Are French Bulldogs Tails Docked(cut)? A common question I often see asked in online forums is whether or not French bulldogs are born with long tails, which are then cut off and docked for “cosmetic” reasons.
Even though docking was a historical practice that was used among some types of pedigree dogs, it is a common misconception that this is used for French bulldogs.
That will be an awful thing to happen to any dog, and I’m happy to tell you that it’s not the case with this breed:
No, French Bulldog’s tails are not docked or cut off. They are born without long tails. French Bulldogs have naturally short tails, which may be straight, or corkscrewed. The anatomy of their tail makes them prone to a range of health problems, which potential owners ought to be aware of. The stumpy tail is a by-product of the early days of breeding.
Do French bulldogs have tails at all?
Yes, they do, but they have been bred to produce cute, short, and stumpy little tails, which most of the time means their butt is on show.
There tend to be three different types of Frenchie tail:
- Straight down and stumpy
- Screwed and stumpy (never curly, though)
- Thick root with an excellent tip
Here is a photo of the Frenchie rear end, where you can see very clearly what a classic tail looks like in the modern day.
Are French bulldogs born with tails?
Or are French bulldogs born without tails?
Let’s start with the basics: are French Bulldogs born with tails? And the answer is yes, they are. French Bulldogs are born with naturally short tails. Most dogs have 18 to 23 tail bones, which are an extension of the vertebrae in their spine. But French Bulldogs have as few as nine, so their tail is very short. Here is a photo of a newborn little Frenchie puppy where you can see what their tails look like just after birth.
Does their tail cause health problems?
As with all pedigree dog breeds, a French bulldog can encounter certain health issues. Sadly, some of these can be caused by that shorter, stumpy tail. According to several veterinary studies, the bones of the tail won’t always align in the correct position with the French bulldog’s spine.
In some cases, it can mean deformity and instability in the spinal column, which could lead to spinal and nerve damage – and pain!
This genetic condition will occur in some Frenchies and is a direct consequence of breeders trying to make the screw-type tail the preferred look.
This is why the Kennel Club in the UK launched a scheme way back in 2010 to try to eliminate this issue. They wanted breeders to move away from the corkscrew tail, and instead stick to the straighter stumpy tail for French bulldogs.
Tails are designed to stabilize the vertebrae and help to support a dog’s rear muscle groups. Without them, dogs can suffer from ailments such as dilation of the rectum, incontinence, and hernias because the breeding that has led to this appearance is an in-bred spinal defect.
If we can move towards having French Bulldogs with straight tails, it will lead to health improvements in the breed. It will take time, but it will lead to obvious benefits.
This initiative to move away from the tails we see in today’s Frenchie population is being pushed through in the UK and other countries in Europe.
In fact, this short drop tail was one of the breed standards for Frenchies before this shorter corkscrew tail appeared. The UK Kennel Club scheme aims to return French bulldogs to a healthier breed and avoid these painful defects in the future.
Why do French bulldogs have short tails?
Great question, It may be confusing to look back at some historical photos of French bulldogs from the 1800s, for example, and see that they had a slightly more noticeable tail.
So why did they become shorter, looking like they had been docked or cut off?
I believe it’s because they were originally used for ratting. By selective breeding, it would have been possible to get shorter tails over time which could have offered:
- Given them increased speed
- Helped to prevent rat bites to the tail
Over time, as French bulldogs have moved away from being working dogs, it has become part of their cosmetic appeal, and thus, selective breeding has led them to be shorter and shorter tails.
If you are the owner of a beloved Frenchie, you can confidently tell any nosy bystander that your pet’s tail hasn’t been docked – they have been born that way.
Are French bulldog’s tails cut off at all?
OK, so here’s the thing.
As we’ve established, Frenchie’s tails are not docked and are not cut off. However, because this has now become seen as a standard of the breed, some irresponsible breeders may have some cosmetic work done on the dog’s tail to give it the classic appearance that they are after.
It’s important to note that only a small few feel the need to customize their Frenchie puppy’s tail in this manner. It is in no way the standard, and for the vast majority of Frenchies, their tails have been left in its natural state.
It’s quite easy to figure out if this has happened, though!!, and here’s a check you can do with any dog to tell if the tail is docked.
You simply feel the tip of the dog’s tail. If the last tailbone is not pointy, this strongly indicates that part of the tail has been cut off and removed.
Can French bulldogs wag their tails?
Yes, French bulldogs are able to wag their tails! Some will manage to move their stumpy tail a little, but in the main, a wagging bottom is a sign that a Frenchie is happy as their tails are too short to actually wag.
So the key to working out whether your Frenchie is wagging its tail will be to keep an eagle eye open, especially if they have a super short stump for a tail. If they have a straight tail, it will be far more obvious as to when your dog is attempting to wag their tail. Thanks to the straight tail giving your dog more tail to wag, it will be hard to miss their expression of happiness.
There’s no need to feel sad, though, just because your dog doesn’t have a super long tail that they can wag. Your Frenchie will also show their affection in many other ways, including licking or getting close to you when you’re sitting on the couch.
A key way to look at this is that their stumpy tail gives your Frenchie more character.
Why are dogs’ tails cut off and docked anyway?
According to some research I did, tail docking isn’t new and was actually practiced in Ancient Rome. Apparently, shepherds used to do so to prevent rabies. I have no idea how that would prevent rabies, so if anyone can tell me, I would love to hear it!
Later in history, there was a trend to remove the tail tips from hunting dogs to prevent them from injury.
Again, I don’t truly understand how cutting off a dog’s tail could stop them from being injured, but research from 2010 suggests that 13.5% of working dogs sustain one tail injury each year.
You would assume that the less tail the dog has, the less inclined it would be to pick up an injury. It still seems a barbaric practice, though.
Fast forward to the modern day, and many people will dock their dog’s tail for either cosmetic (which I believe should be stopped) or working reasons (I understand this a little bit more, but even so).
Docking the tail is either done in a homemade fashion, where the owner wraps a rubber band around it to cut off blood flow. The tail will then drop off after a few days.
It can also be done by a vet, which you think would be way safer and would lead to less infection.
However, as far as I can gather, neither procedures use anesthetic or stitches.
Does it hurt a dog to have its tail cut off?
Yes, it is a painful procedure for a tail to be docked. However, some advocates of tail docking believe that a puppy’s nervous system is not developed enough yet to let them feel pain.
That argument does not entirely convince me, and studies have shown that while the dog’s pain isn’t quantifiable, it will still cause discomfort.
I will leave the last word on this to the RSPCA of Australia, the animal welfare charity.
They state the following (view source):
“The basic nervous system of a dog is fully developed at birth. Evidence indicates that puppies have similar sensitivity to pain as adult dogs. Docking a puppy’s tail involves cutting through muscles, tendons, and up to seven pairs of susceptible nerves and severing bone and cartilage connections. Puppies give repeated, intense shrieking vocalizations when the tail is cut off and during stitching of the wound, indicating that they experience substantial pain. Inflammation and tissue damage also cause ongoing pain while the wound heals. There is also the risk of infection or other complications associated with this unnecessary surgery.”
And then go on to write:
“Tail docking can also cause unnecessary and avoidable long-term chronic pain and distress to the dog. For example, when a chronic neuroma forms at the amputation site. Neuromas are often very painful.”
The laws on tail docking
When it comes to the law, things get a bit tricky. Sadly, in the US, tail docking hasn’t been made illegal in every state.
There are some regulations in some states, which are undoubtedly better than nothing, but unfortunately, this cruel practice is still allowed to be practiced across the vast majority of America.
As discussed above, this isn’t performed for any practical reason. It is performed by irresponsible breeders who feel that a dog should look a certain way.
The even sadder thing about the law in America is that it doesn’t specify that tail docking has to be performed by a veterinary surgeon. Some breeders take things into their own hands and use the rubber band method to quicken the process.
There is some good news, though. Some states such as New York and Vermont, are trying to consider bills that would make the practice illegal.
Elsewhere in the world, tail docking has thankfully been made illegal. This includes in countries like the UK and several other countries across Europe.
There are some restrictions in Canada, but sadly those restrictions haven’t reached an outright ban just yet.
Hopefully, this is something that will be considered in the future for other areas around the world so that the cruel practice can be stopped. The good news is that tail docking doesn’t happen to Frenchies because they naturally have much shorter tails.
But it certainly needs to be banned for other breeds unless it is performed for medical reasons to prevent a dog from being in pain.
So there you have it! You now know all there is to know about French bulldogs and their smaller tails. Even though there is a common misconception that French bulldogs have their tails docked at birth, this isn’t the case.
They have more petite tails, similar to the British bulldog breed or other naturally short-tailed breeds such as terriers and pugs.