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.

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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.

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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.

GSP Items We Love

  • Leash: Carhartt
  • Memory Foam Bed: Furhaven
  • Remote Trainer: SportDOG Brand 425X
  • Treat Toy: WEST PAW Zogoflex Qwizl
  • Hat: GSP Hat
  • Harness: Kurgo Baxter Backpack for Dogs
  • Seat Cover: URPOWER

More info:

Carhartt Tradesman Leash: Every dog owner needs a good leash, and all leashes are NOT treated the same.

This Carhartt dog leash is very well made, and is durable enough to deal with a GSP’s strength (yes, pulling too). I’ve had cheap leashes in the past, they aren’t worth it, grab this instead.

Furhaven orthopedic and Memory Foam Bed: If you have a GSP, you know, they LOVE to lay around, cuddle and sleep (when they aren’t running circles around the living room and yard.

This dog bed is so great because GSP’s love to rest their head on “pillows” just like humans and this dog bed has a built-in “pillow” perimeter that my dog uses every day as a pillow. Hank loves this bed.

SportDOG Brand 425X Remote Trainer: You know what sucks more than having your GSP run around the neighborhood or after a rabbit at your local park? Not having the ability to stop your GSP and recall them in an instant.

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With the Sport Dog 425x, you have complete control for up to 500 yards (yes, 5 football fields end-to-end). Its battery lasts a LONG time, it’s sleek, lightweight and your pup won’t ever be out of your control with it on.

WEST PAW Zogoflex Qwizl Dog Puzzle Treat Toy: Our GSP’s love to play, even when we may not have the energy to entertain them ourselves. Maybe it’s work, maybe it’s the end of a long day, who knows.

But, all you need to do is give this Kong to your GSP and they will entertain themselves for quite a while, while you finally get some rest. Hank has had this for years now and it’s still kickin!

GSP German Shorthaired Pointer Hat: Represent your GSP pride with this great trucker, snapback style German Shorthaired Pointer ball cap. It’s got a modern look but also shows others your favorite dog breed.

The best part? The glances and smiles from those who also have a GSP, it’s always a conversation starter!

Kurgo Baxter Backpack for Dogs, Saddlebag Back Pack Harness: I don’t know about you, but my GSP loves to adventure with us out here in Colorado. That means hiking, mountain biking, and camping all year.

Our GSP sees this saddle bag break out and he can’t stop wiggling his butt knowing where are headed outdoors.

Toss in the car keys, a snack bar and some kibble, you are on your way to outdoor fun with your pup!

URPOWER Dog Seat Cover Car Seat Cover: Ok, this is last but it is the MOST beneficial item you will get. Don’t, believe me, Take a road trip with your GSP in the back seat. Once you arrive, you will have GSP shedding hair all over your back sweat.

This slick hammock-style seat cover creates a waterproof barrier between your lovely truck’s interior and your GSP’s shedding hair.

Hunting and having a wet GSP? No Problem! Did your GSP decide to chase a goose into the lake? No big deal! This seat cover is a lifesaver.

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.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>