A reader wonders if cutting a Boerboel’s tail is wise idea and asks Dr Platzhund for advice.
Q: I adopted a Boerboel puppy a few weeks ago, and on the instructions from my veterinarian, we are attending weekly puppy socialisation classes due to the breed’s infamous reputation. A few other Boerboel pups attend the same class. Two of them have had their tails docked and I’ve had conflicting opinions about this operation. Some people recommend it, while others believe it’s a cruel mutilation. What are your views and should I have my pup done?
A: The veterinary and veterinary nursing professions, globally, have moved towards the cessation of docking puppy tails of certain breeds, as only a minority of breeders requested the procedure in comparison to the number of breeds available. The South African Veterinary Association has banned the operation on the grounds of it being unnecessary, is of no functional value to the dog and doesn’t contribute to the quality of the dog’s life. Although the operation used to be carried out at 3-5 days of age, it was painful, albeit only for a few minutes. It’s therefore unethical for veterinarians to dock tails. It’s also illegal for breeders to do it and perpetrators can be reported to the South African Veterinary Council for carrying out a surgical procedure on an animal, which is already illegal, and such people will be subject to arrest and litigation. A dog needs a tail for many reasons. The tail helps the dog to balance by also acting as a rudder in braking and turning as is clearly observed in racing greyhounds or retrievers running across unpredictable ground surfaces in fields, at great speeds. In the social structure of all dogs the tail is an indicator of intentions and attitude. The position of the tail not only is a beacon of communication and emotions in behaviour for other dogs, but also a flag for people to recognise the character of the particular dog – a means of reading canine behaviour. For example, is the dog friendly or about to attack?