Camilla Swift Camilla Swift

When it comes to working dogs, sometimes tail docking is the kindest option

Imagine you’re a dog with a long, silky tail that you like to wag. The problem is, you spend your days running across moorland, through prickly undergrowth, which makes your tail hurt and bleed. Might you wish that someone had made it a little bit shorter when you were a puppy?

Many people – and especially those with working dogs – argue that docking is by far the kindest option. This is why it is odd that Scotland is the only country in the UK with a complete ban on tail docking. England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have exemptions for working dogs, as long as they are docked when very young. But not in Scotland. This is why the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has presented their Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, with a petition to reverse the ban.

Lopping off a puppy’s tail might sound cruel – and if not done properly, it certainly can be. But for working dogs, the alternative can be much crueler. As vet Neil McIntosh has said, ‘I would rather dock 100 working puppies’ tails at three days old than one adult working dog’s.’ And a recent piece of research from Glasgow University showed that during the 2010-2011 shooting season, almost 57% of working spaniels suffered a tail injury of some sort; injuries that often require surgery or partial docking to repair.

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