A dog’s tail is an integral part of its communications system. The dog wags its tail to show pleasure or as an invitation to come for a walk or to play. It can be lowered as part of an aggression display, or tucked under in fear and submission. Apart from its use as a tool of communications, the tail has physical uses. For example, water-dogs use their tail as a rudder when swimming.
Many breeds suffer the indignity of tail docking. But the importance of the tail for self- expression is obvious from the attempts docked dogs make to wag their stumps. Some of them wag their entire rear end in joy, but the more subtle signals aren’t available to them.
This can cause problems – they may find it impossible to signal submission adequately and end up in a fight. In fact, the initial aim of docking in breeds like Dobermanns, and Rottweilers, was probably to force aggression by preventing adequate expression of submission. It is difficult to justify the idea of tail docking, although many breeds’ official standards require it.
Removing a dog’s tail does not make it easier to judge in shows, but there is no argument for removing the tails of working dogs. Responsible grooming will ensure that feathered tails of working dogs such as spaniels are kept tidy.