Rottweilers are the eighth most popular dog breed in the United States according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Because the Rottweiler is so popular and has such a recognizable look and color pattern, many people can recognize Rotties at first glance.
The bobbed or short tail is another big part of what makes Rottweilers so recognizable today. Even non-Rottweiler owners are very used to seeing Rotties with short tails.
But is this natural to the Rottweiler breed? Why do Rottweilers have short tails? This article will explain the back story.
Why Do Rottweilers Have Short Tails?
The Rottweiler dog breed is not born with the short or bobbed tail that most people now associate with the Rottweiler “look.”
The reason Rottweilers have short tails is that the breeder has done a procedure called “tail docking.”
Tail docking is typically done when the Rottweiler puppy is just a few days or weeks old. This article will discuss why this is still done in many places and the historical purpose it once served.
Learn About the History of Rottweilers With Short Tails
As this YouTube video explains, Rottweilers as a breed are not born with short tails.
The breeders cut off the tails – often before the new owner gets a say in whether or not to have this procedure done.
What Is Tail Docking in Rottweilers?
As Mississippi Rottweilers breeder explains, tail docking is a procedure that essentially amputates all or a major portion of a dog’s tail.
As Fetch by WebMD points out, tail docking is often done at the same time that a dog’s ears are cropped and dewclaws (if any) are removed.
The most common time to do tail docking is when a Rottweiler puppy is just a few days old. If it is done when the dog is this young, anesthesia is seldom used.
If it is done when the dog is older, anesthesia may be used, especially if the ears will be cropped at the same time.
Why Is Tail Docking Done on Rottweilers?
Tail docking is an increasingly controversial surgery. In many parts of the world, including in Australia and throughout the United Kingdom, tail docking is now legally banned.
Some states in the United States have also banned tail docking. But in most states, the procedure is still legal.
There are several reasons why tail docking is still legal in certain parts of the United States and the world.
Dog breed clubs and registries uphold or allow it
The American Kennel Club (AKC), which is the official dog breed registry in the United States, continues to support tail docking, ear cropping, and dewclaw removal as ways of maintaining a “breed standard.”
A dog breed standard is a largely appearance-based guideline for what a dog breed should look like. The breed standard is developed by the dog clubs and submitted to the American Kennel Club for inclusion along with that breed’s official registration.
So as long as the dog clubs and their breeder members continue to support tail docking and similar cosmetic surgeries, the American Kennel Club will likely continue to support these practices as well.
It is considered necessary for the dog’s safety
Believe it or not, there was a time in the Rottweiler’s breed history that tail docking was considered a protective procedure.
The Rottweiler has always been a working K-9. The breed was initially developed during the reign of the Roman Empire to help pull carts (droving) and guard and herd large groups of livestock.
Rottweilers that pulled carts risked getting their long tails caught in the carts. So the practice of docking the tails was instituted to help these dogs do their jobs more safely.
However, today’s modern Rottweilers no longer pull carts, which raises the question of whether any safety benefit still exists to tail docking.
Rottweiler owners expect it and want it
At the start of this article, we mentioned that the short tail is very closely associated with the iconic appearance of the Rottweiler dog.
While some dog breeds are born with natural bobtails, the Rottweiler breed is not one of them.
But because tail docking is still part of the American Rottweiler breed standard, there are actually many people who think that Rottweilers are born with short tails. They don’t even realize that these dogs have long natural tails when they are born.
These people may see a Rottweiler with a long natural tail and question whether the dog is a “real” purebred Rottweiler, as Big Sky Rottweiler Rescue charity points out. They may decide not to purchase that Rottweiler, thinking the dog is a mixed breed.
Some prospective Rottweiler owners who do know the Rottweiler has a long tail naturally request that the breeder do the tail docking surgery so their dog will look like a “real” Rottweiler, even if there is no need to do the procedure for safety reasons.
Hazards of Tail Docking in Rottweiler Dogs
Unfortunately, not only is tail docking still done even when there is no safety or medical need, but it often leaves lasting side effects that diminish the Rottweiler’s quality of life.
As the Journal of Veterinary Pathology points out, tail docking can cause nerve damage in the major nerve that runs through the tail.
This in turn can cause pain that in turn leads to self-mutilation and self-trauma. The dogs often gnaw at their tails to the point where further surgery is required.
All canines use their tails in a multitude of ways – one of the most important of which is for balance.
A Rottweiler with no tail will not have that rudder to help with stability and balance during movement.
It nearly goes without saying that a dog without a tail cannot wag it or use it in other ways as the communication tool it was designed to be.
As the official Rottweiler breed standard highlights, the Rottweiler’s tail is to be docked so as to leave just one or two vertebrae and set to any angle for a preferred profile appearance.
This is clearly for appearance purposes only – the breed standard makes no mention of any functional or temperament purpose that relates to continued tail docking.
Potential for health complications
As the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) points out, every time any kind of surgical procedure is done on a dog, there is always the possibility of complications.
Tail docking complications can include lifelong tail neuroma as we mentioned earlier. It is also possible that tail docking can cause infection, poor healing, incontinence, improper physical development, frustration with communication, and trauma.
This last is of particular concern if the tail docking procedure is not done by a qualified veterinary surgeon who is experienced and skilled at tail docking.
When a breeder or non-licensed individual does tail docking, there is a risk it will not be done safely or hygienically and this can lead to lasting harm behaviorally and physically.
Rottweilers With Docked Tails Are Not Allowed in 40 Countries
It seems ironic that Rottweilers with long tails are accepted and expected in so many places around the world but not in the United States and a limited number of international locations.
Rottweiler long tails are part of the official breed standard in the UK, in Australia, and in many countries today, according to the FCI, the World Canine Organization.
Owners expect to see a long natural tail on their Rottweiler puppy and breeders do not dock the tails for this reason.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVM) also opposes tail docking in all dog breeds for the same reason many countries have banned it.
As more animal welfare organizations take a strong stand against tail docking in Rottweilers, it is increasingly likely that pressure from knowledgeable owners and breeders will force change to the breed standard to allow natural tails again.
The truth is, even very young Rottweiler puppies feel pain when their tails are cut off. The common practice of not using anesthesia is true cruelty to the puppies as well as a danger to their health.
Should You Get a Rottweiler With a Docked Tail?
As the YouTube video you watched earlier here pointed out when the owner adopted the Rottweiler, the dog’s tail had already been docked. So they had no choice about whether their dog would have a natural tail or not.
The more prospective owners tell breeders that they want a Rottweiler with a natural tail, the more pressure will build to stop tail docking in Rottweilers entirely.
This does not mean you should not adopt a Rottweiler whose tail has been docked. The puppy had no choice in the matter. But if you have a choice, choose a Rottweiler that has been allowed to keep its tail.