Fact or Fiction: Australian Shepherds are Born with Long Tails
Naturally bob-tailed dog breeds are rare, with the Schipperke being the most well-known. Though there are just a handful of natural bob tails people in the United States and abroad are used to seeing breeds like the Australian Shepherd without a tail. So, what does that mean? Are Aussies born with tails, and if so, why do breeders choose to remove them?
This guide covers all the ins and outs of what their tails look like when Aussies are born, the benefits and serious consequences of tail docking, and why Kennel Clubs and dog breeders still insist on requiring certain breeds to have their tails docked to comply with breed standards.
First and foremost let’s answer an important question: are Aussies born without tails, or do breeders remove them? Well…it depends.
Meet 5 Australian Shepherds with Long Tails
You can’t learn about full-tail Australian Shepherds without knowing what they look like! Let’s meet a handful of adorable Aussies with long tails whose humans love to show them off on Instagram.
Meet the very handsome Beau, a red merle Australian Shepherd from Northern California with a long, fluffy tail! Beau loves to be outside in any weather and isn’t afraid to get a little cold, wet, or muddy.
Meet Blu, a blue merle Australian Shepherd with tail intact and serious modeling skills. Blu has a smile that could light up a room, and one of the most sought-after Aussie Shepherd coat colorations. One of the few breeds that are commonly merle, Australian Shepherds have truly incredible patterns.
This is Zoe, a black-tri Australian Shepherd with tail intact and a zest for life! Zoe is an amazing catch, even if she looks a little goofy mid-air, she always nabs her prize.
Liam is a gorgeous long-tailed Australian Shepherd living in Italy where he is constantly on new adventures and making new friends. About three years old, Liam is still a young pooch with plenty of globetrotting left to do.
Betty is the inspiration for her human’s line of handmade dog toys and one of the models for their products—who could resist when you see how happy this Aussie is with her long tail waving like a flag?
Are Australian Shepherds Born with Tails?
Do Aussies have tails, or are they born tailless? 80% or 4 out of 5 Australian Shepherd puppies are born with a tail—only 1-in-5, or about 20% are Aussies born without tails. Well, sort of.
Natural bob-tail Australian Shepherds can be born with almost no tail at all, but at least 47% of bob-tail Australian Shepherds have a ¼-length tail or longer—this is usually called a “half tail.” While they do have shorter tails than full-tailed Aussies, they still have tails. Because of these, even natural bob-tail Aussies have their short tails docked.
Let’s review the possible Australian Shepherd tail types and how common they are.
|Australian Shepherd Tail Types at Birth
|% of Australian Shepherds
|Long Tail (full tail)
|Bob Tail (natural)
Is Docking Australian Shepherd Tails Unethical?
If Australian Shepherd have tails but most breeders choose to remove them, it must be completely pain-free and safe, right? Wrong!
The original purpose of docking the tails of Australian Shepherd puppies was preventing injury to working dogs. Australian Shepherds were once primarily used as herding dogs who kept flocks of sheep safely under control and helped move herds from grazing area to grazing area.
An Aussie tail not docked can easily be stepped on, caught up in machinery or gates, and could sustain serious injuries while the dog works. So, when an Australian Shepherd’s tail is docked to keep it safe on the job, docking is ethical.
However, most Australian Shepherds won’t spend their lives herding sheep, and instead become family pets. These dogs don’t experience the same risk of tail injuries, and there is no ethical reason to dock these puppies’ tails. When an Australian Shepherd’s tail is docked for cosmetic reasons, docking is unethical.
Pros of Aussie Dog Tail Docking
The only true pro of docking an Aussie Shepherd tail is to prevent tail injuries for working dogs. In some very rare cases, dogs may need to undergo tail amputation due to injuries—this is the only other ethical situation to remove a dog’s tail.
Cons of Aussie Dog Tail Docking
Believe it or not, the Australian Shepherd long tail adds a lot to your dog’s life! Removing a dog’s tail is not only physically uncomfortable but can also have psychological consequences for the dog. Here are some of the many reasons not to dock Australian Shepherd tails.
- Risk of infection after surgery can easily happen if the wound is not kept clean.
- Reduced ability to communicate—dogs use their tails to tell us and other dogs how they’re feeling! Without a tail, dogs lose a vital method of communicating with us.
- Nerve damage and nerve tumors can develop following tail docking. This can cause chronic pain.
- Reactivity and compulsive behavior directed at their tail or rear end can occur for dogs who experience particularly painful or traumatizing tail dockings.
Aussie with Tail Basic Info
Unfortunately, Kennel Clubs like the American Kennel Club still consider the bob-tail breed standard for dogs like the Australian Shepherd, although most are born with at least a partial tail. Other than tail length, there is no other major difference between purebred Australian Shepherds born with or without tails.
Here we’ll quickly review the basics of Australian Shepherd ownership—whether or not your Aussie has a tail!
Australian Shepherd Temperament
Australian Shepherds are energetic, intelligent, and alert dogs who love to perform tasks and have a job to do whether that be herding sheep or solving a puzzle toy. A little aloof and shy with strangers, Aussies are extremely loving with their families but aren’t always the snuggliest dogs. Sometimes described as independent, Australian Shepherds sometimes treat their humans more like roommates than caregivers.
Because they are a herding breed, Australian Shepherds are tenacious and high-energy. When not properly stimulated, Aussies can turn this energy into obsessiveness and reactivity and can become frustrated quickly. Not a good breed for families with small children, the Aussie is best for an adult-only or older-child household that is active every day of the week.
Australian Shepherd Size
Aussie Shepherds are mid-sized dogs that stand around 18–23 inches tall and weigh around 40–65 pounds.
Australian Shepherd with Tail Health
Having a full tail does not impact the health of an Australian Shepherd—in fact, natural bob-tail and docked Australian Shepherds are more likely to have tail-related health issues. For example, around 10% of natural bob-tail Aussies have a kink in their tail, and dogs whose tails are docked can develop chronic pain from nerve damage. Unrelated to their tails, some health issues to be aware of with Australian Shepherds include:
- Joint issues (e.g. hip and elbow dysplasia)
- Eye and vision problems (e.g. cataracts)
- Dental disease
- Certain cancers
Where To Find an Australian Shepherd with Tail for Sale
To find an Australian Shepherd puppy with tail intact, start by searching for “natural tail” or “long tail Australian Shepherd breeder.” You can also search the American Kennel Club’s marketplace where you can find reputable breeders around the country.
Keep it mind that it’s also possible to adopt Australian Shepherds with long tails! Australian Shepherds and Aussie mixes can often be found in local shelters and humane societies, but you can also find adoptable Aussies at breed-specific rescues like Aussie Rescue & Placement Helpline Inc. and Aussie Retirement Farm.
Do Australian Shepherds Have Tails? FAQ
Now you can confidently answer when anyone asks “does Australian Shepherd have a tail?” it’s time to move on to some of the more in-depth questions about Australian Shepherds.
Do mini Aussies have tails?
We know that Australian Shepherds have tails, but do miniature Australian Shepherds have tails, too? Yes! Like standard Australian Shepherds, miniature Aussie with tail are common, and most bob-tail minis have had their tails docked. Mini Aussies are also sometimes called the “miniature American Shepherd.”
Here’s an example of a mini Aussie with tail intact!
Do toy Australian Shepherds have tails?
Sometimes. “Toy” Australian Shepherds are just miniature Australian Shepherds that have been bred to be even smaller than breed standards. Toy Aussies are not officially recognized by any kennel clubs or breed groups, but you can find examples of the Toy Aussie with tail intact.
Do Australian Shepherds shed a lot?
Yes! Australian Shepherds are moderate to heavy shedding dogs with a double coat that needs to be “blown” once or twice a year.
Why can’t breeders make all Australian Shepherds naturally bob-tailed?
If there are Aussies born without tails, why can’t breeders just make sure all of them are born naturally bob-tailed if that’s what the breed standard calls for? The answer is relatively simple: there is no way to guarantee 100% of a litter of puppies will be born bob-tail without risking their health.
To be a natural bob-tail, Aussies need to inherit one copy of the bob-tail gene. However, if a dog inherits two copies of the bob-tail gene, they will either never make it to full term or will have serious spinal deformities. Some suffer from such serious issues that the puppies need to be euthanized.
Why do Australian Shepherds have white-tipped tails?
Sometimes called a “shepherd’s lantern,” the white tip of an Australian Shepherd’s tail is said to help make the dog more visible in a herd of sheep or in deep grasses.
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