When dogs are docked, their ears or tails are cut off, usually when they are puppies. For a long time, this intervention was one of the required standards for certain breeds such as the Dobermann – fortunately, the intervention is now banned in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Ear docking has been banned in Germany since 1987 and tail docking since 1998. Exceptions are only allowed if the procedure cannot be avoided for medical reasons or if you want to use your dog for hunting and need a docked tail.
Dog docking: what is it?
The term “docking” comes from French; there, the word “couper” means something like “cut off.” When dogs’ ears are docked, they are clamped in a particular template, a so-called metal clip. This already happens in puppies between the ages of seven and 14 weeks. The protruding part of the ear is cut off, the severed veins are pinched off, and the cut is sewn up. The ears are then attached to the dog’s head with an adhesive bandage so that they will remain upright later.
In this way, the edges of the wound do not contract again. A week after the procedure, the ears have to be taped up and supported with a frame placed on the head or with cotton tampons – and floppy ears become pointed upright ears. The dog often needs to be treated with antibiotics to keep the cut from becoming infected.
Dog docking with the tail occurs when the puppies are one to three days old when they are newborns. The puppies are usually put under anesthesia, but the procedure is sometimes performed under local anesthesia. The skin is incised around the tail at the desired location and pulled back. Then the vet cuts the bottom between the vertebrae and sews up the wound if necessary; however, it usually grows back together without being sewn up. Again, the dog often needs antibiotics and painkillers.
Why docking dogs is forbidden
Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act states: “The complete or partial amputation of parts of a vertebrate’s body […] is prohibited.” Docking dogs for visual reasons is just plain cruel, as the healing of the ears, in particular, takes a long time and is prone to complications. The dog will also experience severe pain and be deprived of two of its most important means of communication, its ears, and tail.
Since 2010, all-breed standards requiring dogs to be docked have been removed from the FCI formulations. The “Fédération Cynologique Internationale” is the largest umbrella organization for canines based in Belgium. Furthermore, docked dogs may no longer be exhibited in Germany, even if they come from abroad, where docking dogs is not yet prohibited. In addition, the animals may not be taken abroad for docking.
Are there exceptions to the ban?
Exceptions are only permitted in individual cases, namely after “veterinary indication” or if “in the case of dogs to be kept for hunting, it is essential for the intended use of the animal and veterinary concerns do not oppose it.” So it is only allowed if your four-legged friend has demonstrably more benefit than pain from docking. For example, if he has a tumor on his ears or tailors, his seat has been torn off; this is one of the veterinary indications. Hunters argue that long-tailed dogs can injure themselves, rummaging in brush and thick undergrowth.