Poodle Tails

Poodle Tails: To Dock or Not To Dock

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Carlotta Cooper

Researched & Written by

Carlotta Cooper

At EasyPet, we are committed to presenting the most accurate and up-to-date information to assist you in your pet care journey. When appropriate, we consult licensed and practicing veterinarians to fact-check our professionally written articles.

Poodle tails are iconic. Mention a Poodle and images of prancing dogs in frou-frou hairstyles almost automatically come to mind.

From their topknot to their pom pom tail, Poodles are the glamour dogs of the canine world.

As it turns out, people have lots of questions about Poodle tails. We’ve got the 411 on Poodles and their tails!

Long Poodle Tail

The Why Behind Poodle Tail Docking

Poodles have some very elaborate grooming styles. One of the oldest customs concerning Poodles and their appearance relates to tail docking. You may wonder why Poodles have docked tails. A fair question. It goes back to the original purpose of the Poodle.

Poodles were originally water retrievers, i.e., hunting dogs. That’s right. Long before Poodles were seen in show rings or taught to perform amazing tricks, they were considered rugged hunters, fetching ducks and other water fowl for dinner. Whether that was in Germany or France is still subject to some debate (historians tend to point toward Germany). The dogs were known as Pudels.

The Poodle coat was clipped to keep the water from dragging the dog in the water. The long coat on the chest and other parts were left in place to provide some warmth for the dog in the water.

Their tails were docked for the very legitimate reason that hunters believed that some dogs could injure themselves while hunting if their tails were left long. In fact, Scotland passed a law banning tail docking a few years ago but they had to rescind part of the law relating to hunting dogs for this very reason. Dogs were seriously injuring their tails while working.

Most Poodles are no longer used for hunting, though some are. However, the custom of tail docking remains in place, at least in the United States and some other countries.

Crimped Poodle Tail

Poodle Tail Styles

Whether a Poodle has a docked tail or a long tail, there are a variety of Poodle tail styles:

  • Long tail, tight, curly fur. This is generally how your Poodle’s tail will look if it is undocked and it’s only brushed occasionally. This is like the coat on the rest of the Poodle’s body.
  • Long tail, fluffed fur. If your Poodle has an undocked tail, it can still be fluffed out. It can resemble a fluffy brush.
  • Long tail, fluffed fur combed over the back. For Poodles with undocked tails, the fur can be combed over the back when the dog is groomed. Your Poodle probably won’t keep his tail in this position but it will look nice for a short time.
  • Long tail with a pom pom on the end. If your dog has an undocked tail, you can still use clippers or scissors to produce pom poms on the end of the tail. If you’re not sure how to do this yourself, ask a pet groomer to do it for you.
  • Docked tail, tight curly fur. For Poodles with docked tails, if the tail is ungroomed or only groomed occasionally, it will usually be tight and curly. This is similar to the coat on the rest of the Poodle’s body.
  • Docked tail, fluffed, pom pom (one pom or two poms). If your Poodle is groomed, either for the show ring or simply by a good pet groomer, the docked tail will usually be fluffy with a pom pom on the end of the tail.

Pet groomers can be very inventive so they could come up with other versions of these styles.

To Dock or Not to Dock

Tail docking is legal in the United States. It is legal for some hunting and working dogs in Great Britain but banned for other dogs. Docking is banned in the European Union.

Contrary to popular opinion, the American Kennel Club does not determine which breeds have docked tails. This is the AKC’s policy:

“The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided.”

Breed standards, such as the breed standard for all varieties of Poodles, are made by the parent breed clubs. Parent breed clubs are made up of owners, breeders, and other people dedicated to the breeds.

The breed standard for the Poodle (Standard, Miniature, and Toy), approved by the Poodle Club of America, calls for dogs to have a docked tail.

It’s always up to owners and breeders whether they have Poodles with docked tails. Breeders and owners who intend to show their dogs at dog shows have to dock tails or the animals will be penalized by the judge.

You, as a pet owner, do not have to own a Poodle with a docked tail, however, if the idea of tail docking bothers you. There are breeders in the United States that do not dock the tails of their puppies. If you are looking for an undocked Poodle, you can contact one of these breeders. Or, look for a rescue Poodle that is undocked.

Docked Poodle Tail
Tail docking is done, usually by a veterinarian, when puppies are one to two weeks old. At this age the puppies do not have a well-developed neuro-sensory system. They barely feel the tail docking when they are this age.


Why do they cut Poodle tails?

Poodle tails are traditionally docked because Poodles were used for hunting. Docking the tail was thought to be safer for the dog while he hunted. The same is true for some other hunting and working breeds today.

Other reasons for docking the Poodle tail may include the belief that dogs with docked tails are cleaner. And, in some countries in the past, people were taxed according to dog tails. Having dogs with docked tails meant that they could pay fewer taxes.

Today, Poodles are docked for tradition and appearances. For many people who love Poodles, they don’t look right if they don’t have shortened tails.

Do Poodles need docked tails?

The answer to this question depends on how you define “need.” If you intend to show your Poodle at dog shows in the United States, then yes, your Poodle “needs” a docked tail.

If you hope to hunt with your Poodle (and some people do hunt with Poodles), you may or may not need to have a dog with a docked tail. It probably depends on the terrain where you hunt and how likely your dog is to hurt himself in the field.

However, if you simply want a Poodle as a pet, then he probably doesn’t need to have his tail docked.

Do Poodles have curly tails?

The fur on a Poodle’s tail is curly unless it is clipped and groomed.

As for the tails themselves, if they are left undocked, they are similar to tails on other dogs. They don’t usually wave high over the dog’s back. And, they don’t curl like the tail of a Pug or Basenji. They are simply long dog tails. Poodles move them around like any other dog.

When should you dock a Poodle’s tail?

Poodle tails are docked when the Poodle is a newborn. The usual time frame is within the first week or two after birth. At this time puppies don’t have a well-developed sensory system so there is minimal pain involved.

Veterinarians and breeders are both able to dock tails. Laws can vary by state. It is not a difficult procedure. It can be done quickly by scalpel or surgical scissors; or by using a band which will let the tails fall off in a few days.

Docking the tail of an adult dog is a much more difficult procedure and requires a veterinarian. Most people do not pursue this kind of tail docking. It is usually only done if the dog has a serious injury that requires tail amputation.

Does tail docking hurt Poodle puppies?

Opinions differ on whether tail docking hurts puppies. There is almost certainly some temporary pain associated with tail docking in puppies. Many veterinary associations, especially in the English-speaking world, have suggested that tail docking is painful for puppies, even at a very young age.

Other experts point out that puppies recover from tail docking almost immediately. They return to nursing from their mothers and rarely cry afterwards. They believe that the benefits of tail docking outweigh any temporary pain or upset the puppies may experience.


Tail docking has become a contentious issue not just for Poodles but for many breeds. There have been good reasons for docking tails in the past. Today people are asking if those same reasons are still justifiable. Whether you like Poodles docked or undocked, you can find breeders and rescues that have dogs you might like. Talk to them about tail docking and make up your own mind.

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