Are American Pitbulls’ Tails Docked?

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You might assume American Pitbulls with short and long tails are different breeds.

Those with short tails are usually docked. However, the decision to dock or not to dock your American Pitbull’s tails is a personal one.

American Pitbulls’ tails are usually docked because they’re descendants of the English bull-baiting dog, a working dog. In the 1800s, working dogs had their tails docked so they couldn’t be mistaken for pets and prevent rabies. However, tail docking is no longer common or popular today.

While some people admire docked tails, tail docking is frowned upon and is unlawful in some countries, like the UK and Australia. In the US, it’s unregulated, but most people don’t support it. This article will analyze tail docking in Pitbulls, the reasons, and even the risks, so keep reading.

American Pitbulls Used To Have Their Tails Docked

History has shown that American Pitbulls used to have their tails docked. As working dogs, the long and straight tails were thought to get in the way of their duties. It was assumed they got injured easily and were prone to getting rabies. Although Pitbull tail docking was normal practice in the past, it is no longer the case.

Many dog parents don’t support tail docking. That’s because dogs communicate their emotions with their tails, whether anger or excitement. Tail docking will affect a dog’s ability to communicate, not just with their human companions but with other dogs as well. 

Besides interfering with the dog’s communication ability, tail docking is a painful and cruel procedure. It could turn a normally calm dog into aggressive, especially when someone touches its docked tail.

Did you know Pitbulls are either banned or restricted in at least 35 cities in the US?

Some airlines don’t allow Pitbulls on board, and those with stricter policies don’t apply to other dog breeds. It’s mainly due to the history surrounding Pitbulls, the purpose of their breeding, and the fact that their tails were docked to identify them as aggressive easily. 

Are American Pitbulls With Docked Tails More Aggressive?

Traditionally, the American Pitbulls were bred for a specific purpose, their fighting ability. However, Pitbulls also make great family pets because they’re calm, loyal, and affectionate.

Many people think that docking an American Pitbull’s tail can make it aggressive or more aggressive if it’s already aggressive — is that true?

American Pitbulls with docked tails are more aggressive than those whose tails are not docked. Pitbulls were traditionally working dogs and were aggressive. Their tails were also docked. Tail docking is painful; a dog can be aggressive to keep people and other dogs away from it.

Pitbulls with docked tails also tend to be more aggressive towards dogs whose tails aren’t docked.

Dogs communicate with one another using their tails. A wagging tail would make other dogs more comfortable when approaching the Pitbull. However, an extremely short tail gives mixed signals or no signal at all, so dogs are caught off guard when the Pitbull acts aggressively. 

Why Pitbull Tail Docking Is No Longer Popular

Today, tail docking isn’t popular, not just for Pitbulls but also for other dog breeds. Since only a vet can successfully dock a dog’s tail, you may be forced to make multiple stops because many vets outrightly reject the practice and won’t be a party to it. 

The following are some reasons Pitbull tail docking is no longer popular.

  • Tail docking brought about a stereotype against Pitbulls. Due to such a bad reputation, American Pitbulls are seen by many as one of the most feared breeds. The pitbull has so many untrue negative personality attributes that have caused it to be banned in some states, buildings, and even airlines. 
  • There’s no need for tail docking in modern societies. Pitbulls had their tails docked because they were initially working dogs and needed to be identified as such. Today, most Pitbulls are family dogs, and since pets didn’t have their tails docked, it’s unnecessary.
  • Tail docking is painful. Those who cut their dog’s tails often claim that since it’s done 2 to 5 days after birth, the puppy feels no pain as the nervous system hasn’t fully developed. That’s not true. Puppies have the same sensitivity to pain as adult dogs. Even worse, the procedure was done without anesthesia.
  • Tail docking can lead to health issues. Besides the pain when the tail is being docked, some dogs experience long-term chronic pain. 
  • The tail is the dog’s major communicating tool. Dogs use the tail’s movement and position to express friendliness, submission, excitement, desire to play, and even warning. It’s one way that dogs establish boundaries and prevent aggressive encounters. Without the tail, some of the signals are misread and can cause them to become more aggressive out of distress. 

This video shows the different ways in which dogs communicate with their tails and how tail docking affects the way a dog communicates:

Tail Docking Is Not Illegal in the US 

Despite the ban and disapproval of tail docking in dogs, such as the Pitbull, you’ll still find some dogs with docked tails. There are several reasons for this.

Many people disapprove of tail docking, but it’s not illegal in the US. Some people have their dog’s tail docked for cosmetic purposes. Others believe a dog with a docked tail has a cleaner backside, and since he can still walk and have functioning bowels, tail docking isn’t a problem. 

Some people argue that tail docking prevents tail injuries. However, ointments such as Forticept Antimicrobial Gel can help with dog tail injuries.

It provides pain relief, disinfects wounds, prevents infections, and promotes healing. It’s ideal for cuts, scrapes, abrasions, bites, and skin irritations. 

The harm done to Pitbulls goes beyond docking their tails. Dogs with docked tails are more sensitive and can develop an aggressive personality as a defense mechanism.

Fortunately, many vets don’t allow tail docking in their clinics. There aren’t many dogs with docked tails now, and you may go a long time without seeing them. 

Do Dogs Need Tails?

Several arguments have been made against the old age tradition of docking dogs’ tails, such as the Pitbull. However, questions about the necessity of tails in dogs, other than being born with one, have been raised. 

Dogs need tails because they use them to communicate with other dogs and humans. They can tell if other dogs are friendly or aggressive based on tail movements. However, there’s no evidence of impairment in dogs with docked tails or that dogs with long tails have an advantage. 

There are conflicting arguments for and against docking a dog’s tail. Some people believe dogs can communicate in other ways besides using their tails. However, the decision not to dock a dog’s tail is mostly moral. Is it wrong or right? Some people claim that since a dog is naturally born with a tail, it’s cruel to alter their natural appearance to change their natural appearance. 

This video analyzes the pros and cons of docking dogs’ tails:


The decision to dock your Pitbull’s tail or not is a personal one. Instead of docking your Pitbull’s tail and risk causing it to become aggressive, it’s best to allow it to retain its personality. 

Tail docking is a painful procedure. Puppies whose tails get docked 2 to 5 days after birth do feel pain since they don’t receive anesthesia. So if there’s no valid reason to dock a dog’s tail, it’s best to avoid it.

Besides, the traditional reasons for docking tails of Pitbulls no longer stand since they’re no longer working dogs. They’re pets, like other dog breeds.

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