Readers in the US may be surprised to discover that Boxers don’t have naturally short tails.
That’s because docking Boxer tails during puppyhood means that many people think that’s how they’re born.
The truth is that Boxers naturally have long, whippy tails which are docked to meet the breed standard.
But what’s the problem of having a Boxer with a tail? Why the “breed standard” when short tails usually don’t have anything to do with the breed itself?
In this article, we’ll discuss Boxer tail docking, what the procedure entails, why it’s done, and why you should consider having a Boxer with a tail instead.
What Is Boxer Tail Docking?
In the past, it was usual for several breeds of dogs, including Boxers, to have their tails shortened to a stump when they were only a few days old.
The procedure is certainly “easier” then, and it was thought that very young puppies don’t experience much pain.
That’s debatable. A 2016 study concluded that tail docking causes “severe acute pain which often causes behavioral distress in puppies.”
If docking is done later on, it becomes a full amputation, and there can be no arguing that this isn’t painful.
In fact, I once had a rescue Boxer who had to have his tail amputated because someone had unsuccessfully tried to dock his tail with a rubber band.
It hadn’t fallen off, but it had turned gangrenous. I can vouch for how unpleasant that was for my poor dog, but at least my rescue pup survived the resulting dry gangrene!
Can Boxers Be Born With Short Tails?
A Boxer with a short tail might have been born that way – but it’s a rare genetic mutation.
There are accounts of breeders in countries where tail docking is outlawed actively trying to breed Boxers with very short tails that have a “docked” appearance.
At this stage, we don’t know whether the short-tailed mutation has other consequences. We’re inclined to regard it with suspicion, but the jury is out on this one.
Suffice it to say, it’s extremely rare, and even puppies bred for a “bobtail” don’t necessarily turn out that way.
The bottom line? Most short-tailed Boxers that you’ll encounter had their tails docked.
Why Are Boxer Tails Docked?
The main reason why Boxer tail docking is done is to meet the breed standard. The AKC describes the standard for Boxers as follows: “The tail is set high, docked, and carried upward. An undocked tail should be severely penalized.”
Needless to say, that standard isn’t applied in countries where tail docking is illegal. These include Australia, New Zealand, several countries within the EU, and in most instances, Germany and the UK.
In countries where tail docking is banned, the reasoning is that docking is an unnecessary “mutilation” of a puppy that amounts to animal cruelty.
In countries where it is legal, people begin with the breed standard and work their way down to the next possible reason for tail docking.
Is Boxer Tail Docking And Injury Prevention A Thing?
That long, whippy Boxer tail crashes into things with some force. Witness my shredded pot plants! It’s certainly true that enthusiastic wagging can lead to injuries, but just how many injuries can it prevent?
Once again, we can turn to scientific studies, and the finding is… wait for it… You’d have to dock 500 doggie tails to prevent just one injury! That doesn’t make for a very convincing argument in favor of tail-docking!
There are countries that allow for tail docking among working dogs, especially gun dogs, but given that the vast majority of Boxers are household pets, it doesn’t really apply to most people and their dogs.
Weird History: The Romans Believed That Tail-Docking Prevented Rabies
Way back when people didn’t know what causes diseases, the Romans decided that not having a tail meant that a dog was less likely to contract rabies.
Nowadays, we know better! Nevertheless, this interesting historical fact points out one of the reasons why people thought that docking doggie tails was a good idea.
People Used To Think That A Dog With A Docked Tail Could Run Faster
One has to admit that the docked-tail look appears sporty. But will a Boxer with a tail be slower than one who doesn’t have a tail? It turns out there are anatomical reasons why docking Boxer tails could actually have the opposite effect.
Quite simply, your dog uses his tail for balance when running and performing feats of agility, and it even uses it when swimming. No surprises. Most Boxers are born with tails and tails have functional reasons for being there.
Advantages In Store For Boxers With Tails
No Nasty Procedure, No Trauma
The biggest advantage for Boxers with tails is that they don’t have to undergo an extremely painful and traumatic experience when they are just a few days old.
Nowadays, we know that trauma, even when it isn’t remembered, can have lifelong impacts.
Freedom Of Expression
Besides this, dogs express themselves with their tails – and if you have ever owned a Boxer with a natural tail, you’ll know just how expressive it can be!
Studies have found that other dogs, as well as people, have difficulty deciphering a Boxer’s mood when the tail is docked.
In essence, it’s rather like a speech impediment for people. If the 1st Amendment applied to dogs, tail docking would be right out!
Your Dog Actually Looks Better
We’re not kidding, and this discovery came as a surprise. A study on people’s reactions to natural tails versus docked tails found that people found natural, “unmodified” dogs more attractive.
So much for the “breed standard.” Sometimes, nature really does know best!
Disadvantages Of Boxer Tail Docking
By now, you’ll have spotted several reasons why tail docking is a disadvantage for Boxers.
It can’t express itself completely, it has to undergo trauma as a tiny puppy, the pain is real, and it doesn’t even have much of a role in injury prevention.
But there’s one big disadvantage to docking a Boxer’s tail that we haven’t discussed, and that’s the dangers of the procedure itself.
Needless to say, trying to dock your own puppy’s tail in a backyard job is extremely dangerous and likely to be way more painful than it needs to be. But even under veterinary care, docking can go badly wrong.
For example, if a Boxer’s tail is docked too short, it may become incontinent. That’s even supposing that the recovery process goes smoothly.
Like any surgery, there can be issues with healing, even when the procedure is done correctly by professionals.
Infections, wounds that won’t close, and the development of neuromas and chronic pain are just a sampling of what could go wrong.
Advantages Of Boxer Tail-Docking
You might find the “advantages” of docking Boxer tails rather unconvincing. Nevertheless, here they are.
- Get the “traditional” Boxer look
- Conformity to the AKC’s “breed standard” even though it has nothing to do with genetics.
- Prevention of tail injury among working dogs – a 1 in 500 chance in regular pets.
Why do so many people support Boxer tail docking? The main reason is the look. And, if you want to win “best of breed” in AKC contests, off comes that puppy-dog tail.
Except When It’s Illegal, It’s Up to You
Your Boxer doesn’t get a vote, but if he did, we’re going to guess he’d prefer to keep his tail.
All the same, some countries, including the US, still allow tail docking – and, as we’ve noted, kennel clubs in these countries often require docking for the sake of tradition.
That means that choosing to leave a Boxer puppy’s tail natural is up to you unless you live somewhere where it’s illegal.
You might argue that since docking happens when puppies are still much too small to leave their mothers, it’s the breeders’ choice. That isn’t necessarily true.
If more people insisted on choosing Boxers with natural tails, Breeders would be less likely to dock tails.
As it is, you can specify that you prefer a natural tail when reserving a puppy from a breeder. OK, so it isn’t going to be a show dog in US-based breed trials – but you can still compete in several other fields.
Obedience and agility competitions are great for Boxers with competitive owners, and since your dog is still a pedigreed Boxer, there’s nothing to stop you from breeding with it if that’s what you want to do.
The bottom line? You do get to make this decision – at least, most of the time.
Don’t Judge A Boxer’s Owner By Their Dog’s Tail
If you’re passionately against the idea of docking a tiny puppy’s tail, you might feel at least a little judgemental of dog owners who have stump-tailed Boxers. But there are reasons why you should reserve judgment.
Let’s run through the reasons why.
- The short tail could be a genetic mutation (it usually isn’t, but worth remembering)
- The dog could be a rescue – the Boxer owner deserves respect
- The dog owner might have been led to believe that docking is good for the dog (debatable, but their intentions were good)
- The tail may have been docked before the dog owner chose the puppy
- The tail may have been amputated for medical reasons
Tail Docking: Our Opinion
We’ve tried to present a balanced view of tail docking in Boxers, but it would only be fair to come out and admit that we aren’t supporters.
There are medical reasons why a tail might be docked, but usually, it’s done for cosmetic reasons.
Of course, a disfigurement that needs to be corrected is a reason for cosmetic surgery, but we’d like to assert that a Boxer with a tail isn’t ugly at all. In fact, it’s a beautiful animal.
Yes! That tail is likely to present a danger to tabletop clutter and ornaments (and my pot plants), but these are things we can work around.
And yes, you will be well-advised to keep your dog away from situations in which he bashes his tail on hard surfaces – just to be safe.
All the same, subjecting a days-old puppy to an unnecessary procedure that’s going to hurt – a lot – just doesn’t seem to us like a thing a well-informed pet owner would want to do.
Do the majority of people in the US support docking Boxer tails? We couldn’t find evidence one way or another. What we did find were a great many individuals and organizations who are working to have tail docking banned.
Many veterinarians are adding their voices to the call for a tail docking ban, and even those who still perform the procedure acknowledge that it’s painful and comes with risks.
In our opinion, we should all be opponents of docking Boxers’ tails and cropping their ears. If it isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it!
Against Docking Tails? Here’s What You Can Do
If, like us, you’ve concluded that docking Boxers’ tails is unnecessary and cruel, you can do a few things to combat this practice.
- Ask your breeder not to dock a puppy you’ve reserved’s tail. Better yet, choose a breeder who doesn’t support docking at all!
- Sign the change.org petition to outlaw docking directed at the USDA
- Support animal rights organizations that oppose tail docking
- Petition the AKC to eliminate docked tails from breed standards
- Raise awareness – many people think dogs naturally look that way!
Into Docking? Make Sure It’s Done By A Veterinarian!
We realize that we’re touching on a controversial subject. Some people may disagree with us and prefer a Boxer with a docked tail. Our number one request is for you to get the deed done professionally.
There are many horror stories about people trying to DIY this procedure with no pain relief for the puppy and under unhygienic conditions.
Some veterinarians only undertake docking to prevent this terribly cruel and risky practice.
So, if you really want a Boxer with a docked tail, please be sure that your puppy receives proper treatment. It’s the least you can do.