Rottweilers are sturdy, durable dogs with a muscular frame. Most come in their signature black and rust colors, making it fairly easy to spot a Rottweiler. But if there’s one thing you notice about these dogs, it’s that Rottweilers almost never have tails.
Most Rottweilers are born with a tail. There are some naturally bob-tailed Rottweilers, though they are very rare. However, most Rottweilers you see today had their tails cut as a puppy. Generations of tail-docking for herding and guarding jobs has made this practice the standard in the Rottweiler. Today, tail-docking is mainly for cosmetic purposes.
Rottweilers are born with tails, but sometimes they may arrive without a tail. This is a decision that you can control, so it’s important to learn more about the procedure. Read on to learn why Rotties get their tails docked and how the procedure actually works.
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3 Reasons Why Rottweilers Don’t Have Tails
Rottweilers don’t have tails, but it’s not usually because they weren’t born with one. In fact, there are a number of reasons why this canine tradition is still carried on, so many centuries after being introduced in ancient Rome.
The main reasons we still see tail docking in Rotties is because of their long history as working dogs. And in some cases, they still perform these jobs today. However, most Rottweilers don’t have tails due to cosmetics, while a small portion are natural bobtails.
1. The tradition of docking tails in working Rottweilers
Historical records point to Roman drover dogs as the true ancestor of modern Rottweilers. These dogs were working dogs that primarily served as herding or guarding dogs. They were the most popular all-purpose dogs in Rome.
In the midst of building of the Roman Empire, Rottweilers were used by the Roman Legions as an extra pair of eyes for guarding. Not only did they guard troops at night, but also helped with herding livestock, which provided food.
Like the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rottweilers were herding dogs that docked their tails. The reasoning behind this is because of potential injuries while “pushing” around much larger animals. As big as Rottweilers are, some cattle can weigh over 2,000 pounds!
On the field, dog tails are seen as an extra “handle,” at least according to the owners. It’s possible that a cow may accidentally step on or intentionally bite the tail, thus injuring a Rottweiler. This could put the dog out of commission for several days or weeks!
While cosmetic docking, to me, is horrible, I do however agree with docking as long as its done for a good reason. I docked my Rottie. Not for the look but because of a couple horrible accidents.– Von Schwarz Stahl (City Data)
Even until this day, Rottweilers are frequently on lists of best guard dog breeds. They were bred for the job! But while tail docking makes sense with herding, how was it useful for a dog that had to guard the home?
The theory is that removing the tail makes it harder for robbers and criminals to injure and hold down the dog to escape. For example, they may grab the tail while stealing a pack of money left around the dog’s neck. A hard tug on the tail is sure to temporarily stun the Rottie.
Believe it or not, Rottweilers were in charge of transporting earnings to the bank for a lot of butchers. They also protected the money at the markets – just think of them as canine registers. That’s how much they trusted these dogs.
2. The Rottweiler’s breed standard says no tail
According to the AKC’s breed standard for Rottweilers, these dogs should have a cropped tail. In fact, they explicitly state that the tail should be short and close to the body, leaving just one or two vertebrae left. The actual length of the tail doesn’t matter.
In addition, the docked tail should be properly set on the Rottweiler’s behind. When the dog is excited or active, the tail should carry just slightly above. This isn’t our suggestion. This is the official club standard set in the late 19th century.
The set of the tail is more important than its length. Properly set, it gives an impression of elongation of the topline; carried slightly above horizontal when the dog is excited or moving. Docked, the tail is short, close to the body leaving one or two tail vertebrae.– American Kennel Club
So as you can see, for many generations of Rottweilers, breeders have been abiding by the standard of tail docking in their puppies. Today, it’s for cosmetic purposes. In other words, it has become “normal” for Rottweilers to have docked tails.
At the end of the day, Rottweiler breeders wants to make money. They need to sell what’s been deemed as normal because that’s what most customers expect. As such, another argument is that if you needed to re-home your Rottie, it would be easier with a docked tail.
Now just because the AKC mentions that docked tails are the “norm” for Rottweilers does not mean they enforce it. They’ve stated that “no AKC breed standard has a disqualification for any of these alterations,” including tail docking.
3. Some Rottweilers are born without tails
Yes, naturally bobtail Rottweilers do exist, though rare! In fact, there are over 24 dog breeds that can have a natural bobtail (NBT). While most NBT dogs are born without the tail due to a mutation in the T-box gene, the Rottweiler isn’t one of them.
According to the Oxford Journal of Heredity, the Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzer, King Charles Spaniel, Parson Russel Terrier and Rottweiler do not need this gene mutation. However, they can still develop a NBT due to the gene mutation.
In Oxford’s study, the parents of the Rottweilers had naturally long tails, yet the puppies still developed NBT at birth. The cause is likely due to sporadic mutation or spontaneous developmental abnormality. Both of which, suggests it’s congenital, not hereditary.
Today, many Rottweiler breeders have opted to breed for the gene that causes the NBT in Rottweilers. These breeders develop naturally tail-less Rottweilers because the practice is banned in their country, or they believe it to be too cruel.
Although there’s very little evidence showing that a NBT Rottweiler is any less healthy than a tailed Rottweiler, breeding two NBT dogs together is a huge red flag. Doing so can lead to puppies with spina bifida or other spinal cord defects.
Where Did Tail Docking Come From?
Canine tail docking is a procedure for removing a portion of the dog’s tail. While the practice is popular among Rottweilers, many other dog breeds regularly get their tails docked too. In fact, the list includes Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Aussies, Yorkies and many more.
The origins of tail docking can be traced back to the times of ancient Rome. In the past, the Romans believed that docking the dog’s tail could prevent the canine from contracting viral diseases, such as Rabies.
And because there were obvious benefits to having a tail (especially on chases), only dogs from the poor working class had their tails docked. However, their dogs were permitted to keep their tails only if they needed to hunt.
In all honesty, I like the look of a cropped tail but the tail doesn’t make the dog, its personality and temperament. Many will argue that most breeders have already bred the “work” out.– Rottweilerlvr (Rottweilers Online)
Rottweilers are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Their history is long and plenty of historians believed their ancestors first appeared in ancient Rome. So given how Romans were first to practice tail docking, is this tradition in Rottweilers really a surprise?
Throughout the centuries, the tradition of tail docking that stemmed from ancient Rome had continued in working dogs all around the world. However, the goal of this procedure had shifted from preventing diseases to other reasons.
Does Tail Docking Hurt?
The tail docking procedure will likely vary depending on the breeder or vet. Some will dock at a shorter length, while others may wait longer before cutting the tail. If you’re curious on the specific procedure, I’d ask your Rottweiler breeder.
However, most will agree that the tail docking procedure should happen sometime between 3 to 7 days after birth. Others will suggest doing the tail docking as early as 2 days after birth. As long as it’s early on, it shouldn’t matter much.
So, the question is: does tail docking hurt your Rottweiler pup? There’s certainly been a lot of heated debate over this question. Both parties, though, make some decent points that I want to point out here.
On one side, advocates will tell you that the Rottie puppies are too young and haven’t fully developed their nervous system yet. Thus, it’s unlikely that they’re able to feel pain during the docking procedure.
However, others will point to evidence suggesting that their nervous systems, though not fully matured, are developed enough to at least feel pain close to an adult canine. Still, there’s no conclusive evidence that sides with either party.
But even so, Rottweiler puppies often shriek immediately after the tail is cut off. We’re unsure if this is due to pain or just temporary discomfort. On the other hand, some puppies get their tails docked while sleep and don’t wake up.
So, do Rottweiler puppies actually feel pain in this highly controversial procedure? We can’t say for sure. It’s up to you to decide.
The Tail Docking Procedure
To be honest, this procedure is not something I’d want to witness. If it weren’t for research, I’d probably never have watched it. But if you’re really that curious or brave, I’d suggest checking out the plethora of YouTube videos.
There are two main methods of tail docking. Neither of these methods are done with anesthesia nor any type of pain killers (another reason it’s so controversial). However, most of the time, it’s done when the puppy is asleep.
The most common way of tail docking is by using a good ol’ pair of scissors. These are surgical scissors that’ll cut right through the tendons, muscles or any cartilage on the tail. It’ll also remove several nerves connected to the tail.
The second method, though less popular, is argued to be more humane. Instead of scissors, they’ll use a rubber brand to cut off blood circulation to the tail. After some time, the tail will fall right off – seriously.
While it may be tempting to try to stick a rubber band around a young puppy’s tail and wait for it to fall off, I highly suggest going to a vet for it. There can be complications that you aren’t able to deal with. Many breeders go to vets, too.
To Dock or Not?
So, should you buy a Rottweiler with a docked tail? Sometimes, you may not have a choice, especially if you’re looking into getting one from a AKC merit breeder. However, it’s still possible to find Rotties with their tails intact.
Reputable AKC-endorsed breeders will always follow the breed standard that the club has put out. This means they’ll have plans to dock the tails of every Rottie pup in the litter. Plus, most don’t want to sell puppies that aren’t the “norm.”
I’m the proud owner of a Rottweiler with an intact tail. And I like him that way. But I do find the intact tail more expressive.– Chiroptera (City Data)
However, it’s possible to request your future Rottweiler retain his or her tail. Not everyone will be willing, but there is a chance. If this is the route you want to take, keep in mind you’ll likely have to wait longer for the next batch of puppies.
I wouldn’t recommend rejecting breeders for the sake of this request, unless you really don’t want your Rottweiler without a tail. Reputable breeders are still reputable for a reason. They breed for the best temperaments and good health, instead of looks.
As long as you can find an ethical breeder that breeds high quality puppies, it doesn’t really matter if your dog has a tail or not. It doesn’t change the fact that Rottweilers are sweet and affectionate dogs that’ll always have your back.
Can I Even Dock a Rottweiler’s Tail?
If you’re having a hard time finding a reputable breeder willing to skip the docking, then you might want to try looking in areas where the procedure is banned.
The tail docking of Rottweilers is no longer legal in a few countries, such as Australia and nearly all of Europe. Though, it still remains highly popular in North America. But importing NBT Rotties from another country may not always be feasible.
For more information on the legal status of tail docking your Rottweiler, I suggest you check out this resource. And if you’re looking for breeders that exclusively breed NBT Rotties, do a simple search online and you’ll be sure to find plenty!
Full disclosure: Both our Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Mini Australian Shepherd have their tails docked. We got our Corgi before we even knew we had a choice. Had we known, we may have opted to find one with her natural tail.
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Sunday 2nd of August 2020
Tails should be able to be docked in Australia.Yes puppies would feel pain at 24-48 hours old when the procedure should be carried by a licensed vet but I’m sure they wouldn’t remember. I can’t remember getting any injections or medical procedures when I was a baby