Procedures like tail docking or dew claw removal were once considered necessary when dogs were strictly workers and put into situations where a shorter tail or lack of dew claw would help them. Tails were docked so that they didn't get caught, injured, aid an attack from an enemy animal, or get in the way of the dog being able to turn in a small space. In current times, however, dogs are doing less sporting and working, and they have become companions (as well as some herding and hunting), and there is no evidence that it is extremely common for dogs to become injured because they have a tail. In fact, according to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, "Professor Sullivan of the University of Glasgow has stated that he has seen probably two or three injured tails in some 60-70,000 dogs over a 20 year period."
Dogs are born with tails and dew claws for a reason, not the least of which actually helps them stay healthy. The Animal Welfare Divisions says that "removal of the tail in an immature puppy may lead to improper development of these muscles (Canfield 1986) and even if in a mature dog, the reduced support for the rectum and anus can lead to rectal dilatation or sacculation and faecal [and urinary] incontinence." The tail also helps dogs to keep their balance so that they can better move around. Dew claws also have a function, contrary to what many people may believe. They are not just random, useless claws too far up on a dog's paw to touch the ground. Dr. Christine Zink, DVM, says that attached to the dew claw are 5 tendons, which of course means that behind those tendons are muscles. Once the dew claw is removed, those muscles will be put out of service, and will become atrophied from disuse. Zink points out that the existence of these muscles are proof of a purpose for the dew claw. The dew claw does touch the ground, especially when the dog is cantering or galloping, according to Zink. "If the dog then needs to turn, the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the lower leg and prevent torque. If the dog doesn't have a dewclaw, the leg twists" (Do the Dew (claws)?). This happening over and over again not only leads to carpal arthritis, but it can also cause injuries to other joints.
Still not convinced? Imagine that adorable little puppy in the window in an immense amount of pain. Sad, isn't it? That is exactly what he went through just to have his tail look more aesthetically pleasing to someone or to avoid his dew claw POSSIBLY getting caught on something one day. Dogs do feel pain, even if they do not show it quite as loudly or for as long as a human would. They usually choose to nurse right after having their tails docked, not only to comfort themselves, but also because endorphins are released when nursing that can help ease their pain. Aesthetic tail dockings are not done under anesthesia, as some people think. The only ones lucky enough to be put under before their tail is cut off are the ones that aren't puppies and may run or bite. The docking is done with what look to be large nail clippers. This being said, a human finger is also an appendage, so a dog's tail being cut off would feel much like a human's finger being cut off...without anesthesia. Fans of tail docking argue that very young puppies have an underdeveloped nervous system still so they are unable to feel this pain. The Animal Welfare Divisions are quoted in "The Whole Truth About Tail Docking" by Victoria Swanson as stating that this concept is now known to be untrue. Robert K. Wansbrough of the Animal Welfare Divisions says, "Puppies are usually subjected to this pain and trauma at 2 to 5 days of age when the level of pain would he much greater than an adult would experience because the afferent stimuli reaching the dorsal horn from a greater density of sensitized cutaneous nociceptors will exceed that of the adult and the strength and frequency of painful stimuli reaching the brain will he greater because inhibitory pain pathways will not be developed.” More simply put, their underdevelopment puts them in even more pain.
Tail docking can even increase aggression in dogs, because they can no longer raise their tail to make themselves look big or tuck their tail to show submission. This inability to properly show emotions will cause a dog to have a need to show his aggression another way (growling, biting, or even full on attacking).
Even though these painful procedures may have once been considered necessary, dogs today are being subjected to amazing amounts of pain and increased health problems "just in case." The injuries that may be caused by an in tact tail or dew claw are rare and usually not even very serious. Most of the time, basic first aid is all that is required. Dozens of countries, including but not limited to, Italy, Canada, Australia, Austria, France, Greece, and Poland, have already banned the tail docking procedure. For a country that claims to want to outlaw animal cruelty, there should be more research and work done toward banning dew claw removal and tail and ear docking in the United States.
For more information about dew claw removal, watch the video Dew Claws Do Have a Purpose, and consider whether these procedures are really necessary for your dog.