I do not dock tails or remove dewclaws. This page will explain why and give you a bit to think about on the subject.
First, tail-docking. Tail docking is the act of amputating a newborn pup’s tail at 2-3 days old generally without anesthesia. Why? For appearance only. Tail docking in poodles started because of a genuine need for a working dog to have a shorter tail for his own safety (a hunting dog, for example, moves through thick brush a whole lot easier and without injury if he has no long tail to get bashed up, However, currently there is NO need, other than “that’s how we’ve always done it”, to remove any part of a poodle’s tail.
Tail-docking is banned in 36 countries as cruel and, while allowed in the US, is quite controversial. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes tail docking (and ear cropping – not an issue with poodles thankfully) for cosmetic reasons. In 2008, the AVMA passed the following policy: “The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.” They further state: “The only benefit that appears to be derived from cosmetic tail docking of dogs is the owner’s impression of a pleasing appearance. In the opinion of the AVMA, this is insufficient justification for performing a surgical procedure.”
So there is NO justifiable reason to be removing part of a poodle puppy’s tail. It is 100% for looks; done to please people who believe that’s how poodles should look. Nope. Not on my babies. If you’re one of those people, you won’t want one of my pups. My pups all have natural, wonderful tails.
Second, dewclaw removal. Dewclaws are essentially the “thumb” on your poodle’s front feet. (Poodles don’t have dewclaws on their back feet.) Many breeders automatically remove them when the puppy is newborn (between 2-5 days) with no anesthesia. It is a toe that is being completely removed. There are some good reasons to remove dewclaws – particularly when they are floppy and attached only by skin (not attached to the bone), as often happens with back leg dewclaws. Those can get caught and tear – causing painful injury – and are most times best removed to prevent that. However, the dewclaws on poodles are on the front feet and ARE attached to the bone. They are not floppy or at risk of tearing.
Importantly, dewclaws are necessary. They have a function! Dr. M. Christine Fink, an accomplished and well-known veterinarian who works exclusively developing rehabilitation programs for canine athletes who have had performance-related injuries and/or surgery, has an excellent article about the function of dewclaws. (Read it here.) In it, she explains that the dewclaws actually contact the ground when the dog is running, and are used to support the lower leg and prevent twisting while turning during a run. She says, “…the dewclaws have a function. That function is to prevent torque on the leg. Each time the foot lands on the ground, particularly when the dog is cantering or galloping, the dewclaw is in touch with the ground. 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. A lifetime of that and the result can be carpal arthritis, or perhaps injuries to other joints, such as the elbow, shoulder and toes Another of her articles discusses the arthritis much more common in dogs with front dewclaws removed. (Read that one here.) I encourage you to read her articles where it’s fully explained with visuals.
The point is, there is absolutely no reason to remove the dewclaws. They need them, they use them, and because they are indeed connected to bone, they are not in danger of tearing off (as the floppy, unconnected-to-bone rear dewclaws can sometimes be). Taking them off “just because” or “just in case” is a completely unnecessary amputation that predisposes the dog to arthritis and other injuries. I won’t do it to my pups. Two more nails to keep trimmed is worth it to avoid unnecessary amputation of 2 digits on your puppy, no?