Why Don’t Australian Shepherds Have Tails?

why don't australian shepherds have tails

Maybe you are looking at getting your first Australian Shepherd or you already have an Aussie and never really looked into why some of them have tails and some tails are docked.

So why don’t Australian Shepherds have tails? 

Most Australian Shepherds don’t have tails because they are docked as puppies, but not all of them. About 20% of Aussies are born without tails while some do keep their tails it has much more to do with their bloodline and what they are used for like Agility Competitions or Herding Duties on a farm.

Now that we know one of the reasons why Aussies don’t have tails let’s look further into why this has always been the case for most of them and the actual process behind the closed curtain that many don’t know about.

We won’t get into the should or shouldn’t it be done as that is really more up to the dog owner and you can always look for Aussies with tails although they are harder to find. We will present opinions from owners on this particular situation.

For now lets just focus on why it is actually done.


Why Do They Cut The Tails Of Australian Shepherds?

There are quite a few reasons why but we will try to group them into 3 or 4 main ones.

Tradition – it is a Standard to have their tails cut and always has been. They were bred mainly to be put to work on farms for herding reasons. The environment can be treacherous and their tails can be trampled which would create injuries and infections. So the precautions were taken to do dock the tails before this happened 3-5 days after birth. Now it isn’t needed as much but with this always being done it has become customary.

Cleanliness – fluffy dogs with fluffy tails can collect a lot of debris and that includes feces. So with the tail not being there is also looked at less to clean up. This of course is probably not a good enough reason to cut a dogs tail off of course.

Function – the dogs function much better without them or this is the argument of many. We haven’t had an Aussie with a tail, but I can’t imagine it slowing them down. I can imagine it getting in the way in a house or apartment though. We have a lab puppy at the time of this writing and his tail knocks over everything from glasses of milk to our vacuum (yes really). But would I cut his tail off just so that didn’t happen absolutely not.

I would definitely like to think that they aren’t just cut to look pretty. We do live on a farm and have lots of burrs, pricker bushes, and barbwire so I can see their tails getting stuck very easily compared to our lab with their course tail.

Also there supposedly isn’t much pain when they are docks as they are cut when they are just 3-5 days old and most are sleeping and never wake up. Their are new reports that suggest the puppy does feel the pain so there will be varied opinions out there.

Australian Shepherd Naturally Bobbed Tail

Yes there are Aussies out there with naturally bobbed tails. So your next question may be why don’t they just breed those Aussies together so the docking can stop? If only it was that easy and one of the main reasons they don’t do this is because of the small percentage of naturally bobbed tails of just 20%.

On top of this naturally bobbed tailed Aussies should not be bred together. This is because they are likely to have to be put down due to major health issues including spina bifida along with other spinal issues.

Should Australian Shepherds Have Tails?

Some 80% of Australian Shepherds Are born with tails, but are docked at 3-5 days after birth. There are breeders mostly smaller breeders that sell Aussies with their tails. They are just harder to come by. If you probably went to a bigger breeder and put the money down ahead of the offspring being born and said I would like the Aussie to keep its tail. I am sure most would be okay with that.

So yes 80% of Aussies would have full tails if left alone and not docked. As we stated we love our Aussies and would love them just as much with tails. Would they do a as good on our farm with their bushier and even curled tails? More then likely not and we wouldn’t probably look to purchase an Aussie with a tail since they would get caught on the fence and possible trampled by our horses or beef cows.

But we didn’t want you to take our word for it on this since we live on a farm. We have since gone our and gathered as many opinions from real Aussie owners on this matter to present it to you in a neutral light.

We curated this information from many different sources including sub reddits, forums and dog sites. Let us know your opinion as well by sending a message.

We only corrected grammar and spelling where needed everything else in the opinions has remained the same.

Australian Shepherds: Tail or No Tail?

Real Aussie Owner Opinions

1. OwnedbyACDs “Annoyed with docked tails” -Yes I have, I don’t find it annoying enough to merit cutting off a part of a dogs anatomy. There are plenty of other coated arming breeds (bearded collies, BCs, collies, etc) that I am sure it’s equally hard to brush stuff out of their fur and their tails remain.

Forgive me for being cynical, but if it was so hard then evey coated working and herding dog’s tail would be docked.

2. Tetrisash “Hard to answer” – It’s hard finding an answer from a more legitimate source, but from what I’m reading from various people, Aussies were primarily cattle workers while Collies worked with sheep a lot. It was more dangerous for an Aussie to herd cattle into a barn, as well as a difference in where they were from. The Aussie came from the Western United States that had really tough vegetation, like burrs and foxtails which did cause tail damage that was hard to treat. It likely started as legitimate reasons and just carried on to modern day as people just got used to Aussies not having tails, along with them being born with a bob tail naturally anyway, and saw it as a standard. The easier hygiene thing is really the only thing going for it, depending on where you live I suppose.

3. Taquitos “More and more breeders not cropping tails” – More and more breeders are no longer cropping tails.

The breeder I will be getting my dog from does not crop her dogs. They are bred for sport/agility not working dogs (who I guess have more reason to have cropped tails).

4. Keechak “Europe doesn’t dock” – Pretty much all the breeders in Europe don’t dock, so you could import. But you will be hard pressed to find any breeders who do health testing in the US who don’t dock. You can also take a shot at looking thru Aussie rescue or local shelters.

5. SophieOwner “I would always dock” – Jack Russel terrier, parson terrier and fox terriers often get docked. Given the choice I’d dock….I’ve known multiple “pet” jack/fox/parson terriers that broke their tails. They were all tenacious dogs and had tried to “go to ground” and had found themselves injured. One was the owner’s fault because he tried to grab the dog’s tail as he flailed. Another had something to do with a bicycle

6. ForTheLoveOfDogs “Aussie Owner” – Docking is removing some or most of the tail and is generally done before 3 days of age. Cropping is removal of part of the ear and done at 8+ weeks old. Anti docking/cropping propoganda has been shoved down people’s throats in recent years. I am not a fan of cropping ears because of the age it needs to be done, the slower healing process + posting process. I can kind of compare docking to a circumcision.. painful for a minute.. but does not make any kind of lasting impact.. so it does not bother me as much. In my opinion.. it is far more cruel to let your dog become obese.. which I see a heck of a lot among rescue people and average pet owners.. and yet it is far more acceptable. :p

Some dogs are born with natural bob tails. Australian Shepherds and Corgis can have natural bob tails (there are more.. just don’t know them all). Bulldogs and Boston terriers have short kinky weird bob-like tails that I believe are also natural. The rescue I used to work for had a pregnant mom birth a couple bobbed tail pups in her litter (the dad had a natural bob) and they were very much mixes of mixes. I can’t even tell you the number of people that asked if we cut them off or asked WHY we cut them off.

Lack of education.. and honestly I’m not afraid to educate people if they come up to me about it. Sometimes it might sink in and sometimes it might not.. but if there’s a chance of less incorrect information being spread I don’t mind wasting a few minutes of my time.

7. Oregon Woodsmok “On how to get a long tail Aussie” – You don’t justify it. You simply state that you would prefer a long tail. If you want a long tail, you make arrangements and pay 100% of the price of the puppy before the age of docking, which is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 days of age. Forget about any sort of refund if you change your mind and don’t take the puppy.

If you want to get all self-righteous about it, you aren’t going to find any breeder who will do business with you.

8. Cynecagsd “Tail Docking is cosmetic” – I believe, and this is my opinion only, that tail docking is purely cosmetic. The only other reason I can see for docking a tail is traumatic injury to the tail in which amputation is the only means of treatment. Same goes for ear cropping IMO, but thats me and I dont have a breed that has either the tails cropped or the ears done.

If you want a breedin which tail docking is done, then I agree with Oregon. Contact the breder before the pups are born and purchase a puppy, telling the breeder that you do not want to have the tail docked. Just say personal preference. They may look at you funny but if you already have purchased the puppy most will probably comply. Same goes for ears, some breeders do ear crops very young, or before they place the puppies, again pay early and request that he ears not be done.

You dont have to justify your preference just that it is your preference. Some breeders might think you are some fruit cake, but honestly if they wont conform to your personal request on a puppy that you have already purchased and paid in full for, Im not sure Id want to get a pup from them anyway.

9. Harmony_Meadows “Don’t see why they do it” – I don’t, personally, understand the desire to dock tails in breeds like Aussies. That said I can understand it in some. Some of the bigger breeds with little hair to pad those heavy whips can do serious damage banging it into doors and the like. I knew a family that had Irish Wolfhounds. Two of their dogs had to have tail amputations because of sores that wouldn’t heal. I have seen a couple of Dobies with the same issues. I was looking at an Aussie once, and brought my Aussie/Border mix with me. The woman was astounded at my dog’s tail. She kept saying over and over again “I have never seen one with a tail before”. I saw one of her adds a year or so later…..for undocked Aussies!

Related Questions

Do All Australian Shepherds Have Bobbed Tails?

No not all Australian Shepherds have bobbed tails surprisingly up 80% are born with full length tails, but are mostly all docked at 3-5 days after birth.

There are many reasons this happens and some are viable while some are no longer viable. This is up to you to make this decision on buying a bobbed tail or full length tailed Aussie.

Final Thoughts

So we doe see both sides which is why we did this article this way. A lot of people have sent in responses saying why this and that dog aren’t docked like a Border Collie but Australian Shepherds are. What you need to first understand is that despite the Australian Shepherds name they aren’t from Australia they were first bred into existence in the United States where Border Collies are from Scotland.

Scotland is completely different terrain and animals that collies are used for then that of Australian Shepherds. So you can look at it like that not as many burrs and such in beautiful Scotland. I would definitely love to visit their one day.

Take it from either perspective and I don’t really think either is wrong for what is being done to the Aussies. There are much worse procedures out there that are done even to humans when they are born if you think about it.


Tab Winner

Hello my name is Tab Winner. My wife and I have been around Australian shepherds for 20+ years and we definitely love them. We currently have a pair of Toy Aussies one is a Tri-color and the other is a blue merle that are both 10 and 11 years old.

Recent Posts