Why are Poodles' tails docked? Long ago, Poodles were mainly used as water dogs. This means that they were retrieval dogs that were trained to retrieve animals that fell into the water after hunters shot them down.
Because of this, tails were docked to increase swimming speed and the Pompon on the tip of the tail allowed hunters to see where their dog was while in the water.
Today, Poodles are companion dogs however in countries where docking is legal, this is still done due to tradition and customs. Any sized Poodle must have a docked tail in order to enter an AKC conformation event.
When is this done?
This is done at a very early age and for that reason most owners do not see any signs of the docking process (healing, etc). Most breeders will have docking done when puppies are 3 days old. The latest you would want to do this is 5 days old. It heals within about a week, so by the time an owner purchases a puppy, the tail is completely healed.
If my Poodle's tail was not docked, can I have it done now?
If the procedure is not done at an early age
you can have it done to an older dog, however it would involve surgery with anesthesia. Banding cannot be done to an older dog and cutting the tail of an older Poodle without an anesthetic is considered extremely unethical.
Does this hurt the puppy or dog?
When done at the very young age of 3 days old it is thought that it does not cause extreme pain. However, one cannot say this with absolute certainty. It is known that some puppies will not make a noise and others will let out a loud, quick yelp implying that if it is felt it is fast and fleeting.
Does a docked tail stop a Poodle from wagging their tail?
Because the tail is shortened just a bit, the majority of the tail remains. This allows the Poodle to wags its tail and use its tail for normal canine communication purposes.
Does a Poodle have to have a docked tail to be in a conformation show?
It really depends on where you live. In the United States, the answer is yes.
In Canada, while either docked or undocked can be shown, most winners in the ring have had docked tails.
However, overseas in Europe and Australia where tail docking is not legal, it's a different story. In fact, the FCI breed standard clearly states that the 'absence of tail or naturally short tail' is a disqualifying feature.
It should be noted that in many places where docking is illegal, it is okay to own a dog with a docked tail but it is against the law to actually be the responsible party that had the procedure done.