The Practice of Cropping Dog Ears

ear cropping surgery in dogs
Doberman puppy with posted ears after ear cropping surgery. Photo © jsmjr on flickr

Ear cropping, sometimes called ear trimming, is a surgical procedure that involves the cutting and shaping of the ear pinna (the floppy part of the ear) in order to make a dog's ears stand erect. This is an elective cosmetic surgical procedure done in order to achieve a specific look that coincides with the desired image (and sometimes the breed standard) of certain dog breeds.

How Is Ear Cropping Done?

Ear cropping surgery requires precision and skill in order for the ears to stand up and appear as intended after healing. This procedure must be performed by a veterinarian and is best done by one with experience in ear cropping. Dogs must be under general anesthesia for ear cropping surgery. Ear cropping is generally performed on puppies between the age of eight to twelve weeks.

After surgery, the ears are bandaged and propped up so they heal in an erect position. This is often called "posting." Some vets prefer to wait until the incisions have healed a little before posting the ears. Bandage changes are typically done weekly, and the ears remain taped and propped up until they stand on their own. The healing process can take 4-8 weeks.

What Kind of Dogs Have Cropped Ears?

Any dog may be subject to ear cropping. Certain dogs breeds get their ear cropped ears based on the breed standards. Some common breeds with ear cropping in the official published standards include Doberman PinschersGreat Danes, and Schnauzers. The breed standards were developed based on the historical use of the breed. Many dogs with cropped ears were once used as working dogs. They may have has their ears cropped to improve hearing and prevent issues that might result from having a floppy ear.

In rare cases, ear cropping or similar types of surgeries are deemed medically necessary due to health conditions. Otherwise, the decision to crop ears is one made by the dog owner and/or breeder. Other common elective cosmetic procedures include tail docking and dewclaw removal.

Is Ear Cropping Humane?

Ear cropping is a very controversial subject thought by some to be cruel and excessive. Others consider the procedure quite routine and harmless.

The official position of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that it "opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes."

However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) publicly states that it "recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving the breed character and/or enhancing good health." However, dogs with natural ears are not disqualified from entering dog shows.

Ear cropping is illegal in many countries, including much of Europe. Many believe the practice will eventually be banned in the US as well.

Should I Have My Dog's Ears Cropped? 

The choice to crop your puppy's ears is ultimately yours alone, but it is a decision that requires serious consideration. 

First, ask yourself why you actually want your dog's ears cropped. If it is for appearance only, then that's more reason to take things into consideration. If it is for health reasons, talk to your vet about why it is expected to benefit your dog’s health. Make sure the benefits are expected to outweigh the risks.

Next, think about how ear cropping will actually affect your dog’s quality of life. There are plenty of risks involved in ear cropping and the healing process demands your constant attention. Consider whether or not it is truly worth the risks, hassle, and expense. 

If you have any reservations, ear cropping should not be done. The "natural look" for dogs is becoming more and more popular as trends shift.