Three breeds of schnauzers currently exist. The miniature schnauzer is the most popular of the three. Although they are all born with tails, all three breeds are traditionally shown with their tails docked. For this reason, most puppies from hobby/show breeders have their tails docked within several days after birth.
Schnauzers Do Have Tails
Most dogs are born with tails and schnauzers are no exception. However, the schnauzer is considered part of the AKC terrier group, and many of the breeds in that group are traditionally shown with docked tails. This tradition is a holdover from when terriers were working farm dogs that went to ground to hunt vermin. The miniature schnauzer, like many small farm dogs, was bred for this purpose.
Historical Tail Docking
Tail docking has been justified for many reasons throughout history. According to the Schnauzer Club of Great Britain, ancient Romans docked dogs’ tails because they felt that dog tails harbored worms that carried rabies. Tail docking may be performed for the purpose of hygiene, such as when a heavy coat is present around the dog’s anus. Working dogs, including terriers, had their tails docked to prevent injuries while working in the field or in the confines of a tunnel. Even in some countries that generally ban tail docking, some people who own working dogs are allowed to dock their dogs’ tails.
In Europe, the miniature schnauzer standard requires a natural tail, preferably with a sickle or sabre carriage. A natural tail, in most cases, will be carried like that of a husky curled in a loose arc to one side of the other of the dogs’ back. However, some miniature schnauzers are born with naturally bobbed tails. This natural mutation occurs in a number of breeds, including the Boston terrier, French bulldog, schipperke and miniature schnauzer. In some breeds, this mutation can be lethal to embryos and can cause deformities in puppies that survive their birth. In other breeds, natural bobtails are born without the lethal gene, although it is not known what causes the bobtail. The schnauzer is one of those breeds.
Pros and Cons of Docking
According to the AKC standard, the schnauzer should have a high, straight set and should be docked only long enough to show over the back of the dog when shown with a coat of “proper length.” If it is your intent to show your dog or work in the field with your dog, then it is important for his tail to be docked within the first three to five days of his life. Docking at that age is virtually painless, with puppies returning to nursing without discomfort immediately after the tail is surgically removed. Puppies that have their tails docked at that age have no problems with balancing or communicating without their tails. According to the Patterdale Terrier site, a completely docked tail might result in unintended aggression or depression. It may even result in problems sitting or toileting.
- American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Miniature Schnauzer
- Schnauzer Club of Great Britain: Docking and Cropping
- Patterdale Terrier: Pros and Cons of Tail Docking
- FCI Standard N° 183 / 18.04.2007/ GB: MINIATURE SCHNAUZER (Zwergschnauzer)
- Border Wars: A Border Collie Manifesto: Lethal Semi-Dominant: Bobtail
- Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images