Should Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Be Docked?

As a dog owner, you want to give your dog the best possible care and ensure they’re as healthy and happy as possible.

Sometimes, making decisions about your pet’s care can be difficult–especially when it comes to things like docking—the removal of part or all of the tail.

Some people believe that docking is necessary for certain breeds, like Chesapeake Bay retrievers, that are active dogs and is sometimes used in dog sports, to keep the dogs healthy and free of injuries. 

Others argue that docking is unnecessary and cruel and is nothing more than cosmetic surgery.

So, what’s the truth? Should Chesapeake Bay retrievers be docked?

The History Of Docking

Docking is a practice that dates back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It’s believed to have originated with farmers and shepherds, who wanted to prevent their working dogs from being injured by branches or other debris while herding sheep or cattle.

Over time, docking became more common among hunting and working dog breeders. They believed that docking their dogs’ tails would make them less likely to get injured while working in the field.

Today, active pet parents still believe that docking is necessary for certain breeds of dogs, while others argue that docking is nothing more than cosmetic surgery and that it’s unnecessary and cruel.

Docking And The Present-Day Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay retrievers are still used as working dogs, but they’re also popular as pets. They’re known for their loyalty, obedience, and friendly dispositions and make great family dogs.

While some breeders still dock the tails of Chesapeake Bay retrievers, it’s not a widespread practice. 

In most cases, breeders leave the tails of Chesapeake Bay retrievers intact. In some cases, however, with a sporting dog or one that is used for hunting, a Chesapeake Bay ducking dog is required.

Countries That Have Banned Docking

In recent years, several countries have banned the practice of docking. In 2007, the European Union passed a law that banned the docking of hunting dogs’ tails, except in certain cases where it was considered medically necessary.

Several other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, and Canada, have passed laws banning the docking of dogs’ tails.

In the United States, there is no federal law banning docking, but many states have passed laws outlawing the practice.

American Veterinary Medical Association’s Position On Docking

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not condone the elective docking of tails or ears in animals. The AVMA believes that docking of tails or ears in animals should be considered only for medical reasons.

The AVMA is aware that some animal breeds have historically been docked and that docking is still considered standard practice for certain breeds by some breeders, owners, and registries. 

The AVMA recognizes that there might be circumstances in which surgical alteration of an animal’s appearance may be in the animal’s best interest. 

It supports the judicious use of surgical procedures for therapeutic or other legitimate purposes, as determined by a licensed veterinarian in consultation with the animal’s owner.

Kennel Club Stance On Docking

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the largest registry of purebred dogs in the United States. It is often accused of supporting the practice of docking, but the AKC’s official stance is that it does not condone the practice of docking but still considers it an acceptable procedure for preserving the heritage of certain breeds.

While the AKC recognizes that some breeders still dock the tails of certain breeds, it does not consider docking to be standard practice for any breed. 

The AKC does not require that dogs be docked to be eligible for registration, and it does not award points for docked dogs in confirmation events.

So, while the AKC is not outright opposed to docking, they are certainly not in favor of the practice.

The Pros And Cons Of Docking

There are a few pros and cons to docking that you should consider before deciding whether or not to have it done to your Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Pros Of Docking

Let’s take a look at some of the pros of docking:

Docking Can Prevent Injuries

If you’re concerned about your Chesapeake Bay retriever getting injured, docking its tail might help to prevent it. Their tails can be vulnerable to injury if they’re not docked, and docking can help to protect them.

Docking Can Make Grooming Easier

If you find brushing your Chesapeake Bay retriever’s tail difficult, docking it will help.

A shorter tail is easier to brush and keep clean than a long one. It also means you won’t have to worry about your Chesapeake Bay retriever’s tail getting tangled in the brush or with other debris.

Docking Can Prevent Certain Health Problems

Some people believe that docking can help prevent certain health problems, such as tail injuries and back pain. 

While no scientific evidence supports this claim, some people still believe it to be true.

Cons Of Docking

Now, let’s take a look at some of the cons of docking:

Docking Is Unnecessary

If you’re thinking about docking your Chesapeake Bay retriever’s tail simply for cosmetic reasons, it’s unnecessary. 

There’s no reason to put your dog through surgery if there’s no medical reason for it.

Docking Is A Painful Experience For The Puppy

While we do not know exactly how much pain a puppy experiences during docking, we do know that it is an incredibly sensitive area for them. 

There are nerves and blood vessels located in the tail and ears, and when they are cut, the puppy will experience pain.

Docking Can Cause Physical Problems

Even if we overlook the obvious pain an animal experiences while being docked, we can’t ignore the long-term physical problems that can arise from docking. 

Many breeds have their tails docked very short, leading to problems with the dog’s spine and back muscles. 

The muscles in the back have to work overtime to compensate for the loss of the tail, which can lead to pain and discomfort later on in life.

Docking Can Cause Pelvic Tilt

Docked dogs have higher rates of pelvic musculature imbalances and resulting pelvic tilts. This happens because of the unbalanced weight distribution now that the tail is gone.

Risk Of Complications

Besides the health issues that can arise from docking, there is a risk of complications during and after the surgery, even when done on a Chessie puppy and other retriever breeds.

The common complications with most Chesapeake Bay retrievers are:

  1. Bleeding
  2. Swelling
  3. Infection
  4. Nerve damage
  5. Blood clotting
  6. Skin problems
  7. Allergic reactions
  8. Pain and discomfort
  9. Death (in very rare cases)

Docking Can Lead To Social Problems For The Dog

While this might not be a physical con, it is still important to consider. Retriever breeds use their tails to communicate with us and other dogs. 

When they are docked, they cannot communicate properly, leading to social problems. Dogs who cannot communicate properly often become anxious and stressed, leading to behavioral problems.

Docking Is Expensive

Last but not least, docking is expensive. Docking is considered cosmetic surgery, which is not usually covered by pet insurance. The surgery itself can cost anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the veterinarian and your area.

Not to mention, if there are any complications during or after the surgery, you will have to pay for those as well. 

Final Thoughts

So, should you dock your Chesapeake Bay retriever’s tail?

The answer is ultimately up to you. Weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for you and your dog. Dogs are individuals, just like us, and what is best for one might not be best for another. 

Talk to your veterinarian about your concerns and make the decision together.

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