The Pros and Cons of Tail Docking a Jack Russell Terrier


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Many dog owners feel strongly against tail docking. In contrast, others have reasons why they believe tail docking is relatively harmless and should be the dog owner’s choice.

As the owner of a Jack Russell Terrier, a typical dog breed to see tail docking with, I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic while explaining tail docking more in-depth.

The rest of this brief discussion will be geared toward providing you with the pros and cons of tail docking and informing you about the actual tail docking procedure.

Ultimately the goal is to have you more educated on the process of tail docking and more informed about the potential drawbacks or benefits.

Especially for those who currently own and raise a Jack Russell Terrier.

Let’s jump into the details now.

What Exactly Is Tail Docking?

Tail docking is commonly used on dogs to remove a large part of the tail or shorten the tail.

Most frequently, tail docking is going to occur when your dog is young and before you would have the ability to adopt a dog like a Jack Russell Terrier.

Tail docking Jack Russell Terrier

This is due to not being able to adopt a Jack Russell or any dog breed until roughly 8 weeks of age.

Typically, tail docking will occur between 3-7 days of age.

This is how it went for me as well. I never had the option and when I adopted my Jack Russell Terrier, and she was already tail docked.

This is how it will also be for you without doing prior homework about your breeder.

Ultimately, the dog breeder has likely already made that decision and follows the same procedure with all new puppies bred.

How Is Tail Docking Performed

Tail docking is going to be performed in 1 of 2 ways.

One method will require using a scalpel and scissors, and the tail is physically cut at the desired point. In method number 2, the tail will be marked at the desired dock point, and blood flow will be cut off to that area of the tail.

This will cause the till to fall off at that location after a few days.

A tight rubber band is used to aid with the reduced blood flow to the tail.

Neither of these methods, while a Jack Russell or any dog breed for that matter, are young, are known to cause extreme pain.

However, pain could be present during the procedure because the dog’s central nervous system is fully developed at birth.

Now keep in mind a few things regarding pain.

It’s been stated that most of the time, when a puppy is a tail docked at this young age, they rarely wake up when the tail docking is taking place.

Meaning, it’s likely the pain was not too extreme and did not cause great discomfort.

Sleeping Jack Russell Terrier puppy

When they wake up, they resume normal activities such as feeding without interruption.

However, if tail docking does need to be performed later in the dog’s life, pain can be present and more extreme, and the dog may be more aware.

Therefore, it’s typically not advised to tail dock a dog at an older age unless it’s required due to injury or another recommended reason from a professional veterinarian.

Primary Reason to Consider Tail Docking

Tail docking is usually performed or desired for a few reasons, but most commonly and most importantly, tail docking is performed to reduce injury or pain in the future for the dog breed.

Therefore, you commonly see tail docking occur with the Jack Russell Terrier.

Working dog breeds or active, high-energy dog breeds are known to have what’s described as a “happy tail.”

A happy tail is essentially when the dog consistently wags their tail almost non-stop.

High-energy dog breeds are known to have what’s described as a “happy tail"

This can be problematic and cause injuries due to hitting objects around the house. We will cover more on this when we dive into the pros and cons of tail docking your Jack Russell Terrier.

However, before doing so, it’s important to note the most popular dog breeds that you will see tail docking occur with.

Tail docking is more common with some dog breeds, such as the following:

  • Jack Russel Terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Weimaraners
  • Australian Sheppards
  • Boxers
  • Cane Corsos

All the dogs above are known to either be high-energy or a working dog breed, such as the Australian Shepard and Jack Russell Terrier, which is a common reason, like mentioned before for seeing the tail-docking procedure performed right after birth.

The Pros of Tail Docking a Jack Russell Terrier

One of the biggest reasons individuals perform tail docking that’s not related to reducing injury or harm in the future is the physical appearance of a docked tail is more desired.

This is one of the reasons the question of whether tail docking is cruel is often presented (more on this shortly).

Outside of the more desired physical appearance of a dog that has been tail docked, removing happy tail injuries is the most beneficial reason to perform tail docking.

As we discussed previously, working dog breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier are quickly excited, and most of the day would result in aggressive tail wagging.

When you are crate training a Jack Russell Terrier, or even when your Jack Russell is out and free roaming, aggressively wagging their tail that is not docked could result in injury to the tail.

Injuries to the tail later in a dog’s life can be painful, slow to heal, and cause further complications.

In short, the 2 biggest pros of tail docking are the improved physical appearance and the risk reduction for injuries that result from aggressive and frequent tail wagging.

The Cons of Tail Docking a Jack Russell Terrier

The cons of tail docking can be subjective depending on who you ask.

One of the cons is simply that it may cause pain for the dog. Most believe that discomfort does not occur when a dog is this young.

However, some experienced vets believe that pain is still possible because the central nervous system is fully developed as we mentioned previously.

The potential for inflammation or infection is also possible when tail docking occurs. Especially if you decide to tail dock later in a dog’s life.

Is Tail Docking Considered Cruel?

When an elective procedure is being performed for reasons mostly related to physical appearance, many advocates believe that tail docking should not be performed.

However, this doesn’t necessarily make the procedure cruel to the dog.

Especially if you have a dog breed that has the potential for injury occurring to the tail due to being quickly excited and hyper in general.

This question likely will be answered differently depending on who you ask.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you and should be considered based on the dog’s safety and prevention of future issues.

Jack Russell Terrier tail docking

The Takeaway

In most adoptions for a Jack Russell Terrier, the tail docking procedure likely has already taken place.

That’s okay, and there is nothing to worry about after a tail docking.

However, without the recommendation from a vet, it’s advised against getting an older Jack Russell Terrier tail docked for no valid reason.

Ultimately, tail docking won’t impact the great personality and demeanor you experience with a Jack Russell Terrier.

At the end of the day, it’s just a shorter tail.

We wish you the best of luck with your Jack Russell Terrier if you intend to adopt soon.

Josh Martin- Founder and Creator of Terrier Owner

Josh Martin is the proud owner of a female Jack Russell Terrier Named Luna. Josh founded TerrierOwner.com to share the stories of owning a Terrier and to help all terrier owners with the struggles, excitement and common questions that come with being a new terrier parent.

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