How Dog Ear Cropping Is Done

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Ears perform some vital functions for dogs. They are powerful hearing devices and effective means of communication. In certain breeds, they are floppy to protect the vulnerable ear drums from invading insects or rain. In others, they are raised high on the top of the head to function as state-of-the-art hearing aids. So when the question "Should a dog's ears be mutilated?" arises, the answer should be a bold and loud "NO" even if only the ear tips would be affected.

After all, would you, as a sound of mind human, want your ears chopped off? Unless there would be a good medical reason, the answer should ba a loud and bold "NO" as well. The worse fact is that ear cropping in dogs are performed mainly for aesthetic reasons.

Having worked at a veterinarian hospital, I remember my first encounter with an ear cropping case. A couple had scheduled an appointment with me to have their Pitbull terrier's ears clipped. Unknowingly, I thought the dog's ears needed the hair clipped so I scheduled it as a normal appointment. When the owner asked me how long it would take and I told them 15 minutes, they looked very surprised. Only after taking them in the room have I realized they were really referring to an ear crop! That was embarrassingly the day I learned about this uneccessary procedure.

After that famous day, I have witnessed various ear croppings. Aside from the sadness of seeing those precious ear tips fall to the ground, I noticed that recovery was often hastened by complications and that sometimes the ears would not stand up as requested, necessitating further surgeries to correct the unwanted floppiness.

While ear croppings are not strictly dictated by many AKC breed standards, dogs of certain breeds with uncropped ears are often severely penalized, This makes it sound like if a Doberman does not comply with this standard, it is denied the right to be called a Doberman.

Breeds Affected by the Ear Cropping Trend

  • Boxers
  • Schnauzers
  • Great Danes
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Miniature pinschers
  • American Pit bull Terriers

A Closer Look Into the Procedure

In order for ear croppings to be effective, puppies must undergo this procedure at a very tender age, usually between 7-12 weeks old. General anesthesia is performed and comes with the potential risks involved in operating on such young pups. About 2/3 of the ear is removed during the procedure along with important nerve endings. Stitches are then applied throughout the cut and the pup's ears will have to be bandaged for several weeks.

Ear cropping is not an easy procedure. Not many vets are trained on how to perform them appropriately and abiding to the breed's standards. Bandaging to maintain the erect position may be necessary for extended periods of time post surgery. Many times these bandages will need to be checked and replaced by the veterinarian every week. Worse, the procedure comes with its usual risks such as the risks of general anesthesia and post surgery complications.

Ears may develop infections or bleeding. On rare occasions, they may need to be amputated should major complications arise.

A dog with cropped ears will have painful and sensitive ears for weeks following surgery. Some may develop phantom pains just as any amputated body part. Regardless of the expensive and unneccessary surgery, there still are no guarantees on the success rate of the procedure.

A common alarmed call I used to get was from owners concerned that, post ear cropping, their pup's ears were still not standing up. I have witnessed owners putting so much emphasis on keeping those ears straight up that they have actually caused more problems in their pups than necessary. I have heard of owners giving extra calcium supplements along with vitamin D to increase the ear's portability, only to have created major growth problems due to over supplementation.

Banning Ear Cropping

It comes as no surprise that the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals has focused on banning ear cropping and tail docking. According to Wikipedia, England and Wales have effectively set an example by considering these illegal practices to such an extent that dogs with cropped ears are actually prohibited from entering in any Kennel club event!

Of course, with the practice of ear cropping comes a multitude of people defending this practice. Excuses include medical benefits of lowering chances of ear infections and general injuries. Such excuses are unacceptable and unethical. Of course, the less of an ear means the less of a chance of ear problems and so forth. If we would adhere to such excuses, then we can cut off toes to lessen the chances of pododermtitis, we we cut off tails to lessen the chances of tail infections and so forth in a mutilation spree of body parts.

Others may state the procedure is not painful to the pup. Of course, while under surgery there will be no pain, but there is strong evidence of pain upon awakening from the anaesthesia and during recovery as the pup yelps as it bumps his ears against surfaces. It is no wonder why vets offer the option of taking home pain meds when the dog is discharged from the hospital after an ear cropping.

Ear cropping for cosmetic reasons is really unacceptable.

Dogs are not fashion accessories. Dogs are living creatures. They deserve to have their ears the way nature intended to. As humans we have no right whatsoever on deciding on their behalf, especially for futile cosmetic reasons. My verdict is therefore that ear croppings should not only not be permitted but should actually be illegal. Dogs have ears for a reason. By cropping them, we are not listening to nature's will.

Viewer Discretion Advised

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 27, 2020:

And how stupid are we humans? First we domesticate dogs and floppy ears appear, then we want them cropped! And mostly for cosmetic reasons! Truth is, researchers have found out that erect ears can be predisposed to ear infections just as floppy ears. Indeed, to prove this, see how often German shepherds are seen for ear infections. At the vet's office we saw too many!

Floppy ears also protect the ears from pesky bugs, fox tails and debris which can penetrate the ear canal. Dogs with floppy ears can hear well, indeed many guard dogs are floppy-eared, think Rottweilers and mastiffs.

Other than the physical part of docking and cropping we also need to look at the emotional part. Dogs use their bodies for communication. Chopping off body parts doesn't help with that and interferes with their natural expression.

Indeed, docking and cropping has been even made illegal in many countries due to the fact that it's considered a mutilation. More and more vets are refusing to participate in this practice. Veterinary organizations of course, are reputable enough to know what's best for dogs. Soma the AMVA and WSAVA, have position statements against this practice.

If floppy ears are not welcomed, we have the choice of picking another breed that comes with natural erect ears.

Bella on August 26, 2020:

Actually it’s humans fault with their altering of breeds is why dogs have floppy ears in the first place. It’s not natural for a dog to have floppy ears as it causes many infections and loss of hearing. The wolves from which our pooches descended from do not have floppy ears. Therefore they shouldn’t have them either. People who are against only look at the physical part of ear cropping and tail docking, but not the internal DNA part of it our dogs were not meant to have floppy ears.

Katherine Chapman on July 27, 2020:

First of all That certainly doe NOT look like a Vet cropping this dogs ears!!??? No vet has a small round table,with no overhead lighting etc,,this is just a person or BYB..Second this isnt a 7 or 8 week old pup,,its clearly almost full grown...If vets stop cropping and docking tails of purebred dogs it will only encourage idiots like this guy to do it!! . I have a 9 yr old Redg Bouvier who had his ears cropped at 10 days old by his breeder..His tail was docked at 3 days old..Bouviers natural ears are really long and the hair inside grows continuously and causes ear infections, from moisture from all the hair,,their tails are heavy and prone to injury, from being banged into things (Happy Tail}, If youve ever tried to heal a tail bone injury you'd understand why theyve been docked for nearly 100 yrs..Its NOT just for looks!!! Banning licecned vets from cropping and docking is what is causing puppies pain and suffering !!! Id much rather have vets doing it with anesthetic and pain meds then owners.,breeders and BYBs..Just because its banned doesnt mean people wont do it!!!

Tiffany on January 16, 2018:

Yikes this looks

Tc on January 16, 2017:

Just gunna point this out....

By deciding to have a dog as YOUR PET, THAT choice stripped the dog of its rights... THAT choice is the only one relevant. You're disgust with ear cropping is irrelevant because (assuming you own a PET) you made the choice to enslave it, therefore its rights were entirely stripped at the moment you took ownership of it.

vanessa on June 13, 2012:

You know?I was going to get my pitbull puppys hears cropped,but after seeing how its done I might just change my mind i was crying when I seen the video on how to do it.If i still consider on doing it i know I cant watch it be's to painfull just to watch this video and that's not my dog.It's not just up to me though I'm married and it is my husband that mentioned he wanted it done when we got her.Thanx for the video it opened my eye's to what I did not know about ear cropping.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 24, 2012:

When you work for a shelter and see countless dogs put to sleep every day you understand why neutering and spaying is important.There is no comparison..

Cobra on April 24, 2012:

So ear cropping is considered mutilation, but it's ok to rip out the uterus ovaries and testicles of thousands of animals each year? Would you want Your balls chopped off? The answer should be a loud and bold "NO"

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 14, 2012:

Wow, I cannot imagine doing an ear crop without anesthesia! people doing that deserve being prosecuted for animal abuse

dog owner on February 14, 2012:

I agree with the person that said akc should no longer make it a requirement because breeders have taken it further and are cropping pups at their kennels with no anastesia.I would love to see someone do that to them.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 16, 2011:

Sierra, just found this petition here:

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 15, 2011:

Sierra, just to clarify, -and I am sure you mean well and will not copy my content- I am afraid you are only allowed to put a link to my hub and perhaps a few words like ''for further information you can visit this hub''. Hubpages has a plagiarism detection tool and it reports to me if any of my hubs are copied or there is similar information. There are petitions on ear cropping and I have signed a few, apparently not enough to make a real change. I would love it if there were more and more blogs and websites educating people about these cosmetic procedures. Kind regards, alexadry.

Sierra on November 15, 2011:

First off i have to commend you for having a heart and soul and speaking out against this. Also I am starting a blog and would love to use some of the information you provided in the blog and would like to link this page on my blog so they can see all of your thoughts. I also wonder if there is some sort of petition going around? Maybe if enough people sign it laws will change here!

nate on October 05, 2011:

yuliya, getting an animal fixed is for a very important reason. Every year thousands of cats and dogs are put down because there are not enough adoptive homes available. Of course I would prefer to not put my pet through it but if it means that I can stop an unwanted litter, so be it. Cropping does more bad than good and shows that the owner views their pet as an object.

yuliya on September 12, 2011:

I am amazed at people who are against ear cropping but in full support of spaying and neutering. It's not ok to crop the ears but it's ok to promote spaying and neutering every pup in sight? And even to pass the mandatory spay and neuter laws?! Are those surgeries not painful? Or is it ok because they save lives? Responsible dog ownership will save lives without unnecessary surgery.

I fully believe in free choice. It's my choice to do the ears or not, it's my choice to spay and neuter or not.

you want to make a difference - educate people. To hell with all those stupid laws.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 28, 2011:

I will get real but reality often hurts. Why do you think all Banfield vets have stopped cropping and thousands of vets in over 20 countries world wide? They KNOW it is painful and I can provide ample of literature to back that up. But you want the biggest truth? If ALL ear croppers could donate their money to dog charities instead of spilling their money out for useless, expensive surgeries, there would be less dogs being euthanized in shelters...this is what is truly painful to hear..

ZeusMontrose on August 28, 2011:

If the doctors knew it wouldn't cause a major amount of pain to the puppies, they wouldn't do it. This is the reason they do this at 8-12 weeks of age. I have a Doberman Pinscher puppy and he just had his ears done. He is in no pain and is the happiest puppy ever. You may have an opinion on this subject but stop hugging trees and get real. If you were really concerned about animals, put a stop to the SPCA euthanizing animals because they cannot find a home. That to me seems more painful than an ear cropping.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 10, 2011:

Taylor, it is no longer just my OPINION, there are countless vets reporting this procedure to be inappropriate and more than 25 countries have banned it. And comparing it to vaccinations is like comparing apples to oranges. My friend lost her dobie pup under the knife for an ear crop, she now regrets losing her precious pup for just cosmetic surgery!

taylor on April 08, 2011:

if you don't like ear cropping then don't look, don't do it, i love it and want my dogs ears done, ASAP, we cut off stuff, make our kids get vaccine that they don't have to have or are not proven to treat or provent certain dieases, so sweep around ur on door step before you voice your opinion of what others like, and it is YOUR OPINION, i hope it stays in practice and i am looking for someone to do it for me today

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 21, 2011:

Steph, your case is medically necessary and you are doing the best for your pup, best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Steph on January 21, 2011:

My poor dog has a cut at the tip of his ear that won't heal (it's been 1 month) and we have to have his ear partially amputated to a point at which the blood supply is sufficient for it to heal properly. I was looking for info on this and came across your site. It's always astounding to me that people do these procedures as elective/cosmetic surgeries!

I don't want to put my poor pup through this, but we have no choice at this point. Antibiotics, steroids, etc., have had no effect and his ear just looks worse and worse.

Vics on November 18, 2009:

This is absolutely disgusting! The AKC clearly have no morals and those people who have dogs and do this just for show ought to be banned from being pet owners. Next thing they'll be cutting their kids ears off!

Barbara C from Andalucia, Spain on November 01, 2009:

I applaud you for writing this hub and hope that it reaches as wide an audience as possible to outlaw this evil and unnecessary practice.

I live in Spain and come across so many cruel and heartbreaking things that I try to speak out against as much as possible - it's what we HAVE to do!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 31, 2009:

Trust me,I wish I had the power to do so but its like talking to deaf ears (pun intended). I am visiting family in Italy right now and on the news a few days ago they said that in Italy it is against the law and considered now literally a torture! I applaud this country that even if behind in many things has demonstrated great moral support for our canine friends!

boxer owner on October 31, 2009:

perhaps you should put your passion for anti-ear cropping to good use and tell the akc to no longer make it a requirement for show-status.

Dog Ear Cropping

Also referred to as docking, ear trimming or otoplasty, ear cropping involves removal of part of a dog’s ear. The process results in the left cartilage standing erect. Dog ear cropping is popular in specific breeds such as Pitbulls, Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Schnauzers, Great Danes and Boston Terriers.

The practice of ear cropping was established centuries ago. Traditionally, pit bulls were used for bull baiting. They were therefore historically cropped to avoid getting hurt during fights. With time, this became known as their signature look. Currently, people mostly crop their dog’s ears for cosmetic reasons especially for dogs participating in shows.

Dog Ear Cropping Procedure

When you take your pup to the vet for the operation, they may allow you to watch it or not. Generally, here is what to expect when undertaking the dog ear cropping procedure:

  1. When a dog is taken in for ear cropping, it will have the initial general examination done after which it is put under an anesthesia.
  2. Once done, the surgeon trims off any unwanted ear tissue depending on the owner’s chosen cropping style.
  3. The incisions done on the ears are then closed with sutures.
  4. To keep the ears upright, a special paper or metal rack is used.
  5. After about two or three weeks, the sutures are removed and wrapping tape and splints used to keep the ears upright to avoid flopping. If this is not done right, the cropping results could be undesirable.

How to Crop Dog Ears at Home

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Most Doberman Pinchers have cute upright ears and docked tails. The breed should bear such an appearance, well according to many people. The idea of having a Dobie with hanging ears and a long tail is a strange affair to them. Ear cropping doesn’t happen to Dobies only. Other common breeds that have their ear pinna chopped off are Boston Terriers, Great Danes, Boxers, Pit Bulls, Miniature Pinschers, and Schnauzers. These breeds feature a traditional look that constitutes a huge part of their past. To keep the standard appearance, some pet parents choose to do ear cropping. Granted, ear cropping is best performed at a dog hospital by a trained and licensed vet but you can do it at home as well. In this guide, we take you through the entire process and a few extra tips.

What Is Ear Cropping?

Simply put, ear cropping is a surgical procedure in which a dog’s ears are modified. A vet cuts part of ear pinna (or the floppy part) and re-shapes it with the end result being erect ears. The invasive procedure is performed on an anesthetized dog between 6 and 12 weeks of age. After cropping, the remaining part of the ears is fastened to a tough vertical surface for a number of weeks until the ears remain upright.

In ancient times, the practice of reducing and reshaping a canine’s ear was majorly done for safety reasons. If your dog had hanging ears, he was an easy target for the enemy. The attacker could easily grab onto the ear leather using their jaws and overpower the dog. This was particularly true for canines that participated in dog fighting events. Being that a large part of the pinna is literally inexistent, the opponent had very little to grapple with. Ear cropping was also carried out to avert infections. Today, dog owners who go this route do it to achieve a breed standard or just modify the appearance of their pup for their pleasure.

Benefits of Ear Cropping

  • Reduces Infections: Pet parents who crop their pup’s ears defend their choice with the usual infection prevention principle. Hanging ears are thought to attract moisture and heat on the inside which inevitably invites infection. Ear cropping chops off the excess skin and does away with the problem of heating and moisture. However, it has been shown that taking away part of the ear doesn’t really provide a solution. Both cropped and droopy ears show no difference as far as ear infections is concerned. Plus, most of the dog breeds that are notorious for ear cropping aren’t even prone to ear cropping in the first place. So, the whole idea of cropping to reduce ear infections is subjective.
  • Improves Hygiene: It is fairly easy to clean cropped ears than saggy ones. Also, with the absence of most of the leather, less dirt and moisture find their way to your pup’s ears.
  • Better Sound Detection: The cropped ear resembles the natural shape of a dog’s ear. Because of that, a Fido with erect ears may have an easy time detecting sounds because they are localized.
  • Safety Reasons: If your dog is always out hunting or participating in dog fights, trimming his ears off may help keep him safer. Other dogs or animals won’t have plenty of excess skin to grab or bite into. The chance of an injury on the leather is practically low.

Does Ear Cropping Hurt Dogs?

Ear cropping is a sensitive topic in the dog world. Some people strongly believe it is unnecessary and actually does more harm than good. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are pet parents that don’t have any quarrels with it at all. As a matter of fact, a number of countries don’t allow it completely. These include the U.K. Australia and other parts of Europe. The surgical procedure is legal in the U.S. although a number of states have drafted legislation to stop it but none has gone through.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) doesn’t exactly oppose the practice claiming it defines and sustains the breed character. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) strongly opposes it terming it as unnecessary and harmful.

So does it hurt a dog?

Well, there are two sides to the coin here. Most canines with cropped ears don’t develop any issues whatsoever. During the actual procedure, they are unconscious and feel no pain at all. After the surgical procedure, the dog is often put on painkillers and antibiotics and given time to heal. Healing takes a number of weeks after which the canine returns to normalcy. Obviously, he will take time to get used to having tiny ears but he will eventually adapt.

On a less-positive side of things, ear cropping can have adverse effects on the canine. First off, if no anesthesia is used, pain is inevitable. Even when anesthesia is used, some pups may develop complications such as kidney and liver failure, allergies, respiratory depression, clotting disorders, vision impairment, and seizures.

Once in a while, the surgical area can develop infections and may need to be amputated if symptoms persist. Then there’s the psychological torture that your pup may have to deal with for the rest of his life. Surgery stresses the poor dog as he doesn’t know what is happening to him. The recovery process can also be overwhelming. If you are unlucky, the procedure might cause him to develop fear and anxiety towards vets and dog hospitals.

How to Crop Your Dog’s Ears At Home

Ear cropping is an invasive surgical procedure. To be safe, it is a good idea to have an experienced and licensed vet do it. However, if you think you have what it takes to do the procedure, go ahead. Here is a step-by-step procedure.

Things to Consider

1. The Right Age to Crop

Before buying any essentials, there are things to keep in mind. For one, make sure your puppy’s age is right before taking him through the procedure. Ideally, he shouldn’t be under 7 weeks and not over 12 weeks. After week 16, the tissue in the ears may have permanently formed that getting the ears to stand upright is impossible. A puppy that’s younger than 7 weeks old has immature cartilage. While you can get your pup’s ears cropped at any age, it is important to keep in mind that the process is more traumatic and painful for older dogs.

2. Styles

Whether you are trimming the ears of a Doberman Pinscher, a Boxer, or Pitbull, there are different styles to choose from. You can choose a long crop which leaves more than half of the ear. The show crop is relatively shorter than the long crop but longer than the short crop which is much lower in length. The last style, the battle crop is pretty much everything except a small piece of the ear.

The style chosen should depend on the goal of the crop, his skull’s shape, and the firmness of the ear. Research and check out actual dogs of the breed in question that have undergone the crops.

Before The Procedure

Even though you are flexing your DIY muscles on your dog, you might want to take a trip to the dog hospital before chopping his ears off. Apparently, not all canines can handle anesthesia. A quick blood test should reveal whether yours can or not. Once you get the green light, go ahead and gather your tools.

What You Need

  • Scalpel or a sharp kitchen knife
  • A numbing agent
  • Sterilized scissors
  • Antiseptic (Neosporin or peroxide)
  • Bandage
  • Ear forceps
  • Marker
  • Porous tape
  • Large drinking straws

Steps to Follow

  1. Sterilize the Equipment: Grab all your cutting stuff like the scalpel and scissors and place them in a pan with boiling water for 30 minutes. This eliminates microbes that could be transferred to the dog. If you have bleach or isopropyl, use that instead then rinse in boiling water before making use of the tools.
  1. Administer the Sedative. Prior to the procedure, be sure to know how much of the sedative to inject on your pooch. Your vet should be able to help you with this. Give it a few minutes until your pup is motionless on the table.
  1. Use the marker to define the area that needs to be chopped off. This is based on your choice of style.
  1. Use the scalpel or kitchen knife and carefully trim the “unwanted” part of the ear. Hold the ear with the forceps during the procedure.

5. Once you are satisfied with the results, stitch your dog up. Then bandage him.

6. After a week or so, tape the ears to train them to be upright. Do this only after the wound has dried up. To make the hard surface, wrap porous tape over a large drinking straw several times. Use more tape to stick it into the ear and keep the ears vertical.

Dog Ear Cropping Aftercare

After you’ve successfully cropped your dog’s ears, you should take care of it to ensure smooth and faster healing. The following aftercare tips will come in handy:

  • Keep the ears clean: Ensure that the wounded or bandaged areas are as clean as possible. We recommend cleaning them twice a day using Neosporin and peroxide. Keeping the ear clean will prevent infections that may necessitate costly trips to the vet.
  • Use a cone around the neck to prevent injuries. The E-collars help prevent the dog from scratching and messing his cropped ears, which may result in more stress.

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  • Get rid of scabs as soon as they appear. Scabs prevent your pup’s ears from standing after healing. To lessen the pain when taking them off, soak the dog’s ears in warm water before you begin removing them.
  • Closely monitor your pup and report any strange thing to the vet. Even if you use a cone the tape or rack on the dog’s ears, your pup is far from comfortable as the dog may rub or hit his head against objects, which may cause him further pain. If you notice any signs of infection, call your vet right away so that he can examine the dog, help you clean the ear, and prescribe the necessary antibiotics.
  • Always follow your vet’s instructions: Listen and implement everything your vet recommends. Notify your vet if you notice complications like bleeding or discharge from your dog’s ears, signs of severe pain, gapping of the wounds, excessive chewing or licking of his ears, diarrhea, vomiting, refusal to eat, or any other strange behavior.
  • Feed your dog nutritious diet to boost his immunity and speed up his recovery.

Cropped Ears Are Not Erect. What Could Be The Problem?

Generally, most dogs’ ears will stand erect after a cropping procedure—the success rate of the procedure is relatively high. However, other factors like length of the crop, breed, and genetics may determine how soon and how effective the ears will stand erect. Some of the factors that may contribute to unsatisfactory results include:

  • Dogs with cartilages that is too weak to support the weight
  • The ear crop is too long
  • Formation of scar tissue on your dog’s ears
  • Inappropriate aftercare (we advise owners to follow all the aftercare tips and everything their vets recommend)

Final Thoughts

There it is – a detailed guide on how to crop your dog’s ears at home. No matter your experience in the practice, it is prudent to have the detailed procedure done by an actual vet and at the dog hospital. It can go sideways, real fast. You don’t want to gamble with your pup’s life. Most importantly, ensure that you have enough time to dedicate to any aftercare steps needed.

Why Crop a Dog’s Ears?

We can all agree that we are a nation of animal lovers. Therefore, most of us would rightly be angry knowing that dogs are having essential parts of their bodies removed for cosmetic reasons. Yet we may walk past a dog like this every day, follow them on social media or even own one. We are talking, of course, about cropped ears. What is ear cropping? Why is it such an issue? And how, despite being illegal, is this still an issue you should be concerned about?

What is Ear Cropping?

Ear cropping is the act of removing part (or sometimes all) of a dog’s ears, and is often followed by taping the remaining ear upright so that it heals vertically, giving the ears an upright triangular appearance, rather than the hanging-down floppy ears of most dogs. Breeds where cropping is prevalent are Dobermanns, American bullies, pitbulls, Staffordshire bull terriers and other similar breeds. Do note that some breeds have naturally upright ears like huskies, German shepherds, westies and corgis.

Why is it done?

The practice has been performed since ancient times for a number of reasons – there was a belief (which is not unfounded) that long hanging ears are more likely to get ear infections, become damaged or swell with blood. As many dogs back then were hunting dogs or sheepherders, there was some evidence this was correct.

There was also a belief that dogs with cropped ears could hear better, as they could more easily swivel their ears in the direction of sound, versus uncropped normal ears. Cropping was normally carried out on very young puppies by their owner with shears, using no pain relief.

In modern times, cropping is mainly performed for purely cosmetic reasons. Many people like the look, believing it makes the dog look fierce, or more natural (like wolves that have upright ears). This can be made worse as some official breed standards are not unclear if some ears should be ‘upright’ an example of this is The Kennel Club (KC) website, which states that Dobermanns should have ears that are “normally dropped, but may be erect”. Dobermanns do not often have erect ears without being cropped, so this statement could be interpreted as saying that cropped ears are acceptable.

The KC have banned competing dogs with cropped ears – but you have to dig into the small print to find this! Social media, as it often does, worsens this trend further. The high prevalence of dogs with cropped ears can make the look seem normal. All these factors contribute to the reason why many people do not know that ear mutilation is still taking place around the world and is not normal.

The Problems with Ear Cropping

The biggest issue with ear cropping is that it is unnecessary mutilation and a non-essential procedure. Traditional cropping performed by owners is painful, stressful, potentially dangerous for both the dog and owner, and could lead to hearing loss or infection. However, even if cropped surgically by a vet, the practice carries risks. All surgeries are dangerous to some degree and we try to put animals under general anaesthesia only when necessary. An elective cosmetic procedure is not a necessary surgery.

How is it any different from neutering?

You may find that some proponents of ear cropping argue that surgical neutering, also an elective procedure, is widespread and recommended by vets, therefore the elective surgery of cropping a dog’s ears should be acceptable as well. This is a flawed argument. Spaying or castrating a dog carries a number of benefits, including reducing unwanted pregnancies and thus unwanted puppies, reducing the incidence of some kinds of cancer, and increasing longevity. It does carry risks, like all surgery, but the benefits outweigh the costs in almost all cases. Ear cropping, on the other hand, brings with it very few advantages and is primarily done for cosmetic reasons not in the dog’s best interest, so is not recommended.

What about the reasons you listed above?

Most of the traditional reasons for cropping a dog’s ears are no longer relevant – most dogs are not working dogs, so the risk of ear damage to a pet droopy-eared dog is low. Ear infections can be more common in dogs with droopy ears, but that does not mean all dogs with droopy ears get ear infections. Other factors we cannot control, such as the narrowness of the ear canal, the ear’s ability to remove bacteria, and genetic factors, play a greater role.

In fact, studies have found that in breeds where cropping has become less common over time, there has not been an increased incidence of ear infections. Furthermore, the dogs that are more predisposed to ear infections are not breeds that have their ears commonly cropped anyway. Overall, we feel it is much kinder to be aware of the risk of ear infections if you have a dog with floppy ears, and monitor and clean them more frequently – simply removing the ears is hugely unfair to the dog.

Other arguments for ear cropping are equally as invalid – there has been no evidence dogs with cropped ears hear better than those with droopy ears, and incorrectly cropping an ear can actually make hearing worse. The other arguments that dogs with cropped ears look more fierce or natural are entirely subjective, and not enough of a reason to perform the procedure.

The social problem

Finally, dogs with cropped ears can have problems with expression compared to dogs with normal mobile ears. Dogs’ ears are relied on heavily for communication, but if they are cropped this can be difficult. It is unknown if this affects how dogs interact with each other, but there has been some evidence that it affects how dogs interact with people. Because some people think a dog with cropped ears looks fiercer, they may subconsciously treat dogs like this more negatively, causing all sorts of welfare issues. Furthermore, dogs with cropped ears may not be able to show the traditional ears-back expression when aggressive – this appearance is a ‘stay-back’ warning, and if it is not obvious, people may not take appropriate precautions. This is especially important for us vets, as we deal with dangerous dogs every day and need these subtle early warning signs to know when to be wary.

The Laws on Ear Cropping and the Problems Still Faced

Hopefully you all agree that cropping a dog’s ears is unnecessary, risky and inhumane, and should be banned. Thankfully, much of the world, including the UK, agrees – the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that mutilation of an animal except “for the purpose of its medical treatment” is illegal. This means that all ear cropping is illegal unless a vet recommends it for medical reasons no UK vet can perform ear cropping for cosmetic reasons. Ear cropping does still occur in the UK illegally, and there have been a number of cases in the news recently where breeders have been arrested for doing so – please report anyone you suspect of doing this to the RSPCA or police.

Other countries have not yet gone this far

Although much of the world has outlawed ear cropping, some countries have not – cropping ears is still practised in the USA. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does recommend against ear cropping, but no state has explicitly banned it and the practice is still widespread (though thankfully getting rarer). The American Kennel Club has stated that they disagree with the AVMA’s statement on ear cropping, and many breed standards still require cropped ears. This means that, particularly at dog shows, cropped ears are a common sight.

While we are glad UK law bans cropping a dog’s ears, it does not state that it is illegal to own a dog with cropped ears or to import one into the country. There are increasing numbers of dogs with cropped ears in the UK, after being imported mainly from the USA – this practice perpetuates the stereotype of certain dogs having cropped ears, and creates a market for American breeders to keep cropping ears.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, The Kennel Club has not updated all of its breed standards to explicitly state which dogs should have naturally upright ears and which should be floppy (as with the case of the Dobermann). This leads to confusion over whether it is normal, and could encourage the importation of dogs with cropped ears.

What Can You Do?

So what should you as a dog owner do? You’ve already made a good first step by being better informed about the issue recognising that cropped ears are not normal in certain breeds is really important, and helps break the subconscious thought that a crop-eared dog looks ‘normal’. We would strongly advise against purchasing a dog illegally cropped in the UK, or importing one cropped legally from any other country. This should hopefully reduce the demand and discourage the practice both illegally in the UK or legally abroad.

On social media, try to resist following owners of dogs with cropped ears – exposure makes abnormal things seem normal, so reducing their popularity can help convince people that it is not normal. There are plenty of very cute dogs out there with natural floppy ears that would love a follow! All of these steps should discourage people wanting dogs with cropped ears, and mean unscrupulous breeders will be less likely to keep cropping.

It would be good of The Kennel Club to be clear on which dogs should have upright ears or not. Contacting them to voice your concerns or only owning dogs which the KC states should have floppy ears may help get the message across.

Finally, there is a petition to the UK government asking for a ban on importing dogs with cropped ears – this is a great petition that could stop almost all dogs with cropped ears coming into the country so we encourage you to sign it.

Final Thoughts

Animal rights have made huge gains in the last few decades, but there is still work to be done worldwide. You can do your bit by being aware of the specific issue of dogs with cropped ears and avoiding promoting this practice in any way. With some time and effort, we would like to see all dogs, whether their ears are naturally floppy or upright, remain in this natural-born state.

What Is Dog Tail Docking?

Tail docking is the removal of part of a dog’s tail. The amount removed can vary depending on the breed standards.

Why Are Dog’s Tails Docked?

In the past, tail docking was thought to prevent rabies, strengthen the dog’s back, increase its speed and prevent injuries from fighting. 2

Today, dog’s tails may be docked to prevent the spread of infection (i.e., happy tail), to help heal from disease or for cosmetic reasons. They are also docked to avoid injuries for working dogs who could get their tails caught in something.

However, most tails are docked primarily for cosmetic purposes today, causing unnecessary pain to the dog.


There are two ways to dock a tail. The first consists of constricting the blood flow to the tail with a rubber ligature until the tail falls off. This can take a few days. The second is severing the tail with scissors or a scalpel.

Healing Process

Make sure you keep your dog’s bedding clean and monitor the surgical site until it heals fully. The space your dog is in should be kept clean, dry and free of urine and feces.

Your vet will tell you when to remove the bandages, typically 2 to 3 days after surgery. This is generally done with scissors but check with your vet to learn the process they recommend.

Monitor the area for redness, swelling and discharge. If you see them, these are signs of infection. Your dog will probably need a follow-up visit about a week after surgery to have the stitches (if used) removed.

59 Common Breeds With Docked Tails

  1. Airedale Terrier
  2. American Cocker Spaniel
  3. Australian Silky
  4. Australian Shepherd
  5. Australian Terrier
  6. Bouvier des Flandres
  7. Boxer
  8. Bracco Italiano
  9. Brittany
  10. Cane Corsa
  11. Clumber Spaniel
  12. Cocker Spaniel
  13. Dobermann
  14. English Springer Spaniel
  15. Fell Terrier
  16. Field Spaniel
  17. German Short-Haired Pointer
  18. German Wire-Haired Pointer
  19. Giant Schnauzer
  20. Glen of Imaal Terrier
  21. Griffon Bruxellois
  22. Hungarian Vizsla
  23. Irish Terrier
  24. Italian Spinone
  25. Jack Russell Terrier
  26. Kerry Blue Terrier
  27. King Charles Spaniel
  28. Lakeland Terrier
  29. Large Munsterlander
  30. Lucas Terrier
  31. Miniature Pinscher
  32. Miniature Poodle
  33. Miniature Schnauzer
  34. Neopolitan Mastiff
  35. Norfolk Terrier
  36. Norwich Terrier
  37. Old English Sheepdog
  38. Patterdale Terrier
  39. Parson Jack Russell Terrier
  40. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  41. Pinscher
  42. Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  43. Rottweiler
  44. Russian Black Terrier
  45. Schipperke
  46. Schnauzer
  47. Sealyham Terrier
  48. Smooth Fox Terrier
  49. Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  50. Spanish Water Dog
  51. Standard Poodle
  52. Sussex Spaniel
  53. Swedish Vallhund
  54. Toy Poodle
  55. Weimaraner
  56. Welsh Springer Spaniel
  57. Welsh Terrier
  58. Wire-Haired Fox Terrier
  59. Yorkshire Terrier 3

Ear Cropping?

Not only does ear cropping create unnecessary physical pain and discomfort for dogs, but it can also leave them with lasting psychological trauma. Pups also use their ears to communicate, and chopping off parts of them can hinder an owner’s ability to understand what their dog is telling them.

Ear Cropping styles in Pitbulls

What does cropping ears mean?

Cropping is the removal of part or all of the pinnae or auricles, the externally visible flap of the ear and earhole, of an animal it sometimes involves taping to make the ears pointy. Most commonly performed on dogs, it is an ancient practice that was once done for perceived health, practical or cosmetic reasons.

Is there any benefit to cropping a dog’s ears?

Historically, ear cropping has been advocated as a health benefit for certain breeds with long, hanging ears. It was believed that dogs with standing ears may suffer from fewer ear infections than dogs with hanging ears.

Is Ear cropping illegal in the United States?

While a handful of U.S. states do have rules about ear cropping, there are no states that have an outright ban. So while it may be legal to crop your dog’s ears anywhere in the United States, you may need to follow a specific procedure.

How much does ear cropping cost?

While a handful of U.S. states do have rules about ear cropping, there are no states that have an outright ban. So while it may be legal to crop your dog’s ears anywhere in the United States, you may need to follow a specific procedure.

Does cropping hurt the dog?

Not only does ear cropping create unnecessary physical pain and discomfort for dogs, but it can also leave them with lasting psychological trauma. Pups also use their ears to communicate, and chopping off parts of them can hinder an owner’s ability to understand what their dog is telling them.

Is Ear cropping cruel?

Cropping is removing all or part of the external ear flap on a dog. Many countries ban this practice due to the thought of it being purely cosmetic thus it’s considered animal cruelty to perform unnecessary surgery on an animal.

How is ear cropping done?

In order for the ears to heal in the desired upright precision after surgery, they must be posted to a hard surface and taped until completely healed. Bandages need to be changed weekly, typically. The entire process can last from 4-8 weeks.

Video: Two doberman brothers are anonymously dropped off at the Houston SPCA shelter with horrible ear-cropping injuries. After assessing the damage, it is decided that it will be best for the dogs if both ears are amputated.

Video: Doberman ear cropping and stitching.

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Watch the video: American Bully Ear Cropping What crop do you like best? (May 2021).