Docking puppy tails can be a daunting experience for even the most experienced breeder. The first Wheaten bitch I ever got, had a tail that was a bit short – so I over compensated with my first litter and they ended up with tails that were as bit too long. Since then, I have developed some guidelines to go by.
First, it has been my experience that fat stubby tails do not seem to grow as long as expected. Skinny tails, on the other hand, seem to stretch out more as the puppy grows. That should be kept in mind when its time for marking.
When the puppies are about three days old, I put them in my lap, and using a ruler, I measure from the Anus to the tip of the tail. Then I hold the tail at a half-way point, to see how it would look if it were to be docked there. With my other hand, I hold the puppy under it’s head, lift it up and sort of let it hang in the air. Looking at the puppy like that, the half-way point of the tail should be approximately at the midpoint of the neck. (See illustration #1)
Then I take a small, sharp, and preferably blunt-nosed scissors, and cut about a 1/4 inch notch off the tail hair to mark the cutting point. (See illustration #2)
You then have the ability to look at the mark afterwards, and if, as an afterthought, you have marked the tail too short or too long, you can tell your Vet to dock it at the top or at the bottom of the marking. Marking tails like that helps you evaluate the total balance of the dog and hopefully get a pleasingly balanced outline.