When Is It Too Late To Dock A Dogs Tail?

Are you thinking of docking your dog’s tail? Please make sure you do it early on. When is it too late to dock a dogs tail, you ask? Read on to find out!

Tail docking for dogs is an ancient ritual. People used to amputate their dog’s tails to keep them safe from contracting rabies or getting an injury. Even though it is an old-world practice, it is not uncommon for people to get their dog’s tail docked to match how a certain dog breed should look. 

As much as it is common, it is important to know that the older the dog is, the more complicated and painful this process can get. So, it is recommended to either not get it done or get it done when your pup is 2 to 5 days old. 

When Is It Too Late To Dock A Dogs Tail

However, many dog owners might think that docking their pet’s tail when they grow a bit old on general anesthesia might be safe and painless. If you are considering the same, then the ideal time would be around eight weeks to 16 weeks, after which it might be too late to dock a dog’s tail. 

Today, tail docking is banned in some parts of the world and is recommended to be done only due to medical necessities. While many people get it done as a cosmetic procedure, you should know that if you do not get it done on time, your dog can suffer a great deal of pain. So, what is the apt time to dock a dog’s tail, and when is it too late?

If you want to learn more on this topic, continue reading this article. 

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The History of Tail Docking

In simple words, tail docking is a term used to describe the process of chopping off the edge of a dog’s tail. It is also referred to as tail amputation, even though only a part of the tail is removed to shorten its length. 

The main thing to remember while docking a dog’s tail is to get it done by an experienced veterinarian, or a lot of discomfort can occur to the animal. It is a surgical procedure and should be done by a professional. 

When Is It Too Late To Dock A Dogs Tail

To know the truth about tail docking, it is important to travel back to the Romans’ history when it was first done, who thought it would prevent rabies and make their dogs better hunters. In the present day, there has been no research or study that has scientifically supported the above reasons. 

Why Do People Dock Tails TodaY?

Typically, it is done to prevent injuries in dogs, especially those who have hunting tendencies. Breeds like Doberman, Rottweilers, Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, German Shorthair Pointers, Vizslas, Irish Terriers, Airedale Terriers, etc., have long and slender tails, which can get hurt while they run. 

While it is okay to wag their tails in excitement as puppies, it can cause serious wounds or injuries as an adult, so most dogs have their tails cut off as puppies. 

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Is Tail Docking Painful?

The amputation process or docking of the tail involves simple equipment, including scissors, rubber bands, or knives. Many people claim that it is a painless process, which means that the dogs experience no pain during the procedure – this, however, is not true. 

The current research and studies have revealed that tail docking is quite a painful process. Dogs, like humans, have a nervous system and experience all kinds of emotions, including pain. So, it is quite likely that even if the procedure takes place after a few days of the puppy’s birth, they will experience discomfort or pain at some level. 

When Is It Too Late To Dock A Dogs Tail

Cutting through the skin, bones, and muscles of an animal will cause pain no matter what the age. It is a controversial procedure and has also been banned in many countries globally because even in modern society, many veterinarians perform the surgery without giving anesthesia. 

Can tail docking lead to complications?

Since it is an uncomfortable process, it is entirely possible that tail docking can lead to several complications. Even if performed by a vet, it can lead to infections, excessive bleeding, and in extreme cases, even death. 

Healing from the amputation process is also a challenge and let’s not ignore the anesthetic complications that may or may not occur in the puppy’s body. 

Perhaps this is why most vets refuse to dock the tails of certain dogs these days, especially if the dog has grown old. Dog owners themselves do not appreciate the idea of docking their pup’s tails in the modern world. 

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The ugly side of tail docking

The worst part is that many dog breeders avoid general anesthesia or even perform the procedure with scissors and glue at home to save a few bucks or other reasons. You can imagine the pain a dog must go through when a non-professional completes the entire docking process at home!

Even so, docking dogs’ tails are not uncommon in the current world. So, if you must get your puppy’s tail amputated, it should be for a medical necessity. Since tail docking is considered unethical and merely a cosmetic procedure, it is also illegal in many countries. 

When Is It Too Late To Dock A Dogs Tail

When Is It Too Late To Dock a Dog’s Tail?

Most tail docking is done within the first few days of the dog’s birth, mostly between day two and day 5 of the dog’s birth. If you are wondering why the docking must be done so early is because of the underdeveloped nervous system of the puppy. 

Since the nervous system hasn’t developed to its full capacity, the level of pain felt by the puppy will also be less compared to an adult dog!

The belief mentioned above is why most newborn pups aren’t given general anesthesia during tail docking. So, if the process hasn’t been completed in the first five days of the puppy’s birth, their owners shall wait until their dog reaches the age of 8 weeks or is ideally closer to 12 to 16 weeks.

Once they get past the 16th week, it can be said that the time to dock the dog’s tail is up because it can lead to a lot of health risks. 

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Tail Docking in Older Dogs

Older dogs get their tails docked or amputated after 12 weeks, in most cases. Even though tail docking is best done to puppies who are 2 to 5 days old, most dog owners wait for their pups to grow a bit old before the procedure. 

Combining Procedures

One reason why people wait for their dogs to grow a bit is that they get the neutering/spaying and docking is done at the same time – this costs them fewer bucks compared to separate procedures. 


Secondly, the procedure done on an adult dog is more like an amputation since it involves cutting through vessels, bones, muscles, and skin. The process will be more painful when compared to the same done on a puppy of 2 days. 

When Is It Too Late To Dock A Dogs Tail

Thus, a grown dog can’t go through this procedure without anesthesia, even though some dog breeders do it – it is not morally right or legally sound for a person to do that to an animal. 

So, please raise your voice against all those who consider the idea of amputating a dog’s tail without professional help and anesthesia. 


Tail docking in adult dogs is also more costly than puppies for obvious reasons. It involves deeper surgery and can also lead to certain infections, excessive bleeding, and other extreme circumstances in the dog. 

So, it is expected from the vet to charge you somewhere between $40 and $90. If there are complications, the cost can go up to $100 or more. 

Most veterinarians dock tails between 2 to 5 days of a dog. If you hadn’t allowed the process when your dog was five days old, it is recommended not to get it done! You do not have to match the standard of how dogs from certain breeds should look. 

Slowly and gradually, people are awakening to this consciousness and skipping the entire tail and ear docking process of their dogs. 

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Is Docking a Dog’s Tail Banned in the US?

Docking a dog’s tail is banned in many countries, but in the US, it is unregulated – they are neither banned nor controlled. In other words, the rules related to docking a dog’s tail are highly controversial and are quite ambiguous. 

As per the American Kennel Club, “the practices are “integral to defining and preserving breed character” in certain breeds”, but the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes the same. So, yes, we will have to wait for a while to get a clear regulation of the laws related to docking a dog’s tail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you dock a tail at 12 weeks?

Yes, you can but with proper anesthesia under the supervision of a vet.

If the dog’s tail isn’t docked between the 2nd and 5th day of its birth, it is recommended to either not get it done or postpone it for later. By later, we mean when the dog is 8 to 15 weeks old. 

So, yes, you can dock a tail when your dog is 12 weeks old. Also, it is highly recommended to use general anesthesia when docking your dog’s tail at 12 weeks. Otherwise, it will be a painful process.

Can you dock a dog’s tail at 7 months old?

No, ideally the last you should look at is 15 -16 weeks.

Getting your dog’s tail docked at seven months old is not recommended, even by the vets. It can lead to many pain and health troubles in the pup. 

If you haven’t done it during the first five days of your dog’s birth, you should choose one of these two options – either drop the idea of getting it done ever or wait until your pup turns 8 to 15 weeks old and then dock it. 

Also, it is illegal to dock an adult dog’s tail without giving it general anesthesia. It can be really painful without the use of anesthesia, and so you must get the surgery performed by a vet.

Can you dock a dog’s tail when they are older?

Beyond a certain age, it will be very painful and therefore you should prefer not to do it.

You can certainly dock a dog’s tail when they are older, but getting it done within the first five days of their birth is suggested. It is recommended to get it done when they are a newborn because their nervous system isn’t fully developed, and it is believed that they experience less pain as a result. 

So, if you haven’t got it done when they are a newborn, you should at least wait till they turn eight weeks old to dock their tail. Do not, however, in any case, allow the tail’s amputation without the use of general anesthesia.

How much does it cost to get a puppy’s tail docked?

For pups, anywhere between $15 $40.
On average, tail docking of a puppy will cost you somewhere between $15 to $40 per pup. Getting the whole litter done will cost you much less than the original price if you are getting it. 

If we talk about adult dogs, the fee will be more expensive than a pup. For instance, getting the tail dock done for a dog of 12 weeks will be typically around $40 to $90.

How do you dock a dog’s tail at home?

We strongly recommend you to please not try this at home.

It is recommended to get your puppy’s tail docked by a professional veterinarian. Getting the job done by yourself at home is quite risky for the dog’s health in question. If you do not want to get it done at the clinic, you can set an appointment with your vet at home. 

The entire procedure takes around 30 minutes. It is a quick yet intricate process that NEEDS to be done by a professional. So, no, you don’t dock a dog’s tail at home without a professional. You can use a hip band to cover your dog’s tail and penis so its tail doesn’t get injured as they run in the park and other areas.

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A Few Final Words

The bottom line is that dogs can get their tails docked at any age, but it is a painful process if done without general anesthesia. 

So, yes, it can be a problem for adult dogs more than newborns. As a dog owner, you must get the work done either during the first five days of the birth of your pup or wait until he turns eight weeks old. Thank you for reading, you might also like to read: Why Don’t Dogs Have To Wipe?