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Tail Docking

Statement on Tail Docking

The United States’ English Springer Spaniel breed standard states, in its opening paragraph, that Springers are “….a medium-sized sporting dog with a compact body and a docked tail.” Breed historians note that Spaniels have been depicted with docked tails since the 16th century.

Springer enthusiasts, both field and conformation, dock tails for utilitarian function and to reinforce the breed’s moderate, balanced outline, consistent with proper breed type as defined in the standard.

A docked tail is required by the standard, and natural tails are not customary. For this reason, the standard provides no description of the correct carriage of a natural tail.

Judges are advised that the presentation of the English Springer Spaniel with a natural tail is inconsistent with the breed standard. In the United States, therefore, a natural tail is a fault. It is not, however, a disqualification.

Judges are encouraged to evaluate positive attributes of breed type first and then measure the impact of individual faults on that overall evaluation.

Please note: With regard to the length of docked tails typically seen, conformation judges should be aware that conformation exhibitors leave approximately one-third of the tail’s length, while field trial exhibitors approximately two-thirds. Exhibits in field trial and hunting classes may have longer, though docked tails.

“Our sporting forefathers always docked the tails of their Spaniels … because the Spaniels were used to hunt in close, thicket-like covers …. the active and swinging tail would become lacerated. For the comfort of the dog, it were better to remove just a little less than half.”
-Freeman Lloyd, “Dog Breeds of the World”, September 1935

Approved by the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association
Parent Club of the Breed/USA
February 2004