You may have seen adult Cocker spaniels, particularly those that are at dog shows or from show related breeders, that have very short stumps where you would normally expect to see a tail.
Understandably you may then wonder, do Cocker spaniels have tails?
The reason that adult Cocker spaniels have tails that are different lengths is because they are docked to make them shorter.
Cocker spaniels normally have their tails docked when they are 3 to 5 days old.
Do Cocker spaniels have long tails?
When they are born Cocker spaniels have full length long tails.
Many spaniels, Cockers included, have their tails docked when they are very young, which is why some people wonder if they have tails at all.
Why do Cocker spaniels have their tails docked?
Tail docking is common in Cocker spaniels and some of the other spaniel breeds and is generally carried out for two reasons.
The first is to protect the dog from injury when he is working.
Anyone that has seen a working Cocker hunting for game will know just how vigorously they wag their tails.
A large proportion of a spaniel‘s work is conducted in thick cover, this can be anything from long grass through to brambles, bracken, fallen trees and a whole range of other environments that can hide game.
Spaniels’ tails whack against this cover with tremendous force which can result in the tail becoming damaged.
In the past I have seen some terrible tail injuries on undocked spaniels due to this, some of which have never healed properly.
Often these are accompanied by large blood loss and I’ve seen light coloured spaniels that have ended up red at the end of a day’s work, due to tail injuries.
The second reason, is for that of looks or to conform to the breed standard, which is common among breeders for dog shows.
Should a Cocker spaniel’s tail be docked?
This is a question that has been thrown around for a long time and opinions differ.
For a working Cocker spaniel the matter of tail docking is perfectly justifiable, spaniels can suffer horrendous injuries to their tails when working and the risk of injury is greatly reduced when the tail is docked – but docked properly and to the correct length which we’ll address shortly.
In the case of dog shows or to conform to standards or looks then it’s understandable that people would find this objectionable and unnecessary.
Like most things people can make choices and I would say that if it is benefits the dog’s health and well being then that is good reason.
How long should a Cocker spaniel’s tail be docked?
A spaniel’s tail should be docked to three quarters of it’s original length, thus only the end quarter should be removed.
A tail is an important aspect of a dog’s life and to dock a Cocker’s tail any shorter is both unnecessary and questionable.
The very short tail dock that you see in some spaniels, where the tail is almost totally removed leaving only a short stump, is not necessary and does not serve any purpose or usefulness.
Is it cruel to dock a dog’s tail?
A Cocker spaniel will normally have his tail docked when he is 3 to 4 days old.
The procedure will most likely be performed by a vet and the puppy will quickly recover.
Docking a dog’s tail any later than this when the dog is older could cause discomfort and pain and would be unpleasant for any dog, which is why the process is undertaken at a very early age.
It is far less cruel to dock a spaniel’s tail when he is very young than it would be if he needed an operation when he was an adult due to tail injuries.
Can a puppy die from tail docking?
There have been some cases of puppies, including Cocker spaniels, dying from tail docking and this has normally been at early stages not long after the procedure.
Many of these cases have occured due to the process being undertaken by unqualified people who have failed to carry out the procedure correctly.
If you do have a litter of puppies that need to be docked then you should always get a vet to do this. In some countries it is illegal to do it any other way.
See a working Cocker spaniel in action and how his tail moves
Is tail docking legal?
The law on tail docking varies from country to country and, in some cases, there are even different laws in different areas of the same country.
In the UK it is illegal to dock a dog’s tail unless there are specific reasons for doing so, such as a working Cocker spaniels and it is carried out by a vet.
You can find out more here at the BVA website.
In many European countries the practice is outlawed completely.
In the USA there are no specific guidelines and you should check locally.
Can you dock a dog’s tail at 2 years old?
The only reason why you should ever want to dock an adult dog’s tail would be due to injury.
This would always be on the recommendation of your vet and would be a last resort. The process would need to be done by a qualified vet, while the dog was asleep.
Do Cocker Spaniels naturally have tails?
Yes, Cocker Spaniels are naturally born with tails. They are generally long and feathered, complementing their overall graceful appearance.
Why do some Cocker Spaniels appear to have short tails or no tails at all?
Some Cocker Spaniels appear to have short tails because of a practice known as docking, where a portion of the tail is surgically removed at a very young age. This was traditionally done for hunting dogs to prevent injuries, but is less common now and is banned in many countries due to animal welfare concerns.