Poodles are one of the most distinct dog breeds out there, and that erect pompom tail is one of the first things you probably picture. But how do they achieve this look? Is tail docking required?

Poodles intended for competition have their tails docked because the AKC standards require it. Breeders typically follow these standards and have their puppies tails docked when the puppies are less than five days old. Beyond cosmetic reasons, there are few compelling reasons to dock a poodle’s tail.

However, there is much debate around whether this is a humane practice, and depending on the country you live in, tail docking may be illegal. Finding poodles with natural undocked tails is possible if that is your preference.

Do Poodles Have Docked Tails?

Some poodles have docked tails, and some do not. Tail docking is typically done while the puppy is still very young (usually only about five days old). In North America, it is usually a decision made by a breeder unless you’re on a waitlist for puppies and make a special request.

Most European poodles do not have docked tails (unless someone is breaking the law) because many of these countries have outlawed it as an inhumane and unnecessary practice.

However, if you intend to have your poodle compete in dogs shows in the United States, the tail must be docked. According to the American Kennel Club standards for poodles, the tail of a poodle should be “straight, set on high and carried up, docked of sufficient length to insure a balanced outline. Major fault: set low, curled, or carried over the back.”

Because of this standard, many breeders dock the tail of poodles.

Can You Adopt a Poodle with a Natural Tail?

If you’re just looking for a pet and don’t care about the length of your poodle’s tail, then you can definitely find a breeder that doesn’t dock tails. Because these poodles aren’t intended to be show dogs, they may not be as exactingly bred, but it will hardly matter for a family pet.

There are many breeders out there that believe docking tails is inhumane. With a little searching, you should be able to find a breeder that does not dock tails. If this issue is important to you, you should only support breeders that don’t dock tails.

Who Docks a Poodle’s Tail?

Some veterinarians will dock a puppy’s tail, and some won’t. It is best to have the procedure done by a veterinarian to ensure that it is properly handled and in such a way that it does not increase the puppy’s pain needlessly.

Puppies are not put under anesthesia or given any numbing agent before the tail is docked. Some believe it does not cause immense pain, but others disagree. There is no consensus or research on the topic, as measuring the pain of an animal is challenging.

Some breeders will dock their puppies tails themselves. When expertly done in a sanitary environment, there isn’t a huge difference between a breeder doing it and a vet doing it. If you’re a breeder and wondering whether you should do it yourself or not, we recommend going to the vet to avoid harming your puppies.

Why do Poodles Get Their Tails Docked?

With all the debate over the humaneness of tail docking, you’re probably wondering what compelling reason the AKC can have for requiring poodles to get their tails docked. So, why do poodles get their tails cut?

It turns out that, like many dog breeds, poodles were first intended to be used as hunting dogs. They were used to fetch fowl from water. It was believed that a docked tail increased the dog’s ability to swim and prevented it from getting injured on the hunt. However, there is no evidence that there was actually any advantage to doing this.

The AKC is an organization steeped in tradition. Because traditionally poodles have had docked tails, they continue to require it as the breed standard.

It is important to note that the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes tail docking for cosmetic reasons.

What are the Advantages of a Docked Tail?

Besides docked tails being the breed standard, there are a couple of advantages to having a poodle with a docked tail. Whether these advantages warrant snipping off a quarter to a third of a puppy’s tail is a matter of much debate.

  • The tail remains cleaner. Because of the way docked tails are styled (picture the fuzzy pompom tip), the tail typically remains cleaner. Cleaning the tail is easier, and there is less of a chance of fecal matter creating a problem. A little extra grooming (as is required with other breeds) solves this issue.
  • The tail will grow straighter. A natural poodle’s tail often curves over the back. Docking the tail causes the tail to stand straight up as the standard requires. Many poodle owners prefer the looks of a straight tail.
  • The tail does not bump into things. The natural tail of a Standard Poodle is quite long, and a happy, excited poodle will easily knock over drinks on a coffee table. However, many poodle owners do not experience this problem with natural tails as their dogs appear to have a good sense of where their tail is.
  • A natural tail just doesn’t look right. This is obviously subjective, but many poodle lovers feel that a natural tail on the poodle just doesn’t look right. The poodle does not look like a poodle. Some feel the dog will be made fun of because of its long tail.

If you aren’t worried about cosmetics, the most compelling reason is clearly that it is a bit more hygienic for the dog. A little extra grooming is required. This extra grooming may be required whether the poodle has a docked tail or not as poodles will often get urine on their coat when peeing (especially leg lifters).

What are the Disadvantages of a Docked Tail?

There are, of course, some disadvantages to a docked tail. These are primarily disadvantages for the dog and not the owner, but many feel they are compelling enough to forgo tail docking.

  • Tail docking is painful. Some believe that tail docking causes only mild pain, but few would say that it is completely pain-free. Whether you think it causes substantial or minimal pain, you can’t deny that it causes some pain.
  • Tail docking limits a dog’s ability to communicate. Not enough of a poodle’s tail is cut off to prevent it from communicated completely. However, it is important to remember that dogs use their tails to communicate, and cutting it would certainly impact their ability to use it.
  • Some breeders report less tail chewing and fewer behavioral problems: Paris Poodles is one breeder who advocates for the natural tailed poodle. They believe natural tailed poodles get along better with other dogs, and they do not obsessively chew their tails.

Clearly, docking the tail can cause some problems for the poodle, but only you can know if this outweighs the benefits listed above.

Do Poodles Have Long or Short Tails?

Standard Poodles have long tails when they are left in their natural state (usually 10 inches or so). A docked tail has a quarter to a third of the tail removed. So even poodles with docked tails have an impressive tail that you wouldn’t describe as short.

If you put a poodle with a natural tail beside a poodle with a docked tail, there would be a noticeable difference, however. There would be a difference in length, but the more noticeable difference would be in the straightness and how high it is held.

Should You Dock a Poodles Tail?

To dock or not to dock, it’s a complicated question. If you want to have a competition-ready dog and live in the United States, then you’ll need to have a poodle with a docked tail. But if you’re just looking for a pet and a companion, then we say skip the docking.