Ear cropping is a surgery that some people choose to have on certain types or breeds of puppies, usually when they are very young. It is an old practice that dates back more than 300 years when dogs were cropped for protection against wild animals like bears, cattle, wolves, and foxes. Nowadays, however, most people choose to have their dogs’ ears cropped for cosmetic reasons rather than for any practical benefit.
In the past, ear cropping was sometimes done on working dogs to prevent health problems like ear infections and hematomas. However, this is a controversial topic, and many disagree about whether ear cropping is necessary or humane. Some popular dog breeds that are often associated with ear cropping include the American Pit Bull Terrier, various pitbull breeds, the Doberman, and the Cane Corso.
Overall, it’s important to understand that ear cropping is not always necessary for a dog’s health and can be a painful and stressful experience for the animal. If you are considering having your dog’s ears cropped, discussing the procedure with a qualified veterinarian and considering all of the potential risks and benefits is important.
What Is Ear Cropping?
Ear cropping is a procedure where the ears of certain breeds are surgically altered to stand erect. A licensed veterinarian must perform the procedure, and the owner must be committed to providing any necessary aftercare for their pet.
Ear cropping is typically done when the puppy is between 8 to 10 weeks old and always requires general anesthesia to minimize pain. Approximately two-thirds of the floppy part of the ears, also known as the pinna, is removed during the procedure. Without anesthesia, the procedure would be extremely painful for the dog due to the many nerve endings in the ears.
How Much Does Ear Cropping Cost?
Ear cropping can also have a heavy cost. It ranges anywhere between $150 to more than $600. I wouldn’t recommend going for the cheapest of the cheapest vet you can find; many factors go into the price besides just the quality of the vet (rent, staff, equipment, etc.)
A fair price would be around $300, depending on your location. Some vets will also include additional costs such as post-surgery medications or even offer to keep the dog for a day or two after surgery.
List of Dog Breeds With Cropped Ears
Dog owners of many breeds have their puppy’s ears cropped — however, the American Kennel Club and general public accept cropped ears for the following breeds:
- American Bully
- American Pitbull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Brussels Griffon
- Cane Corso
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Pinscher
- Giant Schnauzer
- Great Dane
- Manchester Terrier
- Miniature Pinscher
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Standard Schnauzer
Many other types of dogs have these cropped ears, but it is difficult to pinpoint them because they are not defined as purebred dogs. We’ve created a nice infographic listing some of these most popular dog breeds with cropped ears; feel free to share it on social media and your website!
Different Styles of Cropped Ears
Along with the many different breeds that are acceptably ear-cropped, different ear-cropping styles exist. The four ear cropping styles are as follows, from the shortest to the tallest ear crop:
- Battle Crop — This is the shortest available ear crop. Since this is such a low cut, it will not allow for protection from dirt and insects.
- Short Crop — This ear cropping is slightly longer than the battle crop. There is only about two-thirds of the original ear left.
- Show Crop — This medium crop is a little longer and taller than the show crop. This is the most requested ear cropping for show dogs. It gives off an alert look. This crop is the one that requires the most attention and time. You will spend more time wrapping and posting the ears than with others since there is a higher risk of the ears not correctly standing.
- Long Crop — The long crop is the longest ear cropping that can be done. It only leaves three-quarters of the original ear. This is available for pit bulls.
Currently, the most common ear crop styles are short and show styles.
Why Is Ear Cropping So Controversial?
The practice of cropping dogs’ ears has become a hot topic in recent years, with some dog owners and animal activists arguing that putting puppies through the pain of surgery just for appearance is cruel. Some dog breeders believe that cropped ears enhance a dog’s appearance, but it can also leave the dog scarred and their ears damaged.
However, some dog breeders believe that cropping ears lessens the risk of ear infections. James Serpell, director at the Center for Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, says that 80% of dogs don’t get ear infections, and breeds that are more prone to them (such as spaniels and poodles) don’t generally have their ears cropped.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has no rule requiring ear cropping, but the organization recognizes it as a valuable tradition in the history of some breeds. However, there is no advantage in terms of winning shows to having a dog with cropped ears. Dog owners who wish to show their dogs may feel pressured to crop their dogs’ ears so they can compete in the ring. The AKC’s position is to meet a breed’s standard, and some of these standards require a trim of the dog’s ears.
Since 1976, the American Veterinary Medical Association, which sets standards for excellence in veterinary medicine, has recommended to the AKC and other breed associations not to mention cropped ears in breed standards and not to show dogs with cropped ears. In recent years, suggestions have been made for tail docking as well.
Overall, while some dog owners and breeders believe that ear cropping is necessary for a breed’s trademark appearance, it has no significant advantage in terms of the dog’s health or show performance. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not to crop their dog’s ears. Still, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks and benefits and consult a veterinarian before making any decisions.
What The Law Says About Ear Cropping For Dogs
Cropped ears to some people is unethical and cruel. Owners believe it is normal for some breeds, and others believe it is better to leave them natural. In British Columbia, Canada, the College of Veterinarians has banned ear cropping of dogs for any cosmetic purposes, stating it was unethical. Other areas where ear cropping is illegal include:
- New Zealand
- Parts of Europe
- New Hampshire
- New York
The laws and regulations on ear cropping and tail docking are changing fast, and you must constantly be aware of the current situation in your local area.
In some countries, the law is binary — it is allowed or not — whereas other places like the United Kingdom will allow it in specific conditions or performed in a specific way. Because of the importance of the topic, please triple-check with the right official authorities and their websites.
In the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association has clarified the state-specific policies on dog ear cropping:
There are currently nine states that specifically regulate ear cropping of dogs:
Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania all prohibit ear cropping except by a licensed veterinarian while the dog is under an anesthetic. Maryland law also stipulates that the ear cropping must be “appropriate on the animal.”
Illinois prohibits animal torture but makes an exception for alteration of an animal done under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. Maine prohibits mutilating an animal by irreparably damaging body parts but makes an exception for conduct performed by a licensed veterinarian.
Massachusetts prohibits ear cropping except when performed by a licensed veterinarian and Washington prohibits ear cropping except when it is considered a customary husbandry practice.
Ear Cropping Surgery and Aftercare
Let’s look at what both the surgery and the ear-cropping aftercare period look like.
Ear cropping surgery
During the cropping surgery, the vet makes an opening and cuts each ear. This starts from the top and goes to the bottom of the ear. This will give the ear a pointed look. This is not the end. The rest completely depends on the owner.
When the vet is finished with the cut, a kind of rack that is usually made out of aluminum is used to lengthen the ears and hold them to erect. After stitches are in the dog’s ears, they are securely taped. The owners should expect the dog to stay with the vet for the next night or two to make sure nothing serious occurs (infections.)
General anesthesia is used to block the pain. Some vets will give pain meds after the surgery if the puppy visibly experiences discomfort. Some dogs will even have phantom pain from the missing appendage, like humans.
Ear cropping aftercare tips
The first week after surgery is vital for the puppy. Since cropping is usually done between 8 and 12 weeks, the puppy will usually experience distress from the procedure. E-collars or Elizabethan collars are commonly used to keep the puppy from scratching and messing with his ears, which can consequently result in more stress. Constant monitoring is needed as the racks on the puppy’s ears are far from comfortable, and the puppy could hit or rub his head against things that will further the pain.
The rack or tape put in place will need to stay for at least 21 days. Using disinfectant around the edges of the cropped ears two times a day is recommended. As well as an antibiotic ointment. The longer you wait to rewrap the ears, the better.
After the first week, if the rack comes off, the ear will still need to remain wrapped. Be sure to attend all vet appointments and follow instructions to care for the puppy properly. If the ears become unwrapped, call the vet and make sure to take the puppy in as soon as possible. Ask your vet how to do a temporary dog ear posting (video here) until you can take the puppy in.
In conclusion, whether or not to crop your dog’s ears is entirely yours. Discuss the matter with experienced, trusted, and highly reputable dog breeders, judges, and breed clubs, to get more opinions on it. Weigh out the cons versus the pros, then make your decision.
You should make the decision based on what is best for your dog. If you decide to go ahead, you must get some time off work to dedicate several days to the aftercare needed. This procedure will take a ton of patience, and you may receive bad words from people who find such practices almost criminal.