Many of the qualities that come so effortlessly to dogs – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love – can be elusive to humans.
I don’t like my daughter’s ears. They stick out at a weird angle. Plus, she doesn’t look like other girls her age, and I want to maintain the standard. So she’s going in for surgery. They’re just going to cut a little bit off the top and around the sides. She’s young, so she doesn’t need any anesthetic. She’ll recover quickly and then be happy that she looks like every other little girl now.
I seriously hope that most of you are considering reporting me to Child Services for those comments. Now, I want you to take the words “daughter” and “girl” and substitute it with “dog” and “puppy”. Where’s the difference?
I have long maintained that tail docking and ear docking were among the more cruel and inhumane practices we subject our animals to, and that’s saying something. The background for cropping and docking is solid, though. Dogs were used for fighting, war, and protection: we didn’t want to give their adversary anything to hold on to or get a grip on. Fair enough. Dogs were used for herding or hunting in scrubby, brushy areas: tails were docked to prevent the tails from getting caught in briers and brambles and sometimes literally getting ripped off. Um, again, fair enough. A couple hundred years ago, people thought that removing a dog’s tail would prevent rabies. Wrong, but okay, at least you’re trying.
So, tell me, why is your dog’s tail missing? Hopefully because your dog was born that way. Sometimes trauma, like my own Darwin, who got his tail caught in a door when he was about 10 (one of the most horrific injuries I’ve ever seen, and requiring a massive amount of Piloting from me during the emergency vet trip (see here for how to act during such a trip). There’s always my “favorite” reason: happy tail syndrome. Dogs with long, bony tails who, through their exuberance for life, keep breaking their tails over and over again against walls and corners. Yes, please dock those tails – those dogs are causing themselves injuries.
Other than that, though, I’m very hard pressed to come up with a good reason to dock a dog’s tail. Even more hard pressed to find a good reason to crop ears. England has banned the practice for more than 20 years. Maybe for good reason. People who have their dogs cropped typically point out that it’s AKC standard. Funny, that’s the same excuse my children try to use for their bad behavior: someone else gets to do it. You’re really going to site the AKC as a bastion of putting pet health over “showiness”? That’s like asking the folks at Project Runway to sponsor a project on helping girls cope with their body image.
Let me put it plain and simple: docking isn’t for the health of the dog. Docking isn’t to make the dog feel more comfortable. Docking is putting your dog through painful surgery to remove their flesh and bone merely so you can have, what is in your mind, a better looking dog. End of story. Pure bred or not. The excuse of “it’s breed standard” is thin at best. If you wouldn’t subject your child to a similar surgery, why would you do it to your pet?
I see plenty of AKC dogs in my profession. Most of them have been chopped up. Whenever I see a Dane with scars on their ears, or a Boxer who is missing pieces, my hear immediately goes out to them. I’m sorry we’ve done this to you. We make a promise to these pets to love and care for them for the rest of their lives, and the first thing we do is go make them look better? We love dogs for their ability to see through what we may look like, what disabilities we may have, and love us for what we are. Isn’t it about time we give them the same level of dedication?
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OHio