Why Do They Dock German Shorthair Tails?

Whether or not you agree with it (more on the controversy surrounding the topic later) German Shorthair Pointer’s often have their tails docked. What most people don’t realize is that there are certain reasons behind this. 

In fact, many people would argue that there are benefits in giving a GSP a docked tail. We’re not here to argue either way, but we are here to simply lay out the facts. So, if you want to learn more about why people dock GSP tails, read on.

History Behind GSP Docked Tails

From a historical perspective, German Shorthair Pointers have always been working dogs. Sure, you might keep them as pets more often than workers today, but docking their tails actually began when they were almost exclusively used for work. Given that this work often took place on farms surrounded by heavy equipment and machinery that could easily injure a German Shorthair’s tail if they were left full, many people simply docked their tails as puppies to prevent it.

In fact, cases of adult working dogs injuring their tails so frequently and so badly often resulted in tails needing to be amputated anyway. From a purely logical perspective, it seemed obvious to dock their tails as puppies to prevent them from having to live without their tail later on in life, after already being used to having one.

Away from working on farms around machinery, German Shorthairs have often been used as hunters in the past too. Given that wagging tails are often the biggest giveaway when a dog is trying to hunt their prey, many owners preferred their puppies’ tails to be docked in order to help with the hunt. Now you might argue that most GSP’s aren’t working dogs or hunters now, so why do we continue to give them docked tails today?

Wanna Know more about GSP’s? Check out this article that gives 10 Fast Facts About German Shorthair Pointers.

Reasons GSP Tails Continue To Be Docked Today

It might be viewed as unfortunate from many perspectives, but one reason that GSP’s routinely have their tails docked is simply for cosmetic reasons. Many people have grown up with the notion that German Shorthairs simply look that way and find them to be almost unrecognizable without docked tails. Fortunately, many places around the world don’t allow docking for cosmetic reasons alone. Read up here to see what the AKC says.

But we must also remember that GSP’s are working dogs, whether they continue to actually be used on farms or not. Their characteristics remain the same, and so their tails are still in constant danger of being injured because of their excitable nature and constantly wagging. In fact, some research has shown that GSP’s in Sweden (a country that bans docked tails for every reason) have more cases of severe tail injuries than places where docking is the norm.

Now, there’s the obvious argument that GSP’s with full tails are bound to have more cases of tail injuries because they have more tail to injure, but the point here isn’t about the injuries themselves, and more about the prevalence of them. Many people choose to have their tails docked simply to prevent the likely possibility of a tail injury in the future.

Benefits Of Docked Tail

So if docking tails is still something that occurs regularly enough for it to be a topic of conversation today, then there must be at least some benefits to it. Obviously, we’ve already covered that for genuine working dogs it is necessary to prevent injury and possible amputation later on, but let’s look at the benefits to a regular GSP who is simply a family pet.

It is a fact that short-haired dogs are more likely to injure their tails than longer-haired dogs. This doesn’t mean that they’re getting their tails caught in tractors on the farm, but are injuring themselves in much more common ways. A GSP is a crate, for example is likely to injure its tail because of its naturally excitable nature. Likewise, as they explore through forests or parks, their tails are more likely to snag on a stray thorn or a sharp object, and these sorts of injuries can lead to cuts, and sometimes cuts that are bad enough to require antibiotics or surgery.

But why are short-haired dogs so much more likely to injure their tail? Well, the clues in the name. Dogs with short hair have less protection around their tails than dogs with longer hair. Take a Labrador’s tail and a GSP tail and you’ll see a noticeable difference in the amount of hair that they have. So much so, that the Labrador is far less likely to receive a tail injury than a GSP, simply because of the added cushioning that the extra hair on their tail provides.

If you were to compare a GSP with a docked tail, and one without, as an owner, you’d be much more likely to face medical bills with a GSP with a full tail. Many would argue that docking their tail is best for you as the owner financially, but also best for them as puppies to stop them from having to face any distress from injury later on. Those people would argue that a GSP puppy with a docked tail is much more likely to adapt well to it, than a GSP with a full tail needing an amputation in later life following an injury.

Controversy Surrounding Docked Tails

Now, we couldn’t possibly present the benefits without presenting the controversy too. And many people object to docking tails from a purely moral perspective. These people would argue that a GSP is born with a tail for a reason, and to remove it is unnatural and potentially cruel.

Many people will also remember a time when tail docking wasn’t regulated, and people could dock their dogs’ tails at home. Thankfully, this dangerous practice is illegal in many places around the world, and in many countries, the only way a dog can legally have its tail docked is by a trained vet in veterinary surgery. The fact that tail docking had to be regulated because of the potential pain that dogs were being put through in DIY surgeries is used as evidence of the unnatural and cruel nature of the procedure to this day. Plenty of people object to tail docking even when it is done by a vet, because they view the pain and healing that a dog must go through after the procedure to be unnecessary.

Final Words

We’re not here to weigh in on the debate itself. The aim of this article was simply to answer the question ‘why do they dock German Shorthair tails’. Of course, we couldn’t discuss it without presenting both sides of the argument surrounding the controversy of tail docking, and whichever side you fall down on is up to you. Hopefully, you will at least have found this article to be educational and you will have found an answer to your question about docked tails in German Shorthairs.


An Owner and a huge fan of GSP's! I have owned my GSP for 7 years now and learned so many things along the way to share with you all about German Shorthaired Pointers!

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