Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Tradition of Tail Docking

I don't have a docked breed. I have friends who do, and who feel passionately about the matter. Sometimes this passion is beyond my comprehension, I have to admit.

For instance, the current kerfuffle in the world of Rottweilers, apparently, is whether or not the AKC breed standard should include a description of a correct undocked tail. Personally, I think they can either say nothing and end up with every European Rottie with a rotten tail over here where the judges don't know what's wrong with it, or they can ban undocked Rotties from the ring altogether and lose pretty much all international competition, because most of Europe has now banned the practice of docking. Either one seems like a bad outcome to me, since it's all about something non-genetic in a forum that's supposed to be all about fitness to breed, and I doubt every tailed Rottie in Europe is completely devoid of good genes. However, I'm not a Rottie person.

I've asked what the justification for docking is, and I've had a couple of answers, but the upshot is that traditionally the Rottie pulled carts and was a cattle drover. Now, there are carting breeds with tails and cattle dogs with tails, but--okay. Tradition has spoken. We have here an argument from tradition. I herd sheep with my shepherd, which is about as traditional an activity as you could want.

However, I have some problems with arguments from tradition, and the big one is that traditionally humans can be a pretty rotten species. For instance, if you have one of the large South American breeds that descended from the Spanish mastiff types, you might have trouble feeding it a traditional diet. You see, they were fed the quartered remains of the Inquisition as it took place on this side of the Atlantic. If you want to run down to Pet Supermarket and see if they have a nice bag of kibbled unbeliever in between the no-grain lamb and the Olde Fashioned Midden Heape special, go ahead. I'll wait here and you can report back, but I suspect that's a special-order item.

Given that we've abandoned traditions before, it may be time to find a fresh argument for things like tails. I can understand cropped ears: many breeds have very delicate ears that are easily shredded if they gallop through a thorn bush as dogs seem to be crazy to do, and cropping toughens the edges. Docking a Dobe I kind of get, as they have very slender tails which are easily broken when they clear something too solid off your coffee table. But a Rottie tail? It's just like a shepherd's tail. Solid, nice curve, normally carried low enough that if it was interfering with a cart, the dog's trotting hocks would be, too.

So I still don't get it. Comments are welcome if you think you can explain it better, honest. I'm open to being convinced. I'm not militantly anti-docking or anything, I just don't understand.

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