Is Dog Ear Cropping Justified Today?

dog ear cropping

It’s now common to see Boxers, Great Danes and Dobermans with floppy ears … but that wasn’t always the case. In the past, dog ear cropping was done for practical reasons … but now it’s a risky ritual mainly performed in show dogs … or in breeds used for illegal dog fighting (where it’s often performed cruelly by amateurs without anesthesia or proper surgical tools).

Boxers had their ears cropped for practical purposes because they were guard dogs and it was said to improve hearing and avoid injury from tears. Great Danes had cropped ears to prevent ripping when boar hunting. But there’s no longer any practical reason to crop your dog’s ears. 

Even so, it’s still common to see cropped ears on these breeds, as well as others like Boston Terriers, American Pitbull Terriers, Schnauzers and Cane Corsos … solely for cosmetic reasons.

What Is Dog Ear Cropping?

Dog ear cropping is a practice that involves surgically altering the size and shape of a dog’s ears to make them stand erect. It’s a surgical procedure conducted under anesthesia. It involves cutting, removing ear tissue, reshaping the ear cartilage and suturing. Then the ears are taped and bandaged to encourage them to stand upright. 

It’s done for aesthetic reasons, usually to meet breed standards in dog shows or competitions.

Is Dog Ear Cropping Required For Dog Shows?

The acceptance of natural ears and breed standards can vary among different kennel clubs, dog show organizations, and regions. The trend is moving toward accepting natural ears, as more emphasis is placed on dogs’ health and wellbeing. 

The (AKC) American Kennel Club says ear cropping is permitted, but not required, in certain breed standards. They recognize 20 breeds with cropped ears.

“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.”

However, the AKC says there’s nothing in AKC rules requiring cropped ears to show these breeds. But they did formally protest the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) position statement against ear cropping and tail docking.

The AVMA, AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) and CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) have all issued position statements opposing the practices of ear cropping and tail docking. 

“The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.”

Is There A Health Benefit To Ear Cropping In Dogs?

No. There are no substantial health benefits associated with cropping a dog’s ears. Dogs have adapted to their surroundings for thousands of years without having pieces of their bodies surgically removed. 

Historically, dog ear cropping had practical benefits. For working breeds, such as guard dogs or hunting dogs, cropped ears could reduce the risk of injury from bites and scratches or from foraging through brush or brambles.  

Why Would You Crop A Dog’s Ears?

Most people in favor of ear-cropping base their opinions on misconceptions and longstanding justifications like these …

  • “It prevents ear infections.”  (Is it really necessary to put your dog through surgery rather than following a healthy diet and good grooming practices?)
  • “It’s the breed standard.” (The AKC says ear cropping is permitted, but not required.)
  • “Tradition.” (It’s been done for so long that owners keep doing it.)
  • “It’s like ear piercing.” (Except that ear piercing doesn’t require anesthesia and you don’t remove part of the ear)
  • “It’s not painful.” (Then why do dogs yelp in pain when they bump their bandaged ears?)
  • “It helps dogs hear better.” (Most dogs with floppy ears are perfectly well able to recognize the postal carrier from the other end of the house.)

Benefits Of Natural Uncropped Ears

In practical, natural terms, floppy ears:

  • Aid in communication
  • Protect the ear from debris and dirt
  • Prevent water from entering
  • Protect against insects
  • Provide insulation in cold weather or damp climates
  • Are a result of evolution and adaptation to need.

These natural benefits to not cropping a dog’s ears outweigh the reasons to remove them with painful surgery.

How Painful Is Ear Cropping For Dogs?

Ear cropping is a painful surgery that requires anesthesia.

Recovery can be uncomfortable and leads to a period of itchiness as the ears heal. Some dogs may show signs of pain, such as whimpering, restlessness, or lack of appetite. It requires careful aftercare to minimize the risk of infection and ensure proper healing. This includes changing the bandages and tape several times a day, and adjusting the ears during the initial weeks following surgery. 

Like any surgery, there is risk of complications and potential infection. The recovery period is usually 4 to 8 weeks (aboutr the same time it takes a person to heal from a broken arm). 

Is It Dog Ear Cropping Legal?

Due to ethical concerns and growing awareness of animal welfare, many countries and organizations, including the veterinary associations mentioned above, have discouraged or banned ear cropping. Laws and regulations regarding dog ear cropping vary by country or region. 

In the UK, England and Wales have made ear cropping illegal under the Animal Welfare Act. 

While cropping dog ears is legal nationally in the United States and Canada, some provinces like Newfoundland, PEI, and Nova Scotia have made it illegal. There are 9 US states that regulate ear cropping … with only 4 requiring that it be done by a licensed veterinarian. 

If you’ve got a breed that was known for having cropped ears, now’s the time to let nature take its course and let those floppy ears wave in the breeze. It’s what they were meant to do. 

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