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Is it irresponsible of me to work a springer without a docked tail?

Having spent months researching English springer spaniels, I am at the point of trying to find a reputable breeder. I would like a show-type springer but want to train it to hunt and retrieve.

When I do find suitable show-type dogs, they do not have docked tails. Would it be irresponsible of me to work a springer with a full tail?

Paul Rawlings
I have watched scores of spaniels working over the years, both in the shooting field and in field trials, many of which had tails docked much longer than is normal. Injury was not uncommon, but the length of tail did not seem to be the main problem. It was more a case that if a dog had a very fast tail action then no matter how long or short the tail, damage would occur.

Another factor that can cause tail damage is the amount of coat or feathering on the tail, and most of those springers seen with severe damage had poor feathering, offering little protection. The fashion of leaving tails long to make a spaniel look more stylish has perhaps added to the risk of injury, but not significantly. The longer the tail, the slower it seems to wag, and therefore it will not get damaged as easily as if it had been docked shorter.

Show-bred spaniels with long tails do regularly work in the field and I had the pleasure of judging some at this year’s Crufts. Whenever a spaniel works brambles or thorns, it is being exposed to risk of injury to all parts of its body, not just its tail.