(NB: Tail docking is not allowed in some countries)

  • Antiseptic Solution
  • Hat elastic cut into 6"- 9" lengths then soaked in antiseptic solution diluted to hospital strength.
  • Very sharp nail or cuticle scissors (new for each litter)
  • Silver Nitrate pencil or Permanganate of Potash (Condi's Crystals)
  • Cotton buds (Q Tips)
  • Disposable rubber gloves to keep fingers clean of stain.
  • A clean towel to place the puppies on.
  • Tincture of Iodine
  • Additional cotton wool to make bigger swabs for putting Iodine on the elastic twice a day
Docking tails by banding is done when the pups are between 2-4 days of age, depending on the size of the puppies, and can be done in the box when the pups are suckling, or it can be done on a table with the pup placed on a towel.

If performed on the table have someone hold the pup securely to leave both your hands free to band.   Tie the first knot loosely around the tail and move it to the length required (I use the my index finger as a rule.. the width of my finger gives a tail about 3 inches long.   Boxer tails are left longer in the States, so adjust accordingly.   As a rough guide a docked length of 2cm (3/4 inch) will give a three inch tail when grown. ie. 7mm or 1/4 inch per inch required in an adult dog.

Tighten the knot, but not excessively, just enough to make it firm and not slip.  If you are doing this in the whelping box while the pup is suckling, tying the knot firmly will make the puppy release the teat for a moment, but if done correctly will return immediately to suckling!   If the knot is too tight the pups will possibly squirm for an hour of so until they get used to the feel.   Remember firm not tight!

The second knot is then tied.   Make the knots reef knots as they are more difficult for the bitch to undo.   Cut off the ends of the elastic to about 1/2 inch or 1.5cm.   Tinture of Iodine (2.5%) is put on the elastic twice a day using a swab.   The Iodine keeps the skin under the elastic dry and sterile.

NB: If immediately after tying the knot you find you have made the length too long or too short, this is not a drama, as unlike surgical docking, this can be remedied!   Just snip the band off the tail and wait for 10 minutes for the dent in the tail made by the previous band to recover and redo the band at the length preferred.

Measuring length Tying a Reef knot
Measuring the length Tying a Reef Knot
(Note where dewclaw has been removed)

This method does not seem to worry the Dam or the puppies and they continue feeding as normal.   There is no loss of blood when docking the tail this way, and therefore no shock to the puppy's system.   The blood supply is simply cut off to the end of the tail and as the puppy grows it will drop off, leaving a very neat round end.

Kennel management in the following areas is required.
  • You MUST check regularly that the Dam hasn't removed the band
  • You MUST check that the band has not slipped (it won't if it is done firmly)
  • You MUST apply Iodine twice a day religiously.
The tail usually falls off at around the 5th day, depending on how fast the pup is growing.   Sometimes you will find it hanging on by a *string*.   Dip the scissors into the iodine and cut the string to remove the tail.   Dab iodine onto the tail end for a day after it comes off for safety sake.

Dew claws can be done at the same time as banding.   You will need very sharp small scissors.   The best are either cuticle scissors or the ones used to cut a baby's nails.   You will also be needing a silver nitrate pencil or the Potash of Permanganate (Condi's Crystals), as in the " Requirements " photo above, to stop any bleeding, although if done correctly there will be none.   You will also need the cotton bud to apply the dry Condi's Crystals.   Place the scissors in the antiseptic solution, diluted as directed on the bottle for hospital strengh, while you are getting prepared.

Removing dewclaw

Measuring length Tying a Reef knot
Close up of removing dewclaw Applying Condi's Crystals to cut
Have someone hold the puppy laying it gently on its back.   With one hand they use their thumb and forefinger to keep the puppy's head and other foot clear, and with the other hand they hold the each leg in turn, gently pressing on the artery above the dew claw, leaving room for you to manipulate the scissors.   Holding the scissors flat against the puppy's skin and under the dew-claw, cut it away.   Do not cut down into the flesh.   While the other person is still gently pressing on the leg, dip the cotton bud into the Condi's Crystals and dab onto the wound or dab with the Silver Nitrate pencil.   Your companion can then release the pressure on the vein slowly, and you then repeat the procedure on the other side.   Watch for any bleeding during the next hour, but it will be rare.

The benefits of banding the tails and removing dewclaws yourself are:-
  • You do not have to take the bitch or the pups out of your own home.
  • No need to take them to the vet where they could be exposed to infection.
  • No more traumatic car trips to the vet with stressed bitches and puppies
  • Pups can be kept warm easily in cold weather, or cool in hot weather.
  • No stitches to open up and be redone.
  • No loss of a pup through excessive bleeding or shock.
  • Easy to change length if a mistake is made.
5 Minutes after banding and dewclaw removal
Mum and her pups 5 minutes after banding