Docking tails or the removal of part of the tail is legal in the United States currently however more information is coming about of the detriment it is causing dogs that have the procedure performed. In response, many countries have forbidden the practice, and organizations such as the UKC, while they understand it is a personal choice, prefer docking not be performed, and do not advocate for the practice.
At this point in canine pedigree history, docking is primarily for aesthetics…a cosmetic procedure. It provides no benefit to the puppy or dog, especially companion pets.
Tail docking occurs when the puppies are very young often less than 5 days of age. While many claim the puppies cannot feel the procedure they definitely can (1). We personally have witnessed the procedure and the puppies do scream. The tail is an extension of the spine which means it also contains muscle, blood vessels, vertebrae, and nerves. In many clinics, the puppy is not put under anesthesia and only possibly given a light local anesthetic (however this is rare. The tail is then cut with a pair of scissors. After the tail is cut the tail may be stitched (again without pain management) or bandaged. Older practices may include cutting off the blood supply with a rubber band wrapped tightly around the tail until it falls off.
The procedure can cause long/lifelong pain. In addition, dogs use their tail for communication. The position and movement of the tail alert and provide humans, dogs, and other animals alike with invaluable information. This can cause many issues as the dog tries to communicate but can’t do so effectively.
Furthermore, there have been correlations between submissive urinary incontinence and improper development of the nerves and muscles in this area as well (2).
The practice is completely banned and illegal in Australia as well as Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Denmark, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Austria.
Docking the tail is completely legal and there are almost no regulations set in the United States on the practice. Maryland is the only state that requires a licensed veterinarian to dock a tail and Pennsylvania restricts docking to no older than 5 days of age if you are someone that is not a veterinarian, a veterinarian can dock up to 12 weeks of age. Anywhere else it can be performed with absolutely no medical knowledge or authority.
Most dog associations have revised their standards to allow, at no fault, natural tails in dogs that show so there should be no reason to dock.
Our no docking policy is set in stone and we do have clauses in our contract if our puppies' tails are docked without a medical reason or our permission.
Noonan, G.J.; Rand, J.S.; Blackshaw, J.K.; Priest, J. (September 1996). "Behavioural observations of puppies undergoing tail docking". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 49 (4): 335–342. doi:10.1016/0168-1591(96)01062-3