Australian Shepherd Tail – Everything You Need To Know

Australian Shepherd tail is either docked or naturally bobbed as per the standards indicated by the AKC. Australian Shepherd dogs with naturally bobbed tails, four inches long, are just one in five as per studies. Notably, the kennel clubs like AKC, ASCA, and CKC, recognize purebred Australian Shepherds with tails that have a length up to four inches and beyond. Australian Shepherd tails are always a curious topic to discuss as many think these dogs have no tails. But yes, they have tails. It has to be noted that 51% of Australian Shepherds with naturally bobbed tails have either “very short” or “absent” tails.

Australian Shepherds are believed to have originated from the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. Australian Shepherd dogs initially herd sheep and cattle in rugged terrains. They are loyal and brilliant. So Australian Shepherds are called due to their connection with the shepherds who migrated to the United States. They are attractive-looking dogs with various coat colors and blue eyes and were considered sacred by the Native Americans.

Australian Shepherd Basic Information

  • Name: Australian Shepherd 
  • Height: 18 – 23 inches
  • Weight: 40 – 65 pounds
  • Coat: Double-layer, medium length with a curly or wavy texture
  • Color: Blue, gray, black, and white
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Companion, sports, obedience, agility
  • Group: Working
  • Barking Level: Medium to high
  • Shedding Level: Medium to high
  • Hypoallergenic: No 
  • Litter Size: 6 to 7 puppies
  • Life Span: 12 – 16 years
  • Other names: Spanish Shepherd, Pastor dogs, BobTails, New Mexican Shepherds, California Shepherds.

Australian Shepherd Pros and Cons

Pros Cons 
Healthy and activeHigh prey drive
High intelligence High exercise needs
Looks attractiveHigh grooming needs

Do Australian Shepherds Have Tails?

Yes, all  Australian Shepherds have tails. They are born with long tails, but breeders dock the tail when the dog is still a puppy. It means that they cut the tail off with surgical scissors when the dog is at the puppy stage and the tail is soft. Australian Shepherds are working dogs and are used on farms to herd sheep. The long lush-haired tail may get stuck between the paws and can trip the dog, thus making the dog difficult to catch up with the flock. Hence, breeders used to dock the tail to make herding easy. However, the docking process has been losing favor in recent days, but still, breeders dock the tail if the dog is going to live on a farm.

Types of Australian Shepherd Tails

Australian Shepherds that are purebred are usually born with a long tail. But one in five puppies is born with short tails. Ranchers on the farm purposely bred Aussies with naturally short tails as they are safer while herding. A tail of an Australian Shepherd can be

  • Normal tail
  • Naturally bobbed tail

Australian Shepherd with a Normal Tail

Australian Shepherd’s normal tail is easily distinguishable from the short tail and should meet the standards set by the kennel club. A normal tail is stubby, long, straight, and must not exceed four inches in length. Prior to the ban of the docking process, all normal tails were docked as a traditional practice. The tail is fluffy and has the risk of matting and tangling when not adequately groomed.

Australian Shepherd with a Bobbed Tail

Australian Shepherds with a bobbed tail can be either natural or manually done. Rarely are Aussies also born with absent tails. Australian Shepherds with bobbed tails look similar to the docked tails and are difficult to distinguish. Breeding Australian Shepherds with bobbed tails are disapproved due to their complex nature. When a breeder tries to produce a litter of puppies with naturally bobbed tails, there is more possibility for the puppies to die shortly after birth. The recessive gene that causes the tail to be bobbed is quite complex to understand, so breeding Aussies with naturally bobbed tails is not ethically acceptable. Some health defects that are associated with breeding bobtails are imperforate anus, transitional vertebrae, chronic muscle tension, neuroma, spina bifida and other spinal cord defects.

The Genetics Behind The Australian Shepherd Tail

The type of tail an Australian Shepherd puppy may inherit is based on the gene game. A recessive gene mutation of T – locus gene curbs the tail and naturally creates a short tail. The gene responsible for the T gene mutation is called the C189G gene. Genetically, there are three possibilities for a tail to be normal or naturally bobbed.

  • Two copies of the normal gene will give normal-tailed puppies.
  • One copy of a normal gene and one copy of the C189G gene will give a bobbed tail in a puppy.
  • Two copies of the C189G gene will lead to fetal death.

For further understanding of the gene game, look below.

  • N/N – This genotype results in a normal length tail with four inches. There will not be a naturally bobbed tail puppy. Also, a natural bobtail variant is unlikely to be transferred to the offspring. 
  • N/BT – In this genotype, there is a 50% chance for a puppy to have a natural bobtail. Aussies transmit 50% of the natural bobtail variant and 25% of the embryonic lethal genotype to the offspring. 
  • BT/BT – This genotype carries two copies of the dominant T gene, leading to fetal death, and the puppies die in the womb. This is why breeders breeding Aussies with the naturally bobbed tail are frowned upon.

Note: N represents the dominant T gene, and BT represents the recessive T gene.

What Is Tail Docking In Australian Shepherds?

Tail docking is cutting off the tail surgically at the puppy stage. This doesn’t completely remove the tail but shortens it for various reasons. This was a traditional practice on the farm to reduce tail injuries between the sheep and the dog while herding. However, tail docking is done more for cosmetic purposes to give the dog its signature look. Although the kennel clubs accept tail docking in Australian Shepherds, this practice has been major disapproval recently. The American Veterinary and Medical Association (AVMA) strongly opposes the cosmetic tail docking practice as it is medically incorrect. The cosmetic tail docking procedure has been banned in a few countries. 

Reasons For Tail Docking In Australian Shepherds

  • To meet the AKC standards of the tail length, which is up to four inches and not beyond.
  • Australian Shepherd tails are furry and long-haired. This can be messy when the fur is matted and tangled.
  • Tail docking prevents tail injuries in Aussies while herding their flocks.
  • Ancient Romans believed that dogs with long tails could contract rabies, and hence the tail was docked to prevent the disease.
  • It was also believed that a dog with a short tail could run faster.
  • Australian Shepherds with short tails are family dogs in recent days, and tail docking is just a traditional practice by the breeders.

Drawbacks Of Docking Australian Shepherds’ Tail

The following are the drawbacks of tail docking in Aussies:

  • Aches and pains in canines
  • Opposition from AVMA
  • Dogs become unsocialized
  • Incontinence

Tail Docking Procedures

Tail docking in Australian Shepherds is done by the breeders when the puppy is 3-5 days old. This is a traditional practice and has its pros and cons. The methods by which tail docking is done are

Banding – In this technique, an orthodontic band is used to cut off the blood supply at the end of the tail and thus prevent the tail from growing. This is the most recommended method of tail docking.

Surgery – Breeders cut off the tail with surgical scissors. Always put your puppy’s health as the primary priority before you choose to dock the tail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is tail docking painful?

Tail docking is done at the puppy stage and may cause discomfort to some extent. The wound may cause minor inflammation and pain while healing.

How long does it take for the Puppy to heal?

The puppy can have discomfort for two to four days and heal within three to five days.

How much does tail docking in an Australian Shepherd cost?

Tail docking is pretty cheap and may cost around $10-$20 in puppies. However, the cost may go up to $500 for older dogs.

Can tail docking lead to the death of the Australian Shepherd?

No, tail docking does not lead to the death of the dog. However, if the procedure is not performed correctly, it may lead to excessive blood loss and eventually death.

Final Thoughts

Australian Shepherds have tails that can be either normal or naturally bobbed. A normal length of the tail must be up to four inches per the standards set by the kennel clubs. A naturally bobbed tail is the result of a recessive gene mutation. Therefore, an Australian Shepherd’s tail type depends on the gene game. Tail docking is a traditional method followed by the breeders for various reasons. Tail docking means cutting off the tail primarily for herding and sanitary purposes.

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