Why Do Australian Shepherds Have Docked Tails?

The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed of dog that has been bred for herding livestock. A distinguishing feature of this breed is its long, fluffy tail. But you may have noticed that many Australian Shepherds have their tails docked or cut short.

So why do people dock the tails of Australian Shepherds? This article will explore the reasons behind docking an Aussie’s tail and its pros and cons. We will also discuss alternative methods to traditional docking to help you make an informed decision about whether or not it is suitable for your pup.

Australian Shepherd’s tails are docked for cosmetic purposes and to meet the breed standard of fewer than four inches in length.

What is Tail Docking?

Tail docking is a procedure in which the tail of an animal, usually a dog, is surgically removed or shortened. It is most commonly performed on Australian Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, Dobermans, and Boxers. The practice has been controversial for many years due to its potential to cause pain and discomfort to the animal.

For Australian Shepherds, tail docking is a method of tail length control that many breeders have historically practiced for aesthetic purposes.

This practice typically involves removing about one-third to one-half of the tail vertebrae, leaving the dog with a shorter, thicker tail than is natural. While some argue that the procedure is necessary to create a specific look, many animal welfare advocates believe it is a cruel and unnecessary practice that can cause discomfort and permanent damage.

Why Do Breeders Dock the Australian Shepherd’s Tail?

This procedure is often done on various breeds of dogs to create a distinct look and is considered a cosmetic amputation. Most Australian Shepherds that compete in dog shows have docked tails.

The Australian Shepherd’s tail can be docked to any length depending on the owner’s preference. Some owners may choose to have their dog’s tail wholly removed, while others may opt for a slightly longer length.

Docking can be done under anesthesia or with local anesthetic injections. In some cases, it can take several weeks for a full recovery, so pet owners should be aware of the potential risks associated with tail docking before deciding to go ahead with the procedure.

Tail Docking Is NOT Part of the Breed Standard

Tail is straight, docked or naturally bobbed, not to exceed four inches in length.


The American Kennel Club does not require tail docking for Australian Shepherds, though it does encourage breeders to use healthy breeding practices.

It also suggests consulting with a veterinarian before deciding to dock or not dock the tail. Unfortunately, many breeders and owners choose to dock their Australian Shepherd’s tail for aesthetic purposes, believing that it is part of the traditional look of a working dog breed.

What Are The Dangers Of Docking a Tail?

While this may be aesthetically pleasing for some owners, it is essential to understand that tail docking has medical and behavioral risks. This includes pain at the time of the procedure, reduced mobility and coordination due to nerve damage, and a higher risk of infection or other complications.

In addition to the medical risks, docking a tail may also affect the dog’s behavior. For example, a short tail can affect how a dog communicates with others and express itself in certain situations. This can confuse both the dog and its owners when trying to interpret the dog’s behavior.

Overall, while some people may be inclined to dock the tail of their Australian Shepherd to meet breed standards, it is important to understand the potential risks associated with this procedure before making a decision.

Common Questions

At what age do most dogs get their tails docked?

Most Australian Shepherds have their tails docked between the age of three and five days. This is done to prevent injury and ensure the safety of the pup, as some tail injuries can be severe and even life-threatening.

Are Australian Shepherds Tails Naturally Docked?

No, Australian Shepherds are not typically born with docked tails. They are a medium-sized breed of herding dog that originated in Australia and was originally bred to herd livestock on rural farms.

The original Australian Shepherds had undocked tails which they used as a natural way to communicate their intentions while herding their flock.

However, due to changing fashion trends and the influence of certain canine organizations in some countries, tail docking has become a popular way to alter the appearance of Australian Shepherds.

This practice is highly controversial among breeders, dog owners, and animal welfare activists who believe it is an unnecessary surgery with no true benefits for the dog.

What are the Pros of Tail Docking?

As a working breed, Australian Shepherds can be prone to injuries while herding and some owners believe that their dogs’ tails are more likely to stay out of the way if docked. Additionally, many Aussies have long and thick coats, making it difficult to show off their signature curl at the end of their tail.


While docking a tail may be aesthetically pleasing for some owners, the risk of pain, tail injuries, and behavioral complications should be taken into consideration before deciding to dock the tail of an Australian Shepherd. Ultimately, it is up to the owner to decide whether or not they are willing to put their Australian Shepherd’s health at risk by docking its tail.