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5 Reasons Why Brittany Spaniels Have Docked Tails (2023)

Why Do Brittany Spaniels Have Docked Tails

Brittany Spaniels are everything you’re looking for in a dog.

But, you still have one question in mind…

Why are their tails docked? 

Continue reading to discover:

  • If it’s cruel to dock the tails of Brittany Spaniels.
  • 5 reasons why Brittany Spaniels have docked tails.
  • The process of tail-docking in Brittany Spaniels (and its risks).
  • And many more…

Why do Brittany Spaniels have docked tails?

Brittany Spaniels have docked tails either because they’re born that way or, it’s done through tail docking surgery. The reason for undergoing such a procedure varies. They got it for more efficient hunting or to prevent work injuries in the past. Now, they have to adhere to breed standards.

5 reasons why Brittany Spaniels have docked tails

#1: They’re born that way

According to AKC, Brittany Spaniels might be present in historical paintings and tapestries.

In those sketches, they share the scene with French, Dutch, and Flemish masters.

Now, those pictures date way back to the 17th century.

And in those prints from the past, dogs who look like Brittany Spaniels appear. 

To be specific, those puppers have the expressive face of a Brittany.

Moreover, the dogs in the picture have a body that won’t be mistaken for another. Experts believe that they’re indeed Brittany Spaniels.

That’s because, most of all, these dogs have a bobtail. Such is the trademark of Brittany Spaniels.

Moreover, there’s a reverend that described Brittany Spaniels in 1850. He did so by writing about the dogs.

According to Reverend Davies, those bobtailed dogs are good at pointing and retrieving.

Now, it’s all coming together with that short history lesson…

As I mentioned, those dogs in the picture have a bobtail.

So long before, most Brittany Spaniels already had their tails docked. 

Now, let me emphasize the “most.”

That’s because some still appear with a straight-haired tail.

And when they do, some dog parents decide to dock it. As for other reasons behind it, I’ll explain them one by one in the article.

All in all, most Brittany Spaniels are born with their tails docked.

#2: Prevent work injuries

I’m gonna give yet another history lesson here. 

That’s because their rich background plays a huge role in their docked tails.

How so?

According to VCA Hospitals, Brittany Spaniels used to be working dogs.

First of all, these canines are obedient. Their aim is nothing but to please you.

That’s why they’re excellent at their jobs.

So, they’re woodcock dogs who point and retrieve eagerly. 

Now, a long tail can get caught on bushes or low-hanging branches. 

And the dog can suffer injuries when that happens.

So, it’s better to have their tails docked.

All in all, it also contributes to…

#3: More efficient hunting

Brittany Spaniels Have Docked Tails For A More Efficient Hunting

A Brittany Spaniel is an ideal companion during hunting. They’re great in the activity and they’re eager to be such.

And to make them more functional, they have to have their tails docked.


As working dogs of poachers, Brittany Spaniels have to move as free as possible.

And as I said, their tails might get in the way of a successful hunt.

Brittany Spaniels have to sniff around a lot of areas. Then, once they catch a scent, they’ll stop in their tracks.

The dog parent takes that as a sign that their canine has found something.

Now, all they have to do is wait for the dog to point in a direction.

A Brittany Spaniel would use their muzzle to hint at a place where they trace something.

And with a docked tail, injuries are prevented.

So, it contributes to more efficient hunting. All because of fewer instances of their tail getting in the way.

That’s the reason behind the docked tails of these dogs since the 1800s.

And up until today, docked tails proved to be helpful during hunting. 

And if you wanna see Brittany Spaniels in action, I suggest watching this dogumentary:

Did you know? Some hunters also remove their dog’s dewclaws.

PetMD tells us that dewclaws are considered the big toes of dogs.

However, some dog parents remove that body part as well.


It’s for the same reason as docking their tails.

Since these claws are big, they can get snagged on rough surfaces. And when that happens, the hunting won’t be efficient.

However, vets don’t suggest removing dewclaws for unnecessary reasons. 

You should only remove dewclaws when they develop disease or infections.

Other than that, dogs need that body part. It improves their traction and assists in running.

#4: To achieve the ideal look

As I said, Brittany Spaniels have always had their tails docked.

Since the 1800s, they’re expected to be tailless or stub-tailed.

And if they aren’t naturally born with such, a procedure is necessary.


It’s because a docked tail has become the ideal look.

Today, most Brittany Spaniels are loyal family dogs…

They make a great companion for all ages. Yep, they do well, even with children.

Now, it’s safe to say that their life is more chill.

Despite that, some dog parents decide to dock the tails of their Brittany. 

This is so that they’ll achieve the look associated with the majority of the dogs.

For this reason, the procedure is called a cosmetic surgery.

According to this journal, this is the definition such:

It’s any surgical procedure that’s medically unnecessary.

Plus, this isn’t a new practice…

The paper says that tail docking can be dated from the late 1800s. Thus serving more proof that this has always been done.

Moreover, such a procedure is only requested by the dog parent. 

And unfortunately, here’s what most pieces of evidence point out:

For now, there are little to no benefits of tail docking to dogs.

#5: Adhering to show standards

Adhering To Show Standards

Today, it’s not all about following the ideal look of Brittany Spaniels…

As mentioned earlier, Brittany Spaniels used to be working dogs.

Moreover, they’re eager to please their human.

Now, that kind of personality makes them excellent for dog competitions.

Plus, they’re excellent around field trials…

And that’s the reason why these dogs gained acceptance and popularity.

In the early 1920s, these dogs are scoffed off. But after poachers saw their abilities in the field, Brittany Spaniels acquired importance.

Then, AKC recognized Brittany Spaniels in 1934. 

Lastly, their name’s changed to Brittany only, a small town in France – their origin.

And with all those, breed standards for these dogs are set.

So for them to compete in dog shows, Brittanys have to follow those requirements.

And this is what the AKC‘s breed standards for Brittany Spaniels say:

“He can be tailless or has a tail docked to approximately four inches.”

– AKC, Official Standard for the Brittany

Now, why is it specific and so needed?

They say that it can affect the dog’s overall balance.

And that can influence the performance of the canine.

Lastly, this is also stated in the standards:

“Any tail substantially more than four inches shall be severely penalized.”

– AKC, Official Standard for the Brittany

With that, dog parents have to follow it strictly.

Not doing so will disqualify their dog before even performing.

And so, they make their Brittany undergo the procedure of tail docking.

Is it cruel to dock a Brittany Spaniel’s tail?

Docking a Brittany Spaniel’s tail can be cruel. The dog needs to undergo tail docking if they’re going to compete in dog shows. But if not, evidence shows they have nothing to gain from the appearance change.

Earlier, I said that tail docking is cosmetic surgery.

Then, a journal described it as an unnecessary surgical procedure.

Now, they put it that way because it’s elective surgery. That means that it’s totally up to your decision if your dog will get it or not.

Moreover, it isn’t done to save your pooch from future or current complications.

To expand, let’s zoom on all the information available…

Let’s start with…

Tail docking procedure in dogs

This procedure is done early in a dog’s life.

To be exact, the puppy has to be no more than 5 days old.

Now, most of the procedure is done surgically. The vet will simply cut off the dog’s tail.

Sometimes, they also use a constricting band.

What if they’re more than 5 days old already?

Then the next window opens when they turn 8 to 12 weeks. After that, you shouldn’t try to have their tails docked anymore.

Lastly, tail docking only costs $10 (€9, £8) to $20 (€18, £16).

With that, it’s a cheap procedure, isn’t it?

However, that’s not the only price to pay…

I say so as a warning because this procedure also poses some risk for the dog.

Welfare concerns

Did you know? Tail docking is banned in many countries. 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), those are:

  • Israel.
  • Iceland.
  • Norway.
  • Australia.
  • Switzerland.
  • South Africa.
  • Virgin Islands.
  • Many parts of Europe.

Many veterinary associations don’t support cosmetic surgery in dogs. That’s why they also oppose ear cropping in dogs like Dobermans.

Among many, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) opposes tail docking…

And this is what they stated on their policy:

“We believe that puppies suffer unnecessary pain as a result of docking and are deprived of a vital form of canine expression.”

– BVA, Policy Statement Tail docking of dogs

Moreover, the AVMA is against the practice as well. As stated by them, there are many concerns and risks. 

So, they did extensive reviewing of related papers about the matter.

They rounded up the following:

#1: The procedure is painful. 

You have to know this…

Some tail docking procedures don’t involve anesthesia. Therefore causing great pain for your pooch.

Now, distress won’t just show up during the actual surgery.

They say that the dog can feel long-term pain.

That’s because it permanently alters the central nervous system.

#2: There are risks for complications.

Tail docking is a surgical procedure that isn’t faultless.

Complications like the following might arise:

  • Infection.
  • Bleeding.
  • Delayed healing.
  • Death of cells (necrosis).

#3: They get prone to chronic health issues.

A small piece of evidence suggests this:

Tail docking can lead to muscle disorders.

Moreover, dogs can also develop incontinence.

#4: The dog loses a means of communication.

With tail docking, a dog loses an important part of their everyday life.

They use their tail to communicate with other canines.

With that, it might have behavioral effects on the dog.

Editor’s pick: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Never Wags His Tail + 3 Tips

Benefits of tail docking

Of course, this practice won’t be continued if there aren’t any gains.

Moreover, there’s an increase in evidence regarding the benefits of tail docking.  But with the increase of evidence is also the decrease of benefits…

Let me tell you how…

For the dog

One of the reasons for tail docking is avoiding injuries.

But AVMA has reviewed much evidence available.

Their findings show that tail injuries are rare. The rate of it is only at least 0.39%.

So tail docking would only help that small number.

In conclusion, their data shows that:

If you want to prevent 1 tail injury in a dog, 500 tails need to be docked.

For the dog parent

As I said, Brittany Spaniels have long been recognized with a bobtail.

With that, the ideal look of these dogs is set.

And so, dog parents take part in the ongoing tradition.

They dock the tail of their Brittany because that’s always been how they are.

Moreover, Brittany Spaniels have to get their tail docked if they compete. If not, they won’t qualify for the competition.

The alternative for tail docking

Unfortunately, the only alternative involves genetics.

AVMA calls it bobbed genetics.

It’s when dogs will naturally produce bobtailed offspring.