Ear cropping is the act of cutting off the pinna, also known as the outer ear, of the dog. This can be up to two-thirds of the dog’s ear. Essentially what is being removed is the floppy part of the ear. The remaining part of the ear is then taped to a hard surface. This portion of the process is repeated until the ears achieve the desired appearance.
Why do people do it?
Ear cropping has been around for centuries. Originally, a dog’s ears were cropped to avoid them being bitten or grabbed by other dogs and animals. Dogs used in fighting or bear-baiting typically had their ears cropped for this exact purpose. Some breeders and pet owners use hygiene as a reason for cropping. The belief here is that by cropping the dog’s ears they are helping to prevent ear conditions. Another main reason for ear cropping is maintaining the appearance of the breed standard.
How is it done?
Usually ear cropping is carried out when the pup is between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks old. Some feel this procedure causes more harm to the dog if it is performed when the dog is older. The veterinary term for ear cropping is cosmetic otoplasty. The procedure is performed while the dog is under general anesthesia. The ear is surgically removed using an instrument such as a scalpel. Next, the ear is tightly attached in an upright position to a splint using tape. The ear is re-taped repeatedly over a period of months until the desired appearance is achieved. Much to the frustration of some owners who crop, even after the procedure has been performed, their dog’s ears still do not stay up straight. It is not uncommon for or only one ear to stay up while the other falls back down.
In many places, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia and South Africa, the practice of cropping has been banned. It is still practiced in the United States. Many feel that cropping is extremely harmful to dogs, and can cause emotional trauma. Additionally, performing the surgery and placing the dog under anesthesia carries its own risks. Moreover, most veterinarians believe that there are no additional health benefits to cropping a dog’s ears. Many proponents of cropping feel that it is not as bad for to dogs up to a certain age. Many breeders and pet owners feel it is important to maintain breed standards, and one such way is through cropping the ears of certain breeds. The AKC has stated the following:
The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided.
However, the AKC has also said that a dog is equally likely to win at competition regardless of their ears.
Breeds that have traditionally had their ears cropped
- Pit bull
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shorthaired pointer
- Great Dane
It is clear that cropping has its supporters and it has its critics. Many dog owners and breeders feel it is a personal choice. Those against cropping feel that it causes unnecessary cruelty and psychological damage to dogs. Whatever your decision on the issue, consulting with your veterinarian is the best place to start.