The Tale of Two Tails
& What do Dews Do?
|There are a lot of misconceptions about dew claws and tails.
|The majority of Standard Poodles in North American have their tails docked
(Usually 1/4 to 1/2 of the tail is cut off). This procedure is usually preformed at 3 days
The reason for Docking Tails?
A Breed Standard is the description a Breed Club -Such as the Poodle Club of Canada-
- The best reason we hear is to adhere to the breed standard.
creates to describe what they believe to be the 'perfect' looking example of the breed.
- Poodles in the USA cannot be shown in conformation shows with a full tail-This is,
in our opinion, the only reason to dock a tail. Purely cosmetic- agree or not with
removing part of the tail for cosmetic reasons- at least it is the honest reason!
- The Canadian Breed Standard does no say a poodle must have a docked tail.
However, in the current showing climate a poodle with a long tail would not win in
the show ring. If a Standard Poodle is to be shown in the Show ring with the
expectation of winning the tail must be docked to the appropriate length.
Traditionally Standard Poodles have had their dew claws (thumbs) completely removed.
The reason we have heard for dew claws being removed:
- If they are not removed they may get 'caught' on things and torn off.
Some breeds of dogs have 'useless' front dew claws. They can not be controlled by the dog and
they simply dangle. Those 'thumbs' are certainly at risk of being torn off. We suggest having
those dew claws removed! Mastiffs and other giant often have double front dew claws!
Standard Poodles have functional thumbs. They use them in steep terrain, and to grasp things.
Our dogs are exceptionally active in temperate rain-forest conditions. None of our dog have had
any issues with having their dew claws.
However, we have heard of dew claws that were amputated only to grow back.... This does create
a problem. When dew claws grow back they don't come back normal. They are then deformed, non-
functional and the nail usually curls into the skin. Those deformed dew claws should be removed
or they will cause issues for the dog.
The dew claw is held close into the leg and therefore is not as obvious as a 'dangling' dew claw.
- They don't look as good in a traditional show coat.
Dogs in Europe are shown with dewclaws.
- Required by the breed standard. Cannot be shown in Conformation shows with dew claws.
The breed standard does not say they cannot be shown with dewclaws but most breeders and
judges will tell you it works against the dog. If you want to show your dog in Conformation shows
in North America you will need to have the dew claws removed.
|Double front dew claws on a Mastiff cross
puppy -These double dew claws are not
functional- they 'dangle' and we would suggest
they be removed!
|Double Rear Dew Claws-
These dew claws are not functional (dog has no
control over them- they 'dangle') They could
cause a problem for this puppy in the future.
If this was our dog we would have them
This is actually true. Docking a tail will make the tail straighter. Since
the breed standard says the tail should 'Never curled nor carried
over the back.' The vast majority of Standard Poodles, if the tail
was left long, would curl and be carried over the back.
Tail docking is banned in most areas in Europe because their citizens
and therefore their governments, view this as cruelty to animals and
those performing such things can be charged as such.
So to get around the curl in the tail breeders are 'tipping' the tail.
What happens is the breeder or vet simply crops the tail very
long-often only removing the last two vertebrae. This severs the
tendon near the top of the tail which helps the tail to grow straighter
without the usual curve. This practice of tipping is still illegal but
most often goes unnoticed because the difference between a full tail
and a tipped tail is not as noticeable.
A Standard Poodle would have to be HUGE to be able to do that!
Look at the height of your kitchen table and stove.
The average standard poodle is about 22-24 inches tall at the
shoulders (also the height that the tail comes out of the body)
Is your table or stove higher than 24 inches? :-)
The bottom line is dogs communicate with their tails and
they have a lot to say if we let them 'talk'!
Think about the Standard Poodle: The curly coat makes it
so the hackling (hair lifting up when the dog is upset) is
not obvious. Their ears are floppy AND their tails are
We have noticed a huge difference between our dogs
with docked tails and those will full tails. The full tailed
dogs are more confident and get along better with other
breeds of dogs- in a large part due to the other dogs
being able to understand what my dogs are saying!
|The tail can get 'caught and torn off or injured'
while hunting or doing other physical activities.
There ARE some breeds that often injure their tails. Breeds that often have tail issues are thin skinned
very short haired breeds. Those breeds often get 'happy tail' or 'kennel tail'. This is where the dog
wags his tail hard against a hard surface causing the tip of the tail to bleed. (Typically the injury occurs
when the dog is standing) Greyhounds, Pit Bulls, Great Danes are breeds who often get 'happy tail'.
We have never had one of our Standard Poodles get 'happy tail'! We have heard of Labradors
frequently getting 'happy tail' but I have never heard of a campaign to dock Labrador tails for the
'betterment' of the breed or to protect them from injury!
|Other excuses why tails are docked that simply don't hold any truth:
Thankfully this is just not true. Standard Poodles are very
aware where their tails are. They hold them lower when
going up steep embankments. They lower them when they
are concern about something. Wag them when excited
about something. They raise them high when they feel
they are confident.
|The tail can 'clear a table or knock a pot off the stove due to the strong wag.
Also Standard Poodles have a high tail carriage so in all likelihood
your coffee table is okay to. We have coffee regularly at our
coffee table and have not ever had a dog spill our drinks... But then
again... Our dogs are calm in our house. Perhaps a hyper poodle would
clear your coffee table... But most likely they would use their front
feet! (Poodle owners know what I mean!) However, we do not
recommend amputating front feet to avoid that problem!
Labrador retrievers have one of the most active and 'dangerous'
tails.... How often are they intentionally docked? The fact remains
that tails in North America are still docked due to cosmetic reasons.
It remains a choice to have a long tail or a docked tail.
Lets at least be honest about the
|Docking straightens out the tail
Although we too prefer a straighter tail we would love to see this objective met through selective and
responsible breeding rather than by amputating limbs or cheating. It is our opinion a dog should not be
shown in any conformation show if the exhibitor had to use a medical procedure to get their dog to
meet the breed standard!
The other procedure we are aware of that is also 'cheating' in the ring is the practice of surgically
altering the tail so the dog cannot lower his tail down. Since the standard calls for the tail to be 'Set on
high, carried up' some breeders medically altering the dog's tail so their dog cannot lower their tail
even when frightened. It is wrong to remove one of the most obvious tools a dog uses to communicate!
Also we have noticed that there is a gland on the top of the tail that our docked tailed dogs often chew.
Their short tails seem to bug them. The dogs with long tails don't chew obsessively at their tails. This
chewing is likely caused by Neuropathic pain (commonly called Phantom pain or Phantom Limb Pain – PLP).
Phantom Pain or Phantom Limb Pain is a type of pain that can result from injury to nerves, either in the
peripheral or central nervous system. PLP is often described as a hot and burning sensation.
The surface of the dogs' tails have supracaudal scent glands (also called Violet Gland), which helps in
intra-species signaling and scent marking – Olfactory signaling. The supracaudal glands or the Violet
glands, in dogs, are found above the 9th caudal vertebra and secretes protein and lipids (molecules
includes fats and oils, waxes, phospholipids, steroids). This means when you amputate the tail you are
removing part of or all of this vital gland too. The greeting pattern in dogs usually differs from breed
to breed, due to the presence or absence of supracaudal scent glands. Since the supracaudal gland
supports the olfactory signaling, the absence of the gland causes lack of ear movement , and reduces
tail wagging. This, in turn, causes a change in communicative behavior
|Why does Paris Poodles not to dock tails?
|What to do about the Dews?
|We have heard the claim that some breeders don't cut the dew claws off because it cost us
(the breeder) too much money? The answer is no! To get a whole litter's tails and dewclaws
amputated cost a total (For the whole litter) of $60. No, not a cost to even think about! :-)
We don't dock and amputate for much better reasons!!!
What are dewclaws?
In the glossary of the book "Sporting Dogs - the breeds and standards as recognized by the
American Kennel Club" by Charles T Inglee (1935) 'dewclaws' are defined as" "superfluous claw
inside the hind leg just above the foot".
This makes sense from the point of view of the standards that say 'dewclaws, if present, may
be removed'. Primitive terrestrial vertebrates have 5 digits on each foot.
All wild Canis in the genus Canis normally have 5 digits on the forefeet and 4 digits on the hind
feet. The missing digit on the rear is the equivalent of the big toe, the medial (innermost) digit
(digit 1 for anatomists trained in North America and the United Kingdom). The loss of this first
digit seems to accompany the evolution of the 'up on the toes' (digitigrade) stance of Canis. The
flatter footed (plan tirade) carnivores have 5 toes on each foot.
Although natural selection dumped the 1st digit from the hind foot fairly far back in the
evolution of Canis (and also, independently in cats) the thumb has persisted on the forefoot in
digit grade carnivores. There may well be a reason it is retained.
In my PhD work I found that really fast, slender legged dogs hyper extend the forefeet down to
the stop pad when at a full gallop. They also roll slightly medially onto the inner surface of the
carpus (pastern) when running. Examination of tracks in firm moist soil and examination of the
feet of dogs running in grass show that the first digit of the forefoot (the thumb) comes into
contact with the ground during high speed locomotion. In fast galloping dogs with small tight
thumbs the claws wear with racing so that they do not need periodic trimming.
I have had dogs who had thumbs removed get injuries in the thumb stump region unless they
were run with their pasterns taped. This does not always happen but it occurs, in my experience,
about as often as thumb claw injuries in dogs in which the thumbs are not removed.
So my conclusions are:
(1) The loose floppy extra digit that occasionally occurs in domestic dogs on the rear legs should
be removed if it seems prone to getting caught unless, it is in one of the breeds where the
breed standard calls for its retention) - this is the 'dew claw that may be removed if present'.
(2) In tight footed breeds that gallop or dig the athletic animal has a use for the thumb and it
should not be removed as a preventive measure. Pastern injuries are as probably as dew claw
injuries in the working animal. Dogs that repeated tear their thumb claws need the thumb
removed completely or that they need the claw removed but the little digital pad that
accompanies the thumb claw brought into place over the end of the remaining thumb bones. To
leave the thumb bones under the skin without protection on the projecting end is to set up a
situation where abrasive injuries can occur when that part of the foot comes into contact with
the ground during the gallop. These injuries are not really nasty but they can lame a dog on the
day of a competitive event and cause the owner to have to forfeit a tie, etc.
End of Dew Claw Monologue...
|Dog Dew Claws - the essay - don't chop off those thumbs!
By Bonnie Dalzell, MA, ©1996
This little monologue on dewclaws combines my experiences as a functional anatomist, paleontologist,
and dog breeder.
by Chris Zink, DVM, PhD
(as seen in Dogs In Canada – September 2003)
In the last several years, while doing sports-medicine consultations for performance dogs
across Canada and the United States, I have seen many canine athletes with carpal arthritis.
Interestingly, this condition is much more common in dogs that have had their
front dewclaws removed.
To understand why, it is helpful to understand the structure of the carpus. This joint consists of
seven bones that fit together like fieldstones that are used to build the walls of a house
The carpus joins to the radia and ulnar bones (equivalent to our lower arm), and to the
metacarpal bones (equivalent to our hand). Each bone of the carpus has a convex or concave side
that matches a curve on the adjacent bone. Unlike the bones of the elbow, for example.
The elbow bones have ridges that slide into interlocking grooves the bones of the carpus do not
have ridges that slide into interlocking grooves on the adjacent bone. The relatively loose fit of
the carpal bones is supported by ligaments that join each of the carpal bones to the adjacent
With so many carpal bones that don't tightly interlock with the adjacent bones, the ligaments of
this joint can be easily stretched and even torn when torque (twisting) is applied to the leg. The
dewclaws have the important function of reducing the torque that is applied to
the front legs, especially when dogs are turning at a canter (the main gait used
In the canter, there is a moment during each stride when the dog's accessory carpal pad (on the
back of the carpus) of the lead front leg touches the ground and the rear legs and other front
leg swing forward to prepare for the next stride. At this point, the dewclaw is in contact with
the ground and if the dog turns, the dewclaw can dig in for extra traction to prevent
unnecessary torque on the front leg. Without the gripping action of the dog's 'thumbs’ there is
more stress on the ligaments of the carpus. This may cause the ligaments to stretch and tear
over time, resulting in joint laxity and ultimately, arthritis.
|CANADIAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
"The CVMA opposes surgical alteration of any animal for purely cosmetic purposes... The CVMA recommends
that breed associations change their standards so that cosmetic procedures are not required."
This is a digital x-ray of a dog's right front
foot and wrist.
Note that the 'dew claw' is more than just a
useless tag of flesh to be removed!
It is a thumb!
Note how much longer our
thumbs are... However
they are still structurally
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