This effectively cuts off the blood supply to the end of the tail, which comes away within 3 days. I would NEVER choose this form of tail docking! It can cause infection and is painful for the puppy.
The other method is by surgery. Most Veterinarians cut the tail with surgical scissors, known as hemostats. There is generally no need for stitches, but on occasions these can be used, especially with the larger breeds. We use the surgical method. Our vet does suture the incisions.
Does it hurt?
Our personal experience is that it does cause discomfort but only for a few minutes. Docking is carried out when Mini Aussie puppies are tiny, 2-3 days of age. Their eyes are not yet open and our experience indicates that carried out correctly, the procedure causes a small amount of discomfort for only a few minutes. We have read that some puppies which are docked while they are asleep do not even wake up. Well, all of our puppies are awake. After docking, puppies will immediately return to their dam to feed and there is no evidence that development or weight gain is in any way affected by the docking procedure.
Mini Aussies that have been docked as puppies do not have any problems with balance or communication. However, if tail damage occurs during adulthood and docking has to be carried out for therapeutic reasons, a dog can be seriously distressed and the healing process can be painful and protracted.