Tail Docking in Puppies

It’s just for looks, but for your pups it’s important. 1-3 days old is best for safety.


My Boxer just had a litter of the cutest babies I have ever seen. But, as you know, they were born with long tails. To make them look like Boxers we need to get their tails docked but we don’t know at what age to have it done. Our vet’s office said 1-3 days old but isn’t that awfully young?


Dr. Nichol:

I am glad you asked. This is a point of confusion for many folks.


Around the age of 3-4 days, the blood vascular and nervous systems of puppies become more mature and functional. If we dock (amputate) tails and dewclaws (the thumb like appendage on the inside surface of the paws) at 1-3 days of age the puppies lose only about one drop of blood. And they have very little nerve sensation. But on puppies much older than that the procedure is very different. In fact if they’re older than 3 days, it’s downright cruel.


So what can you do if your puppies are older? No problem. You can have the tails docked at the time of spaying or neutering which can be done as early as 10-12 weeks of age. The puppies will be anesthetized anyway and then they won’t feel anything at all.


The last point is: Don’t feel compelled to have these procedures done. Like ear cropping, these things only serve to make them look the way we expect Boxers, Dobermans, Schnauzers, or whatever to appear. Removing these body parts has no other function. So if appearance counts, have their tails docked and their dewclaws removed  between 1 and 3 days of age. If it doesn’t count, let them go au naturale. (Boxers are free spirits anyway.)