Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dachshund Nola Debates: Docking, Cropping and Dew Claw Removal

Hey, guys! Last week's debate post went over well, and I loved reading what y'all had to say on the subject. I should mention that most of these debate posts will be from whatever side of it I'm on, and why I feel that way. I'm interested to see where everyone stands as I do these!

If you hadn't guessed from the title of this post, this debate will not be light hearted like the last was. This is a topic I feel very, very strongly about, and I know people on the "other side" feel just as passionate about it as I do. I will be respectful in this, and I ask that you do the same if you comment. If you cannot act like a civil adult, please close this window and go elsewhere. Refer to the below photo, and let's begin!

Both Dachshund girls are entirely natural, including their dew claws left. Pike is docked, and had his dews removed (twice, in the case of his front leg). I'll break it down into the three categories.

Dew Claw Removal

I am so against this. When I say dew removal, I'm talking about front dew claws that are attached by bone. I am okay with dew claw removal if it is to remove rear dews on a breed where that is not standard, although I would prefer to see it done in conjunction with a spay/neuter or other procedure, rather than as a newborn.

Nola and Olivia are constantly using their dew claws. They use them to grip chews and toys, to turn when they run, to dig, and when they need to jump or climb. I've seen both girls use one leg to brace against the dirt (with the dew sunk in) while they use the other to dig. I've seen them make break neck turns with the use of their dews, where if Pike were to take that turn he'd be unable to do so. Dew claws, everything else a normal dog is born with, are their for a reason!
Here is just one use for them:

Additionally, removing dew claws greatly increases your dog's risk of developing carpal arthritis, especially in an active dog. Check out this for more on that. 

Or, god forbid, you have a dog like Pike. Pike's dew claws were removed shortly after birth by a veterinarian. When he was 4-5 months old, I was horrified to find that his left dew was growing back. In addition to that, it was growing flat to the leg and curving back towards his skin. It was twisted and mangled looking, and our vet removed it when he was neutered. The initial removal hadn't been clean, and the bone had grown back incorrectly. It was a nasty surgery, and he had to have an antibiotic shot to prevent a bone infection. The recovery was longer than that of his neuter, and it caused him significantly more pain than his neuter. 
The issue worsened his (then minor) toe out, and if you touch both his legs the one with the second removal feels like it belongs to another dog. He also has scars on both legs from it, and a scar from his dock.

People claim that dew claws often rip off. I've had dogs for quite a while, and have been around even more, and I've yet to see ripped dews. These are/were active dogs, too! Not a single issue with natural dogs, but many issues with my removed dew boy. I don't believe that's a coincidence, and if I have any say at all in the matter I won't have another dog with removed dews.
People also say that dew claws are difficult to trim, so they should be removed. I'll just let that sink in for a minute: remove a body part because you are too lazy to care for it. I really don't like trimming my nails, so would you suggest I hack off my fingers? The dew claw is fairly easy to trim if you use a Dremel.

And finally, another issue I have with both dew removal and docking: it is almost always done when the puppy is 0-5 days old, without any pain medication, and often not done by a veterinarian. Newborn puppies do feel pain (source and chapter 2, part 2.2 and 2.3), and I find it cruel to do it. 


Again, I'm completely against this. The girls use their tails for balance and communication all the time, and their tail is usually the first subtle or not so subtle indicator of how they feel. With Pike, I have to rely on different methods to know what he's feeling, and it's often when he's deeper into whatever it is (for example, fear). One example is when I'm walking the dogs and we're approached by another person or animal. The dogs walk ahead of me on loose lead most of the time, so I can't see their facial expression. Nola has a dozen different things she'll do with her tail that clue me in as to how she'll take whatever is ahead, where Pike has nothing. The communication a dog does with their tail is amazing.

A frequent argument for docking is that the tail will become injured if left natural while the dog is working. Okay, I could maybe see this (ignoring the glaring issue of removing a body part so a hypothetical problem doesn't arise), until you look around at similar breeds. The breeds primarily docked a herders and sporting dogs. Aussies are a docked herder, yet so many others who do similar tasks are not! Border Collies, English Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dogs, Australian Kelpies, Koolies, Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Collies, Shelties, and Bearded Collies are all left natural without serious problem.
The same could be said for pointers and spaniels. Do you know one breed that has horrible, common issues with split tails and similar issues? Is it a docked breed? Nope! It's the Labrador Retriever, a breed that is left natural.
An argument that's very common in the Aussie community is that a natural Aussie looks similar to a Border Collie. That really only holds true in working line dogs, and so what if they look similar? Do you really need to remove your dog's tail just so Joe Blow will recognize the breed?
Another argument that I saw on a Facebook group the other day in favor of pro-docking was someone liked the "wiggle butt" look. My dachshunds' butts wiggle. Removing a tall because you like the way a dog's body shakes in lieu of how a tailed dog wags is sad to me. 
And let's be honest: so few dogs dogs do what they were originally bred today that it's pretty asinine to cling to that as your reasoning. I wish people would just come out and say they prefer the look of a docked dog, rather than using a flimsy justification. I can say that I like the look of a docked Doberman, although not enough to want to pursue one.

The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes cosmetic docking (and cropping), and rightly so IMO. While searching for links for this post, I came across this article on how dogs use their tails in agility. I found it quite interesting! This publication also has some good information on docking,  and though they are a little extreme with some of their wording, they do make good points on the injuries that can result from a dock.

Pike is docked, my parents' Aussie and Poodles are docked. Together, that's 5 docked dogs I know well. Every last one of them will randomly bite just beyond their tails (poodles) or where the tail would be. Again, I don't think that's a coincidence and it's horribly sad to see.


I am not for cropping, but feel less strongly about it that the other two. I am against all forms of cosmetic surgery in dogs, but cropping is done under anesthesia by a vet (except for in the cases of home hack jobs), with proper after care and pain medication. Ears do need to be posted, from anywhere from 6 to 12 months after the crop is done. Again, I am not for this, but don't feel especially strong about it.

Cosmetic Surgeries and Altering

Oddly enough, spaying and neutering is almost always brought up as a counter argument whenever you oppose cosmetic surgery. I'm sorry, but that's laughable to me. Cosmetic surgeries are just that - purely cosmetic with absolutely no purpose besides looks and 0 health benefits. 
Spaying and neutering, while it does have some risks and there's significant findings saying delayed altering is beneficial in large breeds (nothing much seems said on smaller dogs. If you find otherwise, I'd be interested in reading it.), does have a purpose and offers some health benefits. Population control being the number one benefit, and that is why I am pro-altering for the general population. Realistically, most people can't or won't properly handle an intact dog, and the risk of breeding is too great. 

So there we have it! Comment below and tell me where you stand, and why!

Dachshund Mommy


  1. First off, thank you for writing this post. I learned a lot.

    My general instinct is opposed to removing anything nature has given dogs (or people) unless it's for health reasons. However, my dog's breeder removed her dew claws before we brought Honey home.

    Although this breeder is usually very conscientious and careful about the health of her dogs (she's a nurse), I suspect she mostly did this to keep the smooth, cat's paw appearance preferred for show golden retrievers.

    After watching that dew claw video, I'm starting to wonder if the reason Honey sometimes struggles on stairs has to do with not having dew claws. Goldens grow long hair between their toes that protect them in the cold but can make climbing smooth wooden stairs more difficult. Dew claws might be a grip of last resort if she slips.

    I'll definitely show the the dew claw video to my husband. We're preparing to move aboard a sailboat with Honey. And finding safe ways for her to get onto deck is important to us. Her lack of dew claws may be one thing making that harder.

  2. I take the same stance you do on these - with the exception of docking a tail if it really is causing more harm to the dog than if the tail were left intact - most of those cases seem like they'd be few and far between though.

    Even though in my last two dogssome dew claws were torn once or twice - I never once thought that removing them was a good idea. Those are often the easiest to trim! I've never realized how important they were though.

    I think it's cruel to cut off a part that the good Lord gave dogs if it isn't causing any problems. If you want a dog to look a certain way - get a sculpture. I had a co-worker who had her Doberman's ears and tail cropped. I was tactful - but I did let her know that I thought it was cruel and unnecessary and actually had another co-worker back me up! She still was of the mind that he looked better cropped - more Doberman-like. Whatever that means. Some people just like that look I guess - and as long as vets are willing to perform those types of surgeries, the best we can do is try to educate people about the cruelty of it.

    And this is going to sound mean - but I would not want to adopt a dog without a tail. For the very reason you stated - that it is so hard to tell what Pike is thinking about a situation. It has taken me nearly 3 years just to read Blueberry and she has a tail! I can't imagine the disaster it would be if I adopted a tailless dog. And I seldom will allow Blueberry to be approached by a tailless dog, at least until I take a few more minutes to gauge the dog's expression and ask the humans if the dog is friendly or not. I remember being reluctant to allow a German Shorthair Pointer approach Blueberry - but both dogs made the decision for me - he was male and VERY interested in giving Blueberry a once over and she, being the flirt she was, loved the attention. :)

    Great post - I'm glad someone else besides me (and more dog savvy) has a little difficulty with knowing what a tailless dog is thinking. Although I'm sure you'll have him pretty well figured out based on other indicators after a while.

  3. Must say, Bella doesn't have dew claws and it's very handy. It's illegal in Australia to dock tails or crop ears. Took a while to get used to dogs like Rottweilers with tails...but they look complete now.

  4. Oh crud, we just typed a long message and now it's all gone! Hate that!!

    So to now keep it short, we totally agree with you. Would never want to see a dog (or cat) lose any parts because of how the owner thinks they should look.

    Lily Belle & Muffin

    p.s. Did Santa stop by your house the other day?

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  6. Thank you for these posts! I've learned so much! My dachshund boy tells me everything with his tail. I can't imagine how I'd read him without it when I can't see his face.

    I never really gave much thought to dew claw removal before my current lil' guy. My long haired dachshund boy had his dew claws removed at 2 days old. I wasn't aware of it until the day we brought him home - something the breeder failed to tell us about. Our first guy had his dew claws and I didn't know it was a common practice to remove them without permission. I was a little agitated especially because I know that's too young for pain meds strong enough. His front legs have a slight calcification around the spot where his dew claw was. After going to several vets, we found out it was from the dew claws being removed. Thankfully he is in no pain now, and his claws have not regrown. He's going on 2 this year and so far he's okay! I hope it doesn't cause any issues later. :/

    My parents have two labs, a toy poodle and a chihuahua mix (adopted from the dog warden). All except the chi mix have their dew claws and have full tails. They are all working dogs in some way - hunters, agility trials, etc. They haven't had a single problem with their long tails or dew claws. The only issue we face with their tails is table sweeping. lol!! The dogs walk past a table and can knock everything off without trying.

    Please keep up these posts for sure! I love your blog and want to be a more informed dachshund owner.

  7. Agree with everything you said, completely. Skipper had his dew claws removed and tail docked by his breeder (it's the standard, gag), and I already have him on joint supplements. He doesn't bite at his tail, but I definitely struggle to read him a little more than I do my tailed dogs.

  8. Total agree with everything you said :) Dogs should be left total natural :) All our dogs have there dew claws and it's very clear that they use them often when running and eating there bones. Plus being labradors there tails are essential to there swimming. Hopefully one day people will leave dogs as they are born.

  9. I too agree with everything you said. I personally can't understand why a tail would be docked, or dew claws removed, or other such things. Sheesh. And I really can't stand it when people do bring up spaying/neutering as a debate point with these. I don't think it's the same thing...not even in the same category of discussion. Just my opinions. :-). Your blog, by the way, is my all time favorite dog blog. It also keeps me at bay while patiently (fine, not so patiently) waiting for next year when I will have my own furry buddy. Your posts make me smile everyday, so thank you. :-)

    (DoggyPetParentToBe on Dog Forum)

  10. This is such an awesome post!!! I am really against removing attached dews! All of my dogs have always had them and they are always using them! I did have Zoe's back dews removed but they were not attached and she injured one of them a week prior to the surgery so I felt a lot better about the decision.

    I am also against docking the tails but I'm okay with ear cropping if it's done by a vet and all the pain management, etc is taken care of. I would not ever get my own dog's ears cropped but I won't flip out on someone who's had or having it done.

  11. I'll admit that I like the look of cropped ears on some breeds. That said, I would never crop the ears of a dog I own for non-medical reasons (one of my dogs had a bad allergy that caused the ends of her ears to basically rot and fall off in chunks, and I was close to getting her ears cropped in order to prevent that, since it was unpleasant for everyone and nothing seemed to stop it from happening- though we luckily finally did figure out what her allergy was and the ear thing cleared up, it took almost two years). I would happily adopt a dog with cropped ears, though.

    Tail docking I think is totally pointless. The only reason for removing the tail should be medical necessity, in which case it would be a tail amputation rather than docking. I know a few dogs here in blogland who had their tails amputated as adults, including Beryl the greyhound from Greyhounds Can Sit and Melvin from Oh Melvin. But tails not only are used to communicate, but to help the dog with turning and balance while running, climbing, playing sports, etc. And just because most dogs do learn to adapt to not having a tail isn't a good reason to dock the tails of every dog in a given breed just for looks. I know a few Aussies with tails, and they are adorable, and still a distinct breed that looks different from border collies.

    As for dew claws, I have no doubt at all that dogs use them, and use them often. My main reluctance to get my next dog from a breeder (I want a specific breed, and it isn't one seen much in the US and is very rarely available through rescue) is that the breeder I like removes dew claws. Since there is no way to know which puppy I would be getting when they are only a few days old, there is no way for my pup to not get them removed. Which makes me debate not getting one of this breed at all, since it does appear that every breeder I've looked into that I like removes dews.


Thank you for commenting!