Sat, 03/07/2020 - 5:29pm

Getting Vocal

A breeder's evolving opinion on natural tails and debarking

Throughout the years, Norfolk and Norwich terriers were never considered a high-entry breed as their dams for the most part produced small litters. In 2015, if I remember correctly, Norfolk independently registered 186 of the breed with AKC.

The numerical registration from then to now hasn’t changed much, putting the breed into the low-entry category. This is affecting the gene pool of both breeds. Many breeders, including myself, have turned our attention to those countries that do not permit docking, as we have imported both beautiful Norfolk and Norwich. Their country of origin is the U.K.; therefore, many a good dog with a natural wagging tail has come from that part of the world. Both breeds in this country call for a docked tail yet the parent clubs have amended their thinking by adding a statement to accommodate the natural tail without changing the standard. The Norfolk entry all four days this past Montgomery weekend had a large number of wagging natural tails.  

What is a breeder to do if they have an arrangement to send a dog to a foreign country not permitting docking? At three to five days when a breeder would normally dock tails, how is that breeder to determine who in the litter would be show worthy to fly off to a foreign country?

That brings me to a situation I faced many years ago. The tails remained on a lovely litter of Norfolk pups, one of which destined to move on to a European country that did not permit docked tails in the show ring. The deposit for the pup had been received, still the decision was made to dock the tail on this pup because it was doing well in the show ring. Obviously the deposit was returned. This Norfolk was over the age of one year. In short time an infection set in, even though the vet who did the process was highly thought of, the ill tail took months to heal. At one time I was adamant that we continue to dock tails, but my thinking is slowly but surely changing. To date  six (or is it seven?) of my Norfolk have become champions with their natural tails waving in the breeze. 

And what is one to do when you’ve imported a beautiful Norfolk to be bred into your line and exhibited as well. In my case the breeder would like the dog returned to the U.K. after it completes its U.S. career. I’ve actually had an AKC judge suggest I dock the tail. I’m certainly not an animal activist, but never would I consider docking an older dog other than for medical reasons.

These aren't the early beginnings of my breeds. We’re well into it, and now have to contend with both docked and natural tails. Think of the Affenpinscher; more and more are being exhibited with natural tails. The knowledgeable judge when before a natural tail exhibit will look at the overall dog. Inspect every inch of the dog from nose to tail. And when he comes to the tail looks at the base. Is the set correct? Is there a shelf behind the tail? Does the exhibit have a good turn of stifle, does the tail lie on the dog’s back or is it rather jaunty held high? 

There are many points to be looked at by the judge, but for a judge to tell a breeder or handler, “You should dock the tail” … Do you think that’s the judge’s job? Hell, no! And as a breeder am I to telephone judges to find out if they object to natural tails? By the way no exhibitor should call judges. Judges, open your eyes as some of the breeders have, and look at the imported dog, tail and all, fair and square.

So breeders, handlers, judges, parent clubs: It isn’t a question of what you prefer, docked or natural. It is a question of what you’ll accept in the year 2020. I commend the judges who have looked at the entire picture and thank those who have awarded my tail wagging Norfolk her championship, her Group placements, Group wins and her Best in Shows.

Another topic I want to explore is debarking. I never accepted the reasoning to debark a dog. Again, I’m not an animal activist, but I believe I know right from wrong. The truth be told, debarking is for the ease of the breeder/owner who houses many dogs and must keep the barking level down. I do know there are some, including those in the fancy who I admire, who debark their dogs.

My own experience has been pretty crappy. By the way, I’m not the one who initiated the debarking -- I’m just the one watching a number of my Norfolk pay the price for this inhumane act as the Norfolk reaches the age of five, six or seven. Here, too, the vet who performed the surgery is of high quality. I strongly believe vets who accommodate the request really don’t get to see the dog beyond its early years if the dog is with someone other than the breeder/owner. They don’t get to see a struggling Norfolk once it is back home for one reason or another with the breeder/owner, trying to bark normally and can’t.

A debarked dog in a multi-dog situation has a hard time; take my word for it. It has happened to my Norfolk time and again in their middle years. The scar tissue grows, making it almost impossible but surely uncomfortable for the dog to express himself. I know of a debarked bitch to be rehomed who was at the vet to be spayed. The vet couldn’t get the tube comfortably down her throat so he opted for a cat tube; she was I believe six years old.

Recently a wonderful woman rescued a Norfolk. In this situation the first person who had the dog dumped on her decided to spay the little bitch. In order to operate the vet used a cat tube, and thereafter the bitch was put up for adoption. Lucky little bitch, as she’s now in wonderful hands. The first and second vets decided scar tissue was the culprit.

The multi-Best in Show Norfolk residing at my house is going through hell. It started at age seven. First in his discomfort he destroyed his bedtime crate towel and that created blockage. Major operation. For the last six months he has been acting almost deranged, breathing hard, trying but can’t bark. At breakfast time he becomes agitated, turning him into a mess. His saliva pours out, covering his mouth, down his chest and onto his front legs. Yes, he has had a complete checkup numerous times. The veterinarian’s indications show the culprit is scar tissue. To further operate may cause more problems, including additional scar tissue, so an operation is out of the question. Now he is on a drug to keep him somewhat calm.

I realize there are dogs that have been debarked without incident and all is good, but it will never be good for me. I might add I never initiated the debarking, but stupidly I allowed myself to be in a situation having to pay for it. In these last years thankfully there’s been no debarking; a barker, whether at my handler’s or my house, is taken out of the situation as he should be.

In conclusion: I accept the natural tail and will never debark a dog. What about you?



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