Cropping Dogs' Ears

Cropping Dogs' Ears

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Ear cropping or ear trimming describes a surgical procedure which involves cutting the ear pinna of a dog and shaping it so that the ears stand erect. The pinna is the floppy part of the dog's ear. This is a cosmetic surgical procedure done to get a particular appearance which goes with the image desired in specific dog breeds.

Skilled procedure

The ear cropping procedure is a skilled one and needs precision from the surgeon. The ears must appear to stand up after the part gets completely healed. The dog must be put under general anesthesia before undergoing this procedure. Puppies aged between eight weeks to 12 weeks are put under the scalpel. Post surgery, the ears get propped and bandaged, and they heal in an erect position. This is termed "posting". A few veterinarians prefer to wait for the incisions to heal before they post the ears. The bandages are generally changed once every week. The ears continue to remain taped until they could stand by their own. This recovery process takes anytime between four weeks to eight weeks

Any breed of dog can be subjected to this procedure. A few dog breeds get the ear trimmed as per breed standards. The Doberman breed is one of the more popular breeds of dogs to get their ear cropped. Other breeds subjected to this procedure include Schnauzers, Pinschers, and Great Danes. These breed standards were developed on the basis of the historical use of such breeds. Canines with cropped ears were one time used only as working dogs. The ears were trimmed to prevent issues which could result from possessing a floppy ear and improve hearing. Only in rare cases did ear trimming were deemed necessary medical procedures due to health conditions. The breeder or the dog owner generally make the decision to cut ears.

Debate on the procedure

When it comes to whether you would crop your dogs' ears or not, the subject remains a controversial one, and many think this action to be excessive if not cruel. Others regard the procedure as a harmless one. Most veterinarians will decline to do the procedure solely for aesthetic reasons. However, many medical professionals hold the view that ear cropping in certain select breeds could be an acceptable procedure to define the breed character and preserve it. Good health is also enhanced. It is to be remembered that dogs both with natural ears and cropped ones can participate in dog shows. Many European countries forbid ear cropping. Animal rights activists want the ear cropping procedure to deemed illegal in North America. Crop your dog's ears only for medical reasons and not aesthetic. The ear cropping affects the dog's quality of life too.

The Benefits of Docking a Doberman Pinscher's Ears

Louis Dobermann, a tax collector in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, developed a breed of dog to accompany him on his rounds. Dobermann needed a strong dog with an intimidating presence that could protect him from thieves and wild animals on his travels. The Doberman Pinscher, as the breed came to be called, is known for its strength, protection ability, and noble appearance. The dog's smooth features, docked tail, and cropped ears contribute to the breed's striking appearance.

History and Tradition

As early as the late 1600s, ears were cropped on dogs used for protection, fighting and hunting large game, primarily for safety reasons. Ears are a ready target for attackers to grab, or for other animals to bite. The thin ear flap, or leather, is easily cut or torn, and injured ears can be difficult to heal. Running through brush and bramble can also cause injury to small, floppy ears. Although today's ear crops leave more of the ear intact than those done 400 years ago, the cropped look has become a recognized characteristic of many breeds.

Sound Detection

The cropped ear more closely resembles the shape of a natural canine ear. Floppy ears are a deviation from nature; research on foxes shows that the dropped ear is a side-effect of domestication. Some cropped breed fanciers theorize that dogs with erect ears can hear better than dogs with floppy ears, not as a result of a larger ear opening, but rather because of a better ability to detect and localize sounds.

Hygiene and Health

Dogs with thick, long dropped ears are prone to ear infections, because the heavy ear leather traps moisture. Doberman ears aren't long or heavy, so infections are less of a problem; however, cropped ears do generally stay cleaner than uncropped ears do. Additionally, a cropped ear is less likely to develop a hematoma (a blood-filled pocket on the ear leather), which typically requires surgery to repair. In some cases, especially in dogs with allergies or ear infections, constant shaking of the head can cause the tips of the ears to split and bleed. These injuries are very difficult to heal, since every shake of the dog's head can re-open the split tips. In extreme cases, cropping is the only option to alleviate the problem.

The Cropping Process

Ear cropping is a surgical procedure, performed by a veterinarian when a puppy is between 7 and 16 weeks old. The surgery is carried out under general anesthesia, and puppies go home that afternoon or the next morning. The ears are trimmed and the edges stitched; most vets will then tape the ears to a foam block or cup to keep them erect while the edges heal. After the stitches are removed, the ears must be taped to train them to stand upright. Taping may last for few weeks, or, in some cases, up to a year. Succeeding in getting the ear's to stand is strongly related to the owner's dedication to keeping them properly taped.


While the AKC Doberman breed standard calls for a cropped ear, an uncropped ear is merely a deviation from the standard, rather than a disqualification. If you aren't showing your dog in conformation, cropping is a personal decision. If you decide to crop, find a veterinarian experienced and skilled in the procedure. Most puppies do not show signs of lingering pain from an ear crop, but an unskilled vet and a poorly performed crop can be traumatic. Ask for a recommendation from your puppy's breeder, or breeders in your area; generally one or two vets perform most of the crops in a state or region.

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Dog Grooming Tips To Keep Your Pup Healthy And Clean
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References & Resources

Doberman Pinscher Club of America Public Education: Ears
Sigma Xi: Early Canid Domestication: The Fox-Farm Experiment

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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