If you’re only looking at Australian Shepherds, you’ve likely spent hours looking at adorable photos of this breed. You may have observed how some Australian Shepherds sport tails while others don’t. It’s a little complicated, isn’t it?
Do the Australian Shepherds possess tails? Many Australian Shepherds are bobtailed without tails, whereas others have tails. Contrary to what many believe, those without tails in Australia do not necessarily have tails docked. As a matter of fact, 1 out of five puppies has tails. The majority of tail-less Australian pups are born with tails. Despite this, they have been removed for cosmetic reasons and injury prevention as well as a breed standard, among different reasons.
In the article, we’re not suggesting that you choose to trim or remove your Australian Shepherd’s tail. We’re simply looking into the facts and educating you. We now know that Australian Shepherds have tails as well as don’t. Let’s look at the reasons why this happens.
Statistics of Bobtailed Australian Shepherds
Around one-in-five Australian Shepherds are born with a natural hairstyle, which means they were not born with a tail. But, many owners choose to trim their tails to enhance their appearance or meet the breed’s “standard.” So, not all Aussies with tails are born with a naturally bobbed tail.
For dogs with tails, the tails’ length can differ significantly depending on the breed and bloodline. But, for the Australian Shepherd, the number of vertebrae is likely to be able to vary by 1 or 2.
The typical Australian Shepherd’s tail is likely to be tapered, with vertebrae shrinking to reach the point where the tail ends. However, with a hairy Aussie, most of the final vertebrae are absent. With no tapering effect, it creates a blunt tail.
Based on an ASHGI survey of data in the year 2010, approximately 47% of the naturally bobtailed Australians have tails of quarter-length or more. Also, 10% of these dog breeds have the appearance of a kink (an unnaturally curving tail).
Why Are Most Aussies Tailless?
The majority of Australians will have their tails cut off within three days of birth. There are numerous reasons why this happens, and there are two main causes:
- The first thing to note is that a large portion of Australian Shepherds with tails have an unnaturally blunt tail with no tapering. It’s not appealing because it’s not an ordinary appearance tail for a dog. In many instances, it appears like the dog’s tail was cut halfway.
- The most popular reason is the presence of curvature in the tail, or more precisely, a curve. Kinked tails are seen as a deformed tail by Australian Shepherds. That is to say, curved tails are not a favorite among dog owners.
The Bobtail Gene
As previously mentioned, roughly 20% of Australian Shepherds are naturally with bobtails. The gene responsible for this genetic change is known as an “incomplete dominant gene.” It functions similarly to the way Australian Shepherds are born with Merle coats.
Aussie puppies require only one of these genes to have naturally bobbed tails. Puppies with more than two of the genes could cause them to be in dangerous circumstances. Most don’t survive.
The bobtail gene, called in the scientific community a mutation in the T gene C189G is able to determine if an animal is bobtailed; however, it doesn’t decide how long the tails are. Even Aussies with bobtails may differ in length in the stubs of their tails.
Furthermore, the gene cannot determine which tail type is more straight curving. The other characteristics are controlled by different genes or bloodline DNA.
Why Breeders Cut Tails Instead
The knowledge about how Australian Shepherds were born without tails is now available, and an inquiry comes to mind. Why can’t breeders breed naturally bobtailed Australians instead of shaving them?
Breeding specifically for Australian bobtails is a difficult procedure. In reality, most times, it’ll likely result in dead puppies. Nobody wants this, not even breeders who have to sell puppies.
In addition to dead puppies, there are a variety of problems that can be triggered. One of them is Spina Bifida. This mutation is caused by the anus/tail area failing to grow properly. It’s a horrible experience to witness, and almost all dogs suffering from this type of mutation do not make it.
If you’d like to know more about Spina Bifida and other issues that arise from breeding bobtails, learn more about it here. Be cautious when searching for images of this type of mutation.
Limited Gene Pool
Another reason breeders do not specifically breed Bobtailed Aussies is due to the possible negative impact on the pool of genes. If you do this, you’d be restricting the range of genes within this pool.
There are only a few Australian Shepherds that are being bred. A more selective approach could produce a less sturdy Aussie.
It is possible to breed natural Bobtail dogs but not possible to breed to a particular length. Bobtails do have stub tails, and most of the time, they’re not attractive. They’re either too long or have some kink. Thus, owners might decide to dock them regardless.
By focusing on breeding natural bobtails, breeders may neglect other crucial aspects of Australia Shepherds. I’d argue that colors, temperament and working ethic (for the herding), and health are far more vital.
Cutting the Tail
The most frequent question asked by newly-purchased owners is: Does it hurt? Do Australian Shepherds experience discomfort when they get the tail docked?
There has been plenty of controversy over this topic over the last few years. Before getting into this issue, it’s essential to know that puppies have their tails cut between 2 and five days after birth.
Advocates will ensure that docking an Australian Shepherd’s tail in the initial stage isn’t painful or uncomfortable. They claim that the puppies don’t have a functioning nervous system yet. That is, they aren’t able to sense pain as of yet.
The public has begun to suggest that puppies actually develop at the very least a basic nerve system after birth. There is evidence that adults and puppies share a similar sensitivity to pain. This latest development is considering the widespread nature of this kind of behavior.
How They Cut an Aussie’s Tail
Tail docking refers to the surgical removal procedure of a puppy’s tail for various reasons, such as preventing injuries and cosmetic reasons. There are two ways of docking the tail of a dog.
The most common method is to cut the tail with the help of a pair of scissors. Yes, an old-fashioned cut-off tool. It involves cutting through cartilage, tendons, muscles, and even nerves. Furthermore, the procedure is done without anesthesia or painkillers.
Another option is using an elastic band that cuts off blood flow to the tail. If it is left for long enough, the tail will eventually disappear. But, this is not a common method.
Proof of Pain?
The debate about whether puppies experience pain has been for a long time, with no conclusion. However, most puppies emit screaming and other loud-sounding vocalizations once they cut their tails. This continues as the expert is patching the wound on the tail.
Yes, the sound of pain is personal; however, it’s not a joyous sound. My opinion is that the dog must be experiencing discomfort at a minimum.
Another theory is lots of puppies have their tails clipped while asleep. But they don’t wake up. Could it be because puppies can be over-dramatic when awake?
Why do Australian Shepherds Have to Cut Their Tails?
If the Australian Shepherd puppy feels pain or not in the course of its journey, there are many reasons they choose to do this. It’s not just about aesthetics and cosmetics. Let’s look at the three main reasons.
- Injury Prevention
If you’re looking for Aussies, it is this the main reason. They were developed to be proficient cattle farmers in the west part of the United States. However, the conditions and terrain in this region aren’t optimal for working dogs.
There are numerous plants, tall grasses, shrubs, and other potential dangers in this region of America. Each of them could potentially injure dogs’ tails. Trust me when I say that they’re at high speed. All it takes is their tail to be clipped by the object while they’re running at full speed.
A swollen tail is extremely uncomfortable for an Australian Shepherd. Not only does it cause discomfort, but it’s also challenging to address. When you dock the tail, it reduces the risk of injury to the tail, particularly when working.
2. Good Hygiene
While this may not be the most appropriate reason but it’s still a significant reason for pet owners to consider. Dog breeds with a long coat, like those of the Australian Shepherd, are susceptible to collecting particles on their fluffy tails.
Furthermore, it’s common for feces (dog urine) to end up along the tail because of the proximity of the anus. Thus by docking the tail, you can prevent the chance of this poop-related incident and improve dog hygiene.
But is it too much trouble to take an extra few minutes each day to wipe the tail/anus region in the Australian Shepherd?
3. Australian Shepherd Standard
Because the Aussies were initially developed for roles in which this method was more logical and has since become the norm of the breed. In the beginning, this idea was used as a precautionary measure. That’s fair enough.
But what percentage of Australian Shepherds around the world still tending animals? If you’re looking for an excellent companion dog for your family and reside in a more favorable setting, these arguments don’t hold as much weight.
Breeding Tail-less Aussies
It’s crucial to be aware that two Aussies with bobtails naturally occurring don’t breed each other. Professional breeders are aware of this, and this is for breeders who are not professional.
This is especially true when dogs sport short bobtails. This can lead to numerous health issues and, in some cases, even death. Many issues can arise, including spina bifida and other lower spinal cord disorders.
Around two percent of the dogs that had natural bobtailed puppies were required to be killed. But, this study covers all breeding dogs that include non-bobtails. In any case, the percentage of pairing two natural bobtails is probably much higher.
Should I Get My Aussies Tail Docked?
The first thing to remember is that If you’ve brought an Australian Shepherd home and it has a tail, do not tie its tail. The procedure should be carried out in the early stages. It could be painful and definitely an emotional procedure for an old Aussie.
If you haven’t decided on your puppy and can choose the breeder, you might want to think about not doing this. There is an opportunity that a working Aussie might be injured due to tails, but not a huge risk.
In contrast, If you’re planning to bring your own Australian Shepherd to be a friend to the family, there’s no need to dock the tail. It will be the same dog with or without tails, although tails could help communicate the way the dog expresses its owner’s emotions.
We are fully aware that our Australian Shephard’s Tail can be docked. Most people are not mindful of docking procedures with regard to the pros and cons. They’d decide not to dock the tail if they knew the details.