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Statement on Tail Docking

The United States’ English Springer Spaniel breed standard states, in its opening paragraph, that Springers are “….a medium-sized sporting dog with a compact body and a docked tail.” Breed historians note that Spaniels have been depicted with docked tails since the 16th century.
Springer enthusiasts, both field and conformation, dock tails for utilitarian function and to reinforce the breed’s moderate, balanced outline, consistent with proper breed type as defined in the standard.
A docked tail is required by the standard, and natural tails are not customary. For this reason, the standard provides no description of the correct carriage of a natural tail.
Judges are advised that the presentation of the English Springer Spaniel with a natural tail is inconsistent with the breed standard. In the United States, therefore, a natural tail is a fault. It is not, however, a disqualification.
Judges are encouraged to evaluate positive attributes of breed type first and then measure the impact of individual faults on that overall evaluation.
Please note: With regard to the length of docked tails typically seen, conformation judges should be aware that conformation exhibitors leave approximately one-third of the tail’s length, while field trial exhibitors approximately two-thirds. Exhibits in field trial and hunting classes may have longer, though docked tails.
“Our sporting forefathers always docked the tails of their Spaniels … because the Spaniels were used to hunt in close, thicket-like covers …. the active and swinging tail would become lacerated. For the comfort of the dog, it were better to remove just a little less than half.”
-Freeman Lloyd, “Dog Breeds of the World”, September 1935
Approved by the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association
Parent Club of the Breed/USA
February 2004

Message from Laura Burns:
As one of the governors for the ESSFTA, I wanted to alert members of your club about an upcoming vote at the Board of Governors meeting in the first weekend of May. It’s to vote on a new proposal that undocked tails not be considered a fault. I’ve attached the current ESSFTA statement, “Current Tail Docking,” which calls an undocked tail a “fault” but not a “disqualification.” Also attached is the new proposal, entitled “JEC statement on tails” where undocked tails are no longer to be considered a fault. (Note that this new proposal says “approved,” but it’s not yet!)

This is good information for all of your club members, ESSFTA members or not, but any ESSFTA members are welcome to contact me with any thoughts before the meeting on May 3rd. I will happily forward comments. Just so everyone knows, I’m strongly inclined to vote “yes” on this proposal, but if ESSFTA members from WVESSA or PSESSA contact me with a lot of opposition, I will of course reconsider that vote since I represent your club. My reason for voting yes, personal preferences aside, is that allowing undocked tails will make importing and showing of English springer spaniels easier, thus widening our gene pool, which can only be of benefit to the breed.

Please pass on this information to your club.

Laura Burns

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