Over the last few years, docking the tail of dogs has been a matter of great debate. Once carried out as a safety measure for dogs working on farms or in other environments, many question whether or not this practice is necessary with dogs that are now simply nothing more than pets. The Australian Cattle Dog is a breed that was developed for the specifically for herding large groups of animals. In some instances, ranchers would dock the tail of their dogs to prevent injury or to make the dog more hygienic. However, while there are still some Cattle Dogs being used for their original purpose, many are not. In an environment where there is little chance for tail injuries, many feel the practice is just not warranted.
In arguments against tail docking, owners of Australian Cattle Dogs readily point out that the breed is well known for using its tail like a rudder. Without the tail, a Cattle Dogs finds it harder to maneuver itself when herding animals or taking part in an agility course. One of the biggest arguments, however, has to do with the breed's standard that was developed in the 1900's which describes the perfect tail for the Australian Cattle Dog. The tail is said to be of fair length and a continuation of the dog's backbone. The tail is to be left natural, yet cautions against an appendage that is too short or too long.
There are many countries around the world that have made docking the tail of dogs illegal. Countries such as the United States still allow the practice. Luckily, the practice is falling out of favor with those who own Australian Cattle Dogs. The anti sentiment is quite strong and a number of breeders no longer carry out the practice. Once the dog is past the two to five day mark after birth, docking a tail becomes major surgery and can cause undue pain and stress on a dog. Unless there is significant injury to the tail, many vets will not dock the tail of an older dog.
Although they are different breeds altogether, the Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog is commonly confused with the Australian Cattle Dog. The Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog has a very short tail that appears to be docked but it is actually a natural trait of the breed. The build of the Stumpy Tail is boxier than its cousin and it also has a shorter body. Many who see the Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog automatically assume that it is the Australian Cattle Dog and mistakenly believe tail docking is still a common practice. Nothing could be farther from the truth and there is a large effort to have the practice banned not just for Australian Cattle Dogs but for all canine breeds.