My pups have working genes. No matter whether they live in town or country, every natural instinct will be fulfilled every single time they are out. Usually they will be hunting for game to be flushed to the gun in a working environment. In the summer maybe they will be thrashing around bushes in the local park, perhaps only at home in their own gardens, around rose bushes and shrubs? Their tails express their total delight at being allowed to do what they do best!!
My first ever spaniel litter (in 1985) was taken to the Vet for routine docking at 2 days old. That Vet's practice was trying to dissuade any breeder from docking - so I was persuaded to let my particular "chosen" pup keep her tail. I'd never before had a spaniel with a tail so couldn't honestly justify the removal of hers. The other puppies in the litter were docked by a third as their planned homes had all requested that their pups' tails be correctly shortened for work.
I had SO much pleasure from that bitch's tail. Forget the clearance of low tables at home or in the Pub or the spraying of mud and poo up the walls - you get that, to some extent, anyway. She was banned from stalking trips as, as soon as the Land Rover stopped to drop off the Guns, her tail would give our intentions away to any beast within miles. At home her tail thumped the end of the bed with almighty thwacks - amazing - and for such a small bitch... I absolutely loved it! She wagged so hard that, just by walking along, her back legs alternately left the ground. I loved that, too.
However... it seemed that every day she would damage her tail in some way or another. Either on the brickwork of a wall, the brambles at the end of our garden or the cover she hunted - which is, by the way, far more punishing in the summer than the winter during the shooting season. The bramble rips the hair out of the tail and the skin then easily splits. There was never a flinch; the joy of hunting scent far exceeded any pain felt in the opposite end of the body.
Her poor tail was constantly BALD and the slightest "clunk" after she reached adulthood resulted in a split to it, blood being wagged everywhere. Mostly she covered herself up to and over her shoulders. Often an infection in her tail would follow and time and time again she was presented to a Vet. who would advise docking "once the present inflammation dies down".
I remember saying to one young chap "perhaps after this (shooting) season?" To which he replied "she isn't IN season" whilst looking under her tail. Ignorance of practical gundog ownership is still commonplace in some young Vets. With Mo's tail, once healed, I could not bring myself to put her through that awful and far more serious procedure of docking the adult tail. She died with her full tail still on - but I vowed I would never subject another dog to that sort of pain and misery again. Been there, done that, bought the book and seen the film!
In April 2007 the law changed again with regard to docking where it has been effectively banned; happily bona fide working bred dogs are exempt from this ban. There is red tape by the bucket load for breeders and Vets. The pups MUST be docked before five days old and (in England) must be from a recognisable working breed (HPR, Spaniel, Terrier) and the dam MUST be seen by the docking Vet. The breeder MUST give evidence that the pups are bred to work. The legislation also indicates that the pups should be micro chipped and receive a certificate of docking from the Vet that performed the procedure, usually do this at seven weeks of age when they have their primary vaccination.
This is my friend's dog - I took the picture a few years ago
From an owner's e-mail....."Just a quick note to let you know I went to Mr C (a docking Vet) and I am glad I asked if you knew him. I have to say I was nervous and now its been done and I saw how the pups were, when I think why it its done it makes me really mad that people who know nothing fight these issues. The pups were fine in seconds and we waste tax payers money on the argument. Anyway I also met a really nice couple who were parked outside in a really smart pickup with ESS number plate so in my moment of "Oh my God!!!" when I first arrived I tapped on their window and after a bit of a chat they came and took a quick look at Juniper, well... when I said who the stud dog was and mentioned your name they laughed. They were very jolly and clearly held you in high and fond regard. Pups are all doing fine, Mr C made some very encouraging remarks saying that they were all nice pups and as he said nothing else I guess that must have been meant."
This tail is docked but is TOO long!