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Deb Robson and Tussah

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for the sheep!

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« Rare Breeds Survival Trust's 2011 Watchlist for sheep | Main | Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival: Yet another fine time »

May 01, 2011


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lynne s of oz

Wow, Maryland has come and gone another time. Thanks for the well-reasoned article! And the docking of dogs' ears and tails? I was amazed to see more than one Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) with a docked tail in the US - so that they didn't wipe everything off the coffee table and would fit in a crate. A dog that was bred to run 10 or 20 miles in a day locked in a crate, stuck in a house all day....

Susan Gallacher-Turner

What depth of information here, and such a sense of connection to the sheep and wool. I am not a vegan, I do not oppose sheep shearing(having seen one, I know how it's done) so I have no problem using wool. I didn't know about the Merino sheep problem, thanks so much for again, good information.

As a long time dog owner, sitter and trainer, I agree docking tails and ears need to stop especially for 'looks'. That said, did you know, that those fancy, silly poodle cuts were once based on necessity when the breed was used as intended in the field? Helped keep their joints, etc warm and burs, etc out.

Deborah Robson

Lynne, we rescue Border collies in order to get them out of crates and into brain-challenging tasks.

And Susan, isn't that cool about the poodle cuts? I did know that, because we rescued a 10-year-old miniature poodle once. She liked puppy cuts (even all over) and was embarrassed by the fancy cuts. She also didn't do any field work. She was so sweet.


I had no idea that something like mulesing was happening, and I have to admit, I am one of those who generally reacts emotionally and with only half i ofrmation. My husband is the one who checks multiple sources, gets the full story and keeps me in check, in a good way. Thank goodness some one does that or I would be one of those senseless fools.

The tail and ear work on dogs- shameful as far as I am concerned. We should insist that all dog owners who want that get their ears cropped first and then decide about the dog. :)

Your book is an educational work of art. Thank you. I was one of the lucky ones at MDSW. I also watched the blade shearing and it was very educational. The positions of the sheep during the shearing looked weurd but they truly did not struggle or try to escape once settled.

Deb Robson

Glad to hear from you, Linda. Im glad you got a copy of the book at Maryland! It was great fun for us to be there.

I am sort of alarmed at the people who *are* getting their ears reshaped to become elf-like and so on. So I think Id rather people didnt crop their dogs ears even if theyd had their own done {wry grin}.

Lucky that you got to see the blade shearing. Its sort of like the sheep is put into a hammock created by the shearers body. They are weird positions, but when theyre done right the sheep seem to me to be not only tolerant but sometimes a bit amused.

Deborah Robson

My friend Alison in the UK tried to post a comment, but got an error message, and sent it to me privately. I'm going to see if I can get past the error message, because the points she makes are important to this discussion.

She said:

"Below is a comment [Deb's note: Alison had it in blue; I have bolded it] that I was going to post to your blog this morning after thinking quite a bit about whether I should do it or not. So .... after girding myself up to write it, when I went to post it I got an error message saying that the data could not be accepted - I would think it might well have been because it was too long even after some heavy editing on my part.

"So I did some more thinking and decided that I might as well send the comment on to you anyway as I do believe that the information does need to be more widely spread. So very few people know or understand just how very, very important a dog's ears and tail are to its ability to communicate successfully with other dogs, particularly dogs that it does not know.

"When my boys were young I used to work for our vet, a family friend. It was a great job (if you had a strong stomach), I loved it and I was able to work the hours around having small children so as a young mother I had the best of all possible worlds. While there can be no justification for canine mutilation for the sake of a so called dog lover's idea of canine beauty (and don't get me started on the deformed breeds!) I can at least say that docking, properly done by an expert, is pretty much painless to the puppy. Ear cropping most decidedly is not.

"For what it's worth, here is the post:

"I've been following this discussion with so much interest, both the ethics of wool and the food we eat and the docking and cropping of dogs. On that subject, it's worth pointing out that dogs make enormous use of both their ears and their tails in communication with each other. A dog with its ears and tail radically removed so that little more than stumps remain is therefore isolated from other dogs and may have difficulty associating with them because it does not have a full, normal "vocabulary". On the other hand, as with poodle clips, there was originally a reason for tail docking for terriers. Tail injuries, even nowadays, are notoriously difficult to heal and indeed may never heal. Working terriers tails were docked to minimise the risk of injury BUT not to a stump. Depending on the size of the dog the tail was left 4 to 6 inches long. That way the dog could still make full, normal use of the tail and the owner had a "handle" to grab to rescue the dog from trouble, eg if it got stuck down a rabbit hole or in a cairn. There's not even that justification for ear cropping which is hugely more painful for the puppy than docking and requires radical surgery. It was also to minimise injury but for fighting and also make the animal look more aggressive. I'm happy to say it's been illegal here in the UK for more than 100 years as, also, is tail docking now. (Apologies for the long comment - I thought the information was worth getting out there. Alison)"

I agree 100 percent, and am grateful for Alison's perspective.

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