Now Axle is most certainly not a 'pure breed' dog. He's a mix of Red Heeler (Cattle Dog), Akita, Pit Bull, and maybe some others... (maybe... this is what we are guessing... I've had people ask me if he was a Pointer or a Spaniel before. I can maybe see the pointer if I squint my eyes really hard, but Spaniel? Not to sure about that one... but anyway). Axle probably had his tail docked when he was just a few days old. Many people used to believe that new born puppies could not feel pain. This is probably because their nerves are not developed yet and will display a delayed reaction to their surroundings (It is now known that they do feel the pain, but it is slightly delayed.)
Axle's docked tail
Docking was done in the past for a plethora of reasons such as, preventing injury to fighting or working dogs, people thought it made the dog stronger and faster (go figure), and for some reason, people thought it could prevent rabies. Today its done mainly for cosmetic reasons (some people still do this to true working dogs to keep burs from getting stuck in their tails, along with other health reasons). People also dock out of tradition, or to make their dogs look 'better'. This is also done to many show dogs to fit the 'breed standards'. Many countries have banned the docking of tails and cropping of ears. It is seen as crue and unnecessary in this day and age by many people. And there are still others that deem it does no harm to the dog at all, and that it is more than acceptable to remove a 3 day old puppies tail and cut their ears into a more appealing shape.
" A Doberman Pinscher puppy with its ears taped to train them into the desired shape and carriage after cropping" // image source
Now some breeders and vets will do this procedure without the use of anesthesia. It is becoming less popular, but it is still practiced. People who oppose the docking of tails argue that it is first off, cruel and unnecessarily painful, and that it also gives the dog a handicap. Dogs use their tails and ears for communication. A low slung or tucked under tail displays fear or submission, while a high held wagging tail signals playfulness. Dogs can also show agression, dominance and wide variety of other emotions with their tails. Dogs with docked tails can have a harder time communicating with other dogs. This could be devastating in some situations.
My stance on the issue? I would never dock a puppies tail myself. Do I love Axle any less because he doesn't have a tail? No. Would I love him any more if he had one? probably not. I've never known Axle with a tail. But I love him the same with or without. The fact that he doesn't have a tail doesn't seem to bother him too much though. He does seem to have a few balance issues, but Im not sure if that has anything to do with his tail (or lack there of), he may just be a clumsy dog. (There are some people that argue a dog's tail helps them balance.)
I'm not a vet, I'm not a dog behaviorist. I have not studied dog psychology. But I do know that animals in fact feel pain, have emotions, memories, and fears. Any dog owner will tell you that. Axle was probably too young to remember having or losing his tail. He will however, look back at the nub that is left behind like he is expecting a tail to be there. This may be because he sees other dogs with tails, or because what is left of his tail is still long enough for him to wiggle slightly. I don't know the answer. But I know that he is a happy, healthy, well loved and cared for doggie.
Some people have approached me angrily about this issue with "how could you?" and others think his looks are more favorable without his tail, "Nice looking dog, how'd you dock his tail?" And I respond as neutrally as I can to both questions, "It wasn't me." It was already done when I adopted him, so it's not really something I can argue about in regards to him individually. I didn't adopt Axle because he had a docked tail. And I still would have adopted him if he still had one. The best I can do is try to educate people on the issue and hopefully they will understand that no, I didn't do this to my dog. And they shouldn't either.
Do you have a dog with a docked tail? Do they have any issues or disabilities from not having the extra apendage? What is your stance on the issue? Politely leave us a note in the comments below!
NOTE: If you are wanting to research more about tail docking, pleased be warned that many of the images that come up are very graphic. Please Google with caution.