|No tail. Not a lot of brains either.|
The breed standard of the Australian Shepherd calls for either a naturally bobbed tail, or cropped, not to exceed 4 inches in length. These days it's largely customary and aesthetic, but historically it was meant to delineate working dogs from pets (working dogs were not taxed by the government), and to avoid fur getting tangled in brambles and burs.
As well as the dock, Cohen has had her front dewclaws removed (again, as required by the breed standard). It's done mostly to give the front foot a clean appearance, and save the dog from potentially tearing it and injuring itself. (It's not uncommon for dewclaws to be attached rather loosely, and they're prone to injury.)
While I've met many people who are upset that some dogs have their tails docked, I've never been particularly bothered by it. The dogs never seem particularly bothered by it either, and I admit it's nice to not have to worry about a wayward wag clearing off my coffee table.
The dewclaw removal has bothered me more. Cohen has two furless patches where the dewclaws once were, and the lack of fur acting as protection means that she's prone to knocking the area while running. She often has tiny scabs there. I've also read that without a dewclaw offering stability in the foot, the way the body compensates for it can lead to tendon issues down the road. And while dewclaws often seem unused, they become important when a dog is taking tight turns at high speeds. Definitely not ideal in a sporting dog.
Speaking of tight turns, dogs use their tails as ballast while running. I'm concerned that the dock automatically handicaps Cohen in this regard. I'm sure she'll perform just fine, but could it be better? I don't know. If you've watched the agility fun match video I posted yesterday, Cohen makes a faceplant shortly after she was released from the start line, as she was asked to make a tight turn into the chute. Would she have fallen if she were au natural?
I tried so hard to follow proper Dog Purchase Protocol when I got Cohen. If I had to do it over again, I think I would have to really think about whether I was comfortable docking a potential sport dog. I think Cohen will be successful regardless, and I'm confident she'll live a long happy life. Luckily another sport dog is a long, long way off so I've got plenty of time to think about.
What about you? What are your thoughts on docking? Do you think your opinion would be different if you had (or didn't have) a breed who was customarily docked?