Tail docking may be defined as the removal of whole or part of a dog's tail for functional purposes. There are approximately fifty dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club that routinely have their tails docked.
In most jurisdictions of the United States and Canada, this procedure may only be legally performed by a licensed veterinarian, ensuring that this surgical procedure is done safely and humanely.
Many veterinarians are opposed to tail docking, regardless of breed standards, and will perform tail docking only for therapeutic or preventive reasons. Therapeutic docking for the treatment of injury or disease to the tail is fairly self-explanatory, butprophylactic or preventive tail docking is more difficult to define. A prophylactic tail docking suggests that it is undertaken for the necessary protection of the dog from risk of disease or injury which is likely to arise in the future resulting from the retention of the entire tail.
Fecal soiling of the tail is not considered to be a disease or injury and its prevention by surgical means cannot be justified.
When performed by an experienced veterinarian, the procedure is relatively safe with few complications. The major medical risks include local infection, and delayed or poor healing due to puppies' chewing and licking the incision site.