Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Ears perform some vital functions for dogs. They are powerful hearing devices and effective means of communication. In certain breeds, they are floppy to protect the vulnerable ear drums from invading insects or rain. In others, they are raised high on the top of the head to function as state-of-the-art hearing aids. So when the question "Should a dog's ears be mutilated?" arises, the answer should be a bold and loud "NO" even if only the ear tips would be affected.
After all, would you, as a sound of mind human, want your ears chopped off? Unless there would be a good medical reason, the answer should ba a loud and bold "NO" as well. The worse fact is that ear cropping in dogs are performed mainly for aesthetic reasons.
Having worked at a veterinarian hospital, I remember my first encounter with an ear cropping case. A couple had scheduled an appointment with me to have their Pitbull terrier's ears clipped. Unknowingly, I thought the dog's ears needed the hair clipped so I scheduled it as a normal appointment. When the owner asked me how long it would take and I told them 15 minutes, they looked very surprised. Only after taking them in the room have I realized they were really referring to an ear crop! That was embarrassingly the day I learned about this uneccessary procedure.
After that famous day, I have witnessed various ear croppings. Aside from the sadness of seeing those precious ear tips fall to the ground, I noticed that recovery was often hastened by complications and that sometimes the ears would not stand up as requested, necessitating further surgeries to correct the unwanted floppiness.
While ear croppings are not strictly dictated by many AKC breed standards, dogs of certain breeds with uncropped ears are often severely penalized, This makes it sound like if a Doberman does not comply with this standard, it is denied the right to be called a Doberman.
Breeds Affected by the Ear Cropping Trend
- Great Danes
- Doberman pinschers
- Miniature pinschers
- American Pit bull Terriers
A Closer Look Into the Procedure
In order for ear croppings to be effective, puppies must undergo this procedure at a very tender age, usually between 7-12 weeks old. General anesthesia is performed and comes with the potential risks involved in operating on such young pups. About 2/3 of the ear is removed during the procedure along with important nerve endings. Stitches are then applied throughout the cut and the pup's ears will have to be bandaged for several weeks.
Ear cropping is not an easy procedure. Not many vets are trained on how to perform them appropriately and abiding to the breed's standards. Bandaging to maintain the erect position may be necessary for extended periods of time post surgery. Many times these bandages will need to be checked and replaced by the veterinarian every week. Worse, the procedure comes with its usual risks such as the risks of general anesthesia and post surgery complications.
Ears may develop infections or bleeding. On rare occasions, they may need to be amputated should major complications arise.
A dog with cropped ears will have painful and sensitive ears for weeks following surgery. Some may develop phantom pains just as any amputated body part. Regardless of the expensive and unneccessary surgery, there still are no guarantees on the success rate of the procedure.
A common alarmed call I used to get was from owners concerned that, post ear cropping, their pup's ears were still not standing up. I have witnessed owners putting so much emphasis on keeping those ears straight up that they have actually caused more problems in their pups than necessary. I have heard of owners giving extra calcium supplements along with vitamin D to increase the ear's portability, only to have created major growth problems due to over supplementation.
Banning Ear Cropping
It comes as no surprise that the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals has focused on banning ear cropping and tail docking. According to Wikipedia, England and Wales have effectively set an example by considering these illegal practices to such an extent that dogs with cropped ears are actually prohibited from entering in any Kennel club event!
Of course, with the practice of ear cropping comes a multitude of people defending this practice. Excuses include medical benefits of lowering chances of ear infections and general injuries. Such excuses are unacceptable and unethical. Of course, the less of an ear means the less of a chance of ear problems and so forth. If we would adhere to such excuses, then we can cut off toes to lessen the chances of pododermtitis, we we cut off tails to lessen the chances of tail infections and so forth in a mutilation spree of body parts.
Others may state the procedure is not painful to the pup. Of course, while under surgery there will be no pain, but there is strong evidence of pain upon awakening from the anaesthesia and during recovery as the pup yelps as it bumps his ears against surfaces. It is no wonder why vets offer the option of taking home pain meds when the dog is discharged from the hospital after an ear cropping.
Ear cropping for cosmetic reasons is really unacceptable.
Dogs are not fashion accessories. Dogs are living creatures. They deserve to have their ears the way nature intended to. As humans we have no right whatsoever on deciding on their behalf, especially for futile cosmetic reasons. My verdict is therefore that ear croppings should not only not be permitted but should actually be illegal. Dogs have ears for a reason. By cropping them, we are not listening to nature's will.
Viewer Discretion Advised
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 27, 2020:
And how stupid are we humans? First we domesticate dogs and floppy ears appear, then we want them cropped! And mostly for cosmetic reasons! Truth is, researchers have found out that erect ears can be predisposed to ear infections just as floppy ears. Indeed, to prove this, see how often German shepherds are seen for ear infections. At the vet's office we saw too many!
Floppy ears also protect the ears from pesky bugs, fox tails and debris which can penetrate the ear canal. Dogs with floppy ears can hear well, indeed many guard dogs are floppy-eared, think Rottweilers and mastiffs.
Other than the physical part of docking and cropping we also need to look at the emotional part. Dogs use their bodies for communication. Chopping off body parts doesn't help with that and interferes with their natural expression.
Indeed, docking and cropping has been even made illegal in many countries due to the fact that it's considered a mutilation. More and more vets are refusing to participate in this practice. Veterinary organizations of course, are reputable enough to know what's best for dogs. Soma the AMVA and WSAVA, have position statements against this practice.
If floppy ears are not welcomed, we have the choice of picking another breed that comes with natural erect ears.
Bella on August 26, 2020:
Actually it’s humans fault with their altering of breeds is why dogs have floppy ears in the first place. It’s not natural for a dog to have floppy ears as it causes many infections and loss of hearing. The wolves from which our pooches descended from do not have floppy ears. Therefore they shouldn’t have them either. People who are against only look at the physical part of ear cropping and tail docking, but not the internal DNA part of it our dogs were not meant to have floppy ears.
Katherine Chapman on July 27, 2020:
First of all That certainly doe NOT look like a Vet cropping this dogs ears!!??? No vet has a small round table,with no overhead lighting etc,,this is just a person or BYB..Second this isnt a 7 or 8 week old pup,,its clearly almost full grown...If vets stop cropping and docking tails of purebred dogs it will only encourage idiots like this guy to do it!! . I have a 9 yr old Redg Bouvier who had his ears cropped at 10 days old by his breeder..His tail was docked at 3 days old..Bouviers natural ears are really long and the hair inside grows continuously and causes ear infections, from moisture from all the hair,,their tails are heavy and prone to injury, from being banged into things (Happy Tail}, If youve ever tried to heal a tail bone injury you'd understand why theyve been docked for nearly 100 yrs..Its NOT just for looks!!! Banning licecned vets from cropping and docking is what is causing puppies pain and suffering !!! Id much rather have vets doing it with anesthetic and pain meds then owners.,breeders and BYBs..Just because its banned doesnt mean people wont do it!!!
Tiffany on January 16, 2018:
Yikes this looks terrible....no.just.no.
Tc on January 16, 2017:
Just gunna point this out....
By deciding to have a dog as YOUR PET, THAT choice stripped the dog of its rights... THAT choice is the only one relevant. You're disgust with ear cropping is irrelevant because (assuming you own a PET) you made the choice to enslave it, therefore its rights were entirely stripped at the moment you took ownership of it.
vanessa on June 13, 2012:
You know?I was going to get my pitbull puppys hears cropped,but after seeing how its done I might just change my mind i was crying when I seen the video on how to do it.If i still consider on doing it i know I cant watch it be done....it's to painfull just to watch this video and that's not my dog.It's not just up to me though I'm married and it is my husband that mentioned he wanted it done when we got her.Thanx for the video it opened my eye's to what I did not know about ear cropping.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 24, 2012:
When you work for a shelter and see countless dogs put to sleep every day you understand why neutering and spaying is important.There is no comparison..
Cobra on April 24, 2012:
So ear cropping is considered mutilation, but it's ok to rip out the uterus ovaries and testicles of thousands of animals each year? Would you want Your balls chopped off? The answer should be a loud and bold "NO"
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 14, 2012:
Wow, I cannot imagine doing an ear crop without anesthesia! people doing that deserve being prosecuted for animal abuse
dog owner on February 14, 2012:
I agree with the person that said akc should no longer make it a requirement because breeders have taken it further and are cropping pups at their kennels with no anastesia.I would love to see someone do that to them.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 16, 2011:
Sierra, just found this petition here:
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 15, 2011:
Sierra, just to clarify, -and I am sure you mean well and will not copy my content- I am afraid you are only allowed to put a link to my hub and perhaps a few words like ''for further information you can visit this hub''. Hubpages has a plagiarism detection tool and it reports to me if any of my hubs are copied or there is similar information. There are petitions on ear cropping and I have signed a few, apparently not enough to make a real change. I would love it if there were more and more blogs and websites educating people about these cosmetic procedures. Kind regards, alexadry.
Sierra on November 15, 2011:
First off i have to commend you for having a heart and soul and speaking out against this. Also I am starting a blog and would love to use some of the information you provided in the blog and would like to link this page on my blog so they can see all of your thoughts. I also wonder if there is some sort of petition going around? Maybe if enough people sign it laws will change here!
nate on October 05, 2011:
yuliya, getting an animal fixed is for a very important reason. Every year thousands of cats and dogs are put down because there are not enough adoptive homes available. Of course I would prefer to not put my pet through it but if it means that I can stop an unwanted litter, so be it. Cropping does more bad than good and shows that the owner views their pet as an object.
yuliya on September 12, 2011:
I am amazed at people who are against ear cropping but in full support of spaying and neutering. It's not ok to crop the ears but it's ok to promote spaying and neutering every pup in sight? And even to pass the mandatory spay and neuter laws?! Are those surgeries not painful? Or is it ok because they save lives? Responsible dog ownership will save lives without unnecessary surgery.
I fully believe in free choice. It's my choice to do the ears or not, it's my choice to spay and neuter or not.
you want to make a difference - educate people. To hell with all those stupid laws.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 28, 2011:
I will get real but reality often hurts. Why do you think all Banfield vets have stopped cropping and thousands of vets in over 20 countries world wide? They KNOW it is painful and I can provide ample of literature to back that up. But you want the biggest truth? If ALL ear croppers could donate their money to dog charities instead of spilling their money out for useless, expensive surgeries, there would be less dogs being euthanized in shelters...this is what is truly painful to hear..
ZeusMontrose on August 28, 2011:
If the doctors knew it wouldn't cause a major amount of pain to the puppies, they wouldn't do it. This is the reason they do this at 8-12 weeks of age. I have a Doberman Pinscher puppy and he just had his ears done. He is in no pain and is the happiest puppy ever. You may have an opinion on this subject but stop hugging trees and get real. If you were really concerned about animals, put a stop to the SPCA euthanizing animals because they cannot find a home. That to me seems more painful than an ear cropping.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 10, 2011:
Taylor, it is no longer just my OPINION, there are countless vets reporting this procedure to be inappropriate and more than 25 countries have banned it. And comparing it to vaccinations is like comparing apples to oranges. My friend lost her dobie pup under the knife for an ear crop, she now regrets losing her precious pup for just cosmetic surgery!
taylor on April 08, 2011:
if you don't like ear cropping then don't look, don't do it, i love it and want my dogs ears done, ASAP, we cut off stuff, make our kids get vaccine that they don't have to have or are not proven to treat or provent certain dieases, so sweep around ur on door step before you voice your opinion of what others like, and it is YOUR OPINION, i hope it stays in practice and i am looking for someone to do it for me today
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 21, 2011:
Steph, your case is medically necessary and you are doing the best for your pup, best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Steph on January 21, 2011:
My poor dog has a cut at the tip of his ear that won't heal (it's been 1 month) and we have to have his ear partially amputated to a point at which the blood supply is sufficient for it to heal properly. I was looking for info on this and came across your site. It's always astounding to me that people do these procedures as elective/cosmetic surgeries!
I don't want to put my poor pup through this, but we have no choice at this point. Antibiotics, steroids, etc., have had no effect and his ear just looks worse and worse.
Vics on November 18, 2009:
This is absolutely disgusting! The AKC clearly have no morals and those people who have dogs and do this just for show ought to be banned from being pet owners. Next thing they'll be cutting their kids ears off!
Barbara C from Andalucia, Spain on November 01, 2009:
I applaud you for writing this hub and hope that it reaches as wide an audience as possible to outlaw this evil and unnecessary practice.
I live in Spain and come across so many cruel and heartbreaking things that I try to speak out against as much as possible - it's what we HAVE to do!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 31, 2009:
Trust me,I wish I had the power to do so but its like talking to deaf ears (pun intended). I am visiting family in Italy right now and on the news a few days ago they said that in Italy it is against the law and considered now literally a torture! I applaud this country that even if behind in many things has demonstrated great moral support for our canine friends!
boxer owner on October 31, 2009:
perhaps you should put your passion for anti-ear cropping to good use and tell the akc to no longer make it a requirement for show-status.