You may know Yorkshire Terriers for their long silky coats and their playful energy, but did you know that the tails they are born with a much longer than the standard small stubs? A Yorkie’s tail is usually cut in a controversial process known as Docking. Whether you are a Yorkie owner considering docking your Yorkie or a dog enthusiast trying to learn more, we’ve got all the information you need on Yorkie tail docking.
Docking Through History
Interestingly, procedures for docking animals date back to ancient times, although the reasons for Docking have changed drastically throughout. Yorkies weren’t even the first dogs to be docked.
Back in the days of ancient Rome, people believed that docking a dog’s tail would prevent the dog from contracting and spreading rabies. So shepherds would commonly dock the tails of their herding dog forty days after its birth. The shepherds were terrified that a dog with rabies could infect their flock of sheep if it bit them and wouldn’t want to take any chances.
Tail docking has also historically been related to hunting practices. However, the reasons for Docking were complete opposites of each other. In ancient times people believed tails to be significant in a dog’s ability to hunt. So hunting dogs of noblemen would be undocked while dogs with owners of a poor class would have their tails docked to signify that they aren’t made for hunting. Interestingly, when modern western societies picked up the practice for hunting purposes, they docked dogs meant for hunting. They believed that the risk of injury during hunting or combat was higher if the dog had a long tail and so docked the tail short.
Reasons to Dock the Tail
The strange historical reasoning behind docking likely left you bewildered and with many questions. Docking is still common practice to this day, and you may be wondering why. There are two main reasons.
Firstly, people do it for Aesthetic reasons. In fact, for many dog shows, you must have your Yorkie docked to be able to participate. The American Kennel Club and the New Zealand Kennel Club are among the organizations that have this requirement.
While this may seem superficial, the other reason is medical concerns. The idea most proponents of Docking argue is that a shorter tail is less prone to injury, especially in active and aggressive breeds like Yorkies that may get into a fight.
Why Do Dogs Have Tails?
Docking is understandably a grey area for many people. Even the laws on Docking vary across the world. Docking is legal in Canada and the States, while it is illegal and considered inhumane in other places like the UK. So you may find it useful to understand why dogs, among many other animals, have tails in the first place.
Animals have tails for many reasons. From helping in swimming for fish to equipping scorpions with venom jets, tails are diverse. For dogs, though, the main reasons are communication and balance.
If you’ve owned a dog, you may have noticed that when your dog is happy, whether they heard you open a snack or you decided to take them for a walk, they start wiggling their tail. Dogs can communicate emotions of happiness and fear through their tail.
The other possible reason is that tails are an evolutionary organ that helps animals maintain balance. The tail shifts a dog’s center of balance in a way that it can stay upright even on uneven and sloped surfaces.
Age to Dock a Puppy’s Tail
When considering when to dock a Yorkies tail, some important considerations are safety and pain. In most instances, people get their dog’s tail docked within the first few days of their dog’s birth. The reasoning behind this is simple. The spine extends into the tail, so the tail contains 15-23 vertebrae. A newborn pup has not yet developed those bones, so it’s safer and supposedly less painful. While this is the ideal time to get your dog docked, it is considered safe for up to six months.
However, for a dog older than six months, docking the tail can be incredibly dangerous and painful.
How Long is a Yorkie Tail?
Tail docking is so common that many people haven’t encountered an undocked Yorkie. This begs the question: How long is a Yorkie’s actual tail?
While this depends significantly on breed and diet, a Yorkies tail can grow long enough to reach the hocks (when stretched). However, in Yorkies, an undocked tail curls upwards when it grows. Even a Yorkie’s docked tail can grow some inches depending on how much of the tail was cut off at the time of Docking.
What Other Breeds Get their Tails Docked?
Docking practices are done across many dog breeds, mostly for similar cosmetic reasons. Some of the typical dog breeds that get their tails docked are the following:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Cane Corso
- Caucasian Shepherd
Some dog breeds have even had their tails genetically “bred off. Examples of dogs with naturally docked tails include Brittany spaniel, Danish Swedish Farmdog, Jack Russell Terrier, and Schipperke.
Docking a Yorkie
Yorkie docking can be done both at home and by a vet. This procedure can be painful for the puppy; however, if your pup is over three days old, it will be administered anesthesia.
As we mentioned before, it is highly recommended not to dock a Yorkie’s tail if it’s older than six months, especially for cosmetic and beauty purposes. An older dog will handle the docking procedure much worse. Medical cases for Docking are generally uncommon.
The Docking Procedure
Whether you are considering docking your Yorkie at home or trying to understand the process better before your vet does the Docking, here’s an outline of the process.
While it is possible to perform the Docking on your own for a pup under three days of age, it’s always suitable to contact a veterinarian. A vet will either use surgical scissors or a very sharp, medical-grade scalpel to cut off the tail. These tools are the least painful and most effective. It’s also much safer to perform this procedure within 2 to 5 days of the puppy’s birth because anesthesia doesn’t need to be administered.
In case you intend on performing the procedure yourself, there are measures you need to be mindful of. The following safety precautions are a must:
- Sanitize the Surroundings
Since you are cutting the tail end, you are risking the dog for potential infections. Therefore it is necessary to keep the area nearby clean. You can use disinfectants and cleaning towels to make sure the tail end is clean. This is particularly important in pups’ cases because of how weak and fragile they are at that age.
- Emergency Veterinarian
While the procedure is relatively low-risk and straightforward, it is still essential to have a vet in mind that can be available in emergencies. If things go south, you need to take quick action, or else you could harm the pup.
After the procedure, your pup needs to go through a recovery process. After all, its tail was just cut off. For a couple of hours after the cut, you need to observe the pup and its behaviors. While the process is relatively safe and blood-free, be on the lookout for any signs of infection or bloodstains. If you do observe something odd, take your dog to the vet immediately.
A Yorkie will usually avoid irritating or scratching the tail area at this time, and that’s perfectly normal. While your dog may have shown signs of pain when the process was underway, it will soon feel normal.
What the Opponents Argue
Some people oppose Docking procedures, and their concerns are worth acknowledging. Here are five arguments against Docking:
As we mentioned before, a dog’s tail serves as a mode of communicating feelings. A happy dog’s tail wiggles and a scared dog’s tail is stiff.
Once docked, the dogs can’t communicate their emotions effectively.
The other use of a tail, as highlighted before, was serving as a counterbalance. A docked tail can interfere with a dog’s mobility, affecting its motor skills.
While the process is considered safe in newborn pups, the amount of pain a puppy feels is controversial. One thing is certain by their screaming that pain is felt.
A common correlation between aggression and tail docking is drawn by people who oppose the act. The correlation is pretty solid, and so demands reflection on whether the process should be carried out
Since the tail plays a role in distributing your dog’s weight, the lack of one can cause an imbalance of load on certain joints. This can lead to limb issues and even a hernia in the future.
Price of Docking a Yorkie tail?
According to “howmuchisit.org,” a vet takes anywhere from $15-$35 per puppy if the puppy is under five days old. The procedure can cost over $450 after that age as the surgical process involves anesthesia.