Do Australian Shepherds Have Tails?

Have you ever looked at your Australian Shepherd and thought, Are Australian shepherds naturally tailless? Not every Australian Shepherd is naturally tailless. Australian Shepherds are known to be tailless, which means only 1 out of 5 Australian shepherds are born with a naturally bobbed tail. To satisfy your curiosity, let me tell you the truth. Australian Shepherds are born with tails, but it's all about their being visible or not. This article will talk about the Australian shepherds tail, Australian shepherd tail types and the difference between normal and docked tails.

Are Australian Shepherds born without tails?

You might be the one with a misconception about Australian shepherds being tailless, but in reality, Australian shepherds have tails. Australian Shepherds have a natural shortened tail that appears as tailless. Around 20% of Australian Shepherds are born with a natural bobtail, and this unique trait results from genetic mutation of the T gene. You will normally see Australian shepherds with either docked or naturally bobbed tails. The tail length of purebred Aussie will not exceed 4 inches. Australian shepherds with tailless looks share a resemblance with cute little bears. Most dog owners dock their Australian shepherds' tails at birth if they are born without this trait.

What is the difference between an Australian Shepherd normal tail and bobbed tail?

If you are still confused about Australian Shepherd tails, you must know that you can easily distinguish between them by looking at their length. So, Aussies with bobtails appear as if they have no tail. Australian shepherds with normal tail lengths commonly undergo docking because this procedure will prevent Aussies from rabies, injuries caused during fights, strengthens the back of a dog, and also increases the speed of an animal. A normal Australian Shepherd will have a tapering effect on its tail, making it smaller in length. However, Aussies with a bobtail will not have tapering making the tail blunt.

Different types of Aussie's tails:

You will find two different Aussie tails; bobbed tail and docked tail. Australian Shepherd puppies naturally have a bobtail resulting from a recessive gene. Australian shepherds with bobtails have missing vertebrae making their tails blunt or curved at the end. Normal Australian Shepherd puppies have a tapered tail, which means the vertebrae decrease as you reach the end. So, Australian shepherds get their tails docked because it is very weak or crooked. When the tail is allowed to grow completely, it will have the same thick fur as on the Australian Shepherd's body.

Tail docking is not allowed in a few countries other than the US, where breeders, clubs, and judges are unsure about selecting one particular tail. However, the tail positions may vary in response to the social interaction of Australian shepherds with other dogs or people. A survey conducted from August 2019 to August 2010 reported the following types of Aussie tails.

Very short tail or absent tail:

The natural bobtailed Aussies born with a significantly shorter tail length appear to have no tails. In that case, tail docking is not necessary to meet the traditional tail length standards.

Naturally bobbed tail:

The natural Australian shepherds bobtail is because of the incomplete dominant gene irrespective of the length of the tail, where NBTs can vary in their tail length.

Long tail:

Some Australian shepherds have longer tail lengths than the usual bobtail length with missing vertebrae considerably.

Straight tail:

 Australian shepherds with a natural bobtail or docked have straight tails when they don't exceed 4 inches.

Kinked tail:

Among the Australian shepherds, some had a slight curve in their tails called the kinked tail, making it undesirable for dog owners.

Slightly curved tail:

Aussies born with a natural bobtail have straight tails or a slight arc. Australian shepherds with a slightly curved tail are considered a genetic failure.


History of tail docking in Australian shepherd puppies:

Ancient Romans believed tail docking for newborn puppies was essential to prevent diseases such as rabies because their tail muscles were responsible for spreading diseases. According to them, tail docking made them better hunting dogs. By the end of the 17 century, new tax law on dogs was introduced to assist funds in French wars. This law did not apply to working dogs. That's why working dogs were docked to indicate their status.

What is tail docking in dogs?

A dog with a naturally lengthy tail has to go through a surgical procedure to shorten its tail. This procedure is called tail docking. Apart from Australian Shepherds, any other dog or animal processing long tail has to undergo this procedure. This procedure is performed too early in a puppy's life, roughly 3 days after birth.

Tail docking is performed with two methods, and that is your choice to go for the desired method for tail docking. Let's talk about both of these methods one by one.


The reputable breeders and veterinarians go for a surgical procedure for tail docking of Aussies. In this method, the tail of your Aussie is cut with surgical scissors. Tail docking does not cause any pain, but your puppy may feel uncomfortable. Puppies with a natural bobtail do not require tail docking because they naturally have a short tail by birth.


Apart from surgery, dog owners can also go for the banding technique. It is a procedure that uses an orthodontic band that cuts off the blood supply at the end of an Aussie’s tail. As a result, the growth of the tail is constricted.

What are the reasons behind Australian Shepherd tail docking?

You will find great variety in the lengths and shapes of bobbed tails. There are different reasons behind tail docking in Australian Shepherds. Australian shepherds with natural curved or very blunt tails look undesirable. That's why dog owners dock the tails of their puppies soon after their birth. Tail docking is a historical practice for Australian Shepherds, and it is done for the following reasons.

  • Australian shepherds with long tails have a greater risk of injury or infection.
  • Tail docking has become popular because it gives a symmetrical appearance to your dog.
  • Tail docking reduces the risk of transmission of diseases such as rabies, and also it strengthens the back of a dog.

Is tail docking bad for a dog?

Tail docking is a very complicated surgical procedure in which docking can cause excessive bleeding, inflammation, infection or necrosis. Tail docking can cause neuroma or a pinched nerve, which is extremely painful. Tail docking makes dogs more aggressive than natural dogs. To avoid aggressive behavior, make sure you go for tail docking when the puppy is 3-5 days old. Tail docking is necessary for your dog's safety to prevent it from being damaged by outdoor dangers. Make sure this procedure is done correctly without leaving any terrible experience on the memory of your puppy.

Is tail docking painful to puppies?

Tail docking is an uncomfortable or slightly hurting procedure for puppies. Puppies can feel the pain while docking; that's why most breeders go for anesthesia or sedation to keep puppies under control. Tail docking may result in aggression in puppies. After the tail is cut, a puppy will face difficulty expressing his feelings. When a dog becomes an adult, then this procedure becomes more painful. Although tail docking is a controversial issue, breeders present worldwide accept this procedure.

What is the ideal age for tail docking in puppies?

It is advised to go for tail docking when your puppy is 3-5 days old. The nervous system is not fully developed during this time, and anesthesia becomes unnecessary. However, adult Australian Shepherds make tail docking difficult, giving you a tough time.

How much does tail docking cost?

Tail docking is an affordable procedure for dog owners. It costs around $10 to $20 per dog, and it can include other charges like the puppies first checkup. However, the cost may vary depending upon the surgical procedure performed. For older dogs, tail docking can be much more costly, up to $500, including an anesthesia fee.

How long does it take to recover from tail docking?

You must provide a clean and urine-free environment to your tail docked puppy for quick healing. The vets recommend removing the bandages 2-3 days after tail docking. Usually, tail docked puppies heal within 7 days, but it may take longer depending upon the condition of your dog.

Should I get my Aussies tail docked?

When you decide to bring an Australian Shepherd puppy to your home, avoid going for tail docking. It is advised to perform a tail docking procedure at an early age of 3 to 5 days. For an adult Aussie, tail docking will be a painful experience. But tail docking will be useless if you adopt an Australian Shepherd to be your family pet. At the time of adoption, you can have a choice to adopt a docked tail puppy.

How to take care of a docked tail?

Ensure that you take care of your dog's hygiene to avoid the spread of infections after the tail docking procedure. Being a responsible dog owner, daily monitor the surgical site and look for any signs of swelling, redness or pain. A hygienic home environment will help for the speedy recovery of your Australian Shepherd puppy.

What will happen if you breed two NBTs together?

It is not advised to breed natural bobtail dogs when the tails are too short. Breeding two natural bobtail dogs results in puppies with spinal cord defects or spinal Bifida. So, breeding two similar naturally, bobtail dogs can cause serious health issues in young ones.

Is there any other dog breed with a natural dock tail?

Apart from the Australian Shepherd, many other dog breeds have natural bobtails. Dogs born with short tails include Australian stumpy tail cattle dog, Brittany, Danish Swedish Farm dog, Catahoula leopard dog, Jack Russell Terrier, Croatian sheepdog, a schipperke, Bourbonnais pointer and Polish Lowland sheepdog.

Final words:

Australian shepherds are thought to be tailless. It is because they are naturally bobtailed. The reason for natural bobtailed Australian Shepherds is the genetic mutation of the T gene. Aussies with longer tail lengths go for tail docking procedure. You can tail dock your Australian shepherd puppy when it is 3 to 5 days old. Tail docking will prevent the spread of diseases and save Aussies from injuries.


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