Rottweilers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the modern age. Strong, fierce, and loyal, it’s no wonder Rottweilers are so popular. But why do so many Rottweilers not have tails? I decided to find out.
Do Rottweilers have tails? Yes. With so many Rottweilers possessing a tail nub, it’s easy to assume that they are born with little to no tail. However, the vast majority of Rottweilers are born with a full tail. Rottweilers may go through a surgical procedure to remove part or all of their tail. While tailless Rottweilers can be naturally occurring, it’s not common.
So why is it that so many Rottweilers walk around without one?
Let’s get into the details.
History of Rottweilers
In order to understand why so many Rottweilers are missing their tail, we first have to look in to their history.
The earliest form of Rottweiler recorded was from none other than…the ancient Roman Empire.
They are a direct descendant of Roman Drover dogs—ancient mastiff-type working dogs. These dogs would travel with Roman legions herding livestock, guarding troops, and going to battle.
What does the history of Rottweilers have to do with why many Rottweilers appear without a tail?
This is due to a process called docking.
What is Tail Docking?
Tail docking is described as:
“A medical procedure done to remove part of a (dog’s) tail.”
The first recorded instance of docking comes from ancient Rome.
Ancient Romans believed docking a dog’s tail would prevent rabies. Later, docking was believed to increase a dog’s speed, improve their posture, and prevent working and hunting dogs from injury.
Some issues that made docking a viable option were:
- Antibiotics weren’t invented yet; any injury to a dog’s tail would result in amputation
- Amputation was risky due to infection and had a high chance of death
- Hunting/herding dogs’ tails would get caught in undergrowth, causing pain and infection
- Herding dogs’ tails would drag through feces of livestock and create hygienic issues
- Herding dogs’ tails could get caught in gates behind livestock
- Hunting/herding dogs’ tails could get stepped on by prey or livestock
- Hunting dogs’ tails could be bitten off or attacked by prey
- Working dogs could get their tails caught in the wheels of carts they pulled
Docking persisted as a common practice up until very recently.
Only the wealthy could afford to keep undocked dogs.
Even when the dog tax was repealed in 1796, the practice persisted.
Docking had, by that point, been in practice for hundreds of years. The image of a docked dog was so normal that it took another hundred plus years for undocked dogs to become common.
Why are Rottweilers Docked?
Rottweilers, from the very beginning of the breed, are working dogs. From their ancestors to today, Rottweilers have been used from herding livestock to pulling carts to protection dogs.
As such, Rottweilers had docked tails since the very beginning of their breed.
Undocked Rottweilers, or Rottweilers with natural tails, are a fairly recent phenomenon.
So, why are Rottweilers still docked today?
- Appearance – Some owners like the look of a docked Rottweiler. Others believe it makes them appear more intimidating.
- Work – Rottweilers are still working dogs in the modern age! They’re a popular breed for police officers, military, cattle herding, and general protection.
- Kennel Club/ Show Guidelines – Some Kennel Clubs require or prefer docked tails as part of a “breed standard”. If breeders or owners wish to show their dogs in competition, having a docked tail may be necessary. The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the Rottweiler tail standard as such:
“Tail docked short, close to body, leaving one or two tail vertebrae. The set of the tail is more important than length. Properly set, it gives an impression of elongation of top line; carried slightly above horizontal when the dog is excited or moving.”
Should You Dock Your Rottweiler?
Docking is a controversial topic among dog owners and breeders.
Docking is now illegal or restricted in many parts of the world, but still remains popular in the United States and Canada.
If you go to Germany, for example, you’ll find the Rottweilers there all have their full tails! However, in the United States, docking is not only legal but also considered a competition advantage.
So, should you dock your Rottweiler?
There are a few things to consider before committing to docking your Rottweiler.
- The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standards favor docked Rottweilers for the conformation show ring
- Rottweilers in guard/protection work have a high chance of their tail being grabbed; docking will prevent this
- If your Rottweiler is used for hunting, its tail could get caught in undergrowth, or bit/stepped on by prey.
- If your Rottweiler is herding livestock, its tail could get stepped on/caught in gates
- Some people prefer the look of a docked dog over an undocked dog
- Due to the invention of antibiotics, docking is considered unnecessary
- Docking is performed on puppies younger than 14 days (2 weeks)
- Docking is usually done without anesthesia, and is possibly causing puppies pain
- Docking comes with potential for infection/other medical complications
- Dogs with docked tails may have trouble communicating effectively to other dogs
- Docking is considered mutilation in many countries
Ultimately, whether you dock your Rottweiler or not is up to you.
Other Things To Consider Regarding Docking
If you are in the United States/Canada:
If you plan on showing your Rottweiler in the future, a docked Rottweiler may be necessary.
If you are in the United Kingdom/other parts of Europe:
A docked dog will automatically disqualify your dog from shows.
Make sure to look into the laws of your country to find out what the breed standard is there.
If you plan on using your Rottweiler as a working dog, it may be beneficial to dock its tail for safety/to prevent injury.
If you are thinking of getting a Rottweiler in the near future and have a preference about whether it has a tail or not:
If you are purchasing a Rottweiler from a breeder in the United States/Canada, breeders will usually dock their puppies.
If having an undocked dog is important to you, make sure you communicate with the breeder.
If you wish to have buy an undocked Rottweiler, look for breeders in countries where docking is illegal.
If you are adopting or rescuing a Rottweiler, your Rottweiler’s tail fate has already been decided.
With or without a tail, a Rottweiler is sure to make a great companion and/or working partner!
Most breeders dock their Rottweiler’s tail within the first 2-4 days after their birth. Veterinarians recommend it be performed before your Rottweiler is 14 days old.
Docking is a lot more painful for adult dogs than it is for puppies due to a fully developed nervous system. Veterinarians do not recommend docking an adult dog unless it’s a medical necessity.
Yes there are! Rottweilers born with a short or no tail have “natural bobtails“. A natural bobtail is a tail that grows in unusually short or completely missing due to a mutated gene. While natural bobtails do occur in Rottweilers, most of them are born with a full tail.