While many dog breeds have traditionally sported cropped ears, this practice has become controversial in recent years.  Some dog lovers, animal rights groups, and other concerned individuals claim that cropping a dog’s ears is cruel and unnecessary.  At the same time, fans of ear cropping claim it enhances a dog’s appearance and does little harm to the dog. Some even claim there are health benefits to ear cropping.  Before this hot button issue can be examined, we must first understand what is involved in cropping a dog’s ears.

The Basics of Ear Cropping

Popular breeds that often have their ears cropped include Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Schnauzers, Great Danes, Boston Terriers, and Pit Bull Terriers.  Ear cropping generally takes place when a puppy is between eight and twelve weeks old, while the cartilage and muscles of the ears are not yet fully developed and will allow the cropped ears to be trained to stand upright.   During the procedure, a veterinarian anesthetizes the puppy, trims away unwanted ear tissue, and closes the incision with sutures.  The healing process takes up to two months, and during this time the puppy’s ears must be kept upright, at first with a special paper or metal rack and later (once the sutures have been removed) with splints and wrapping tape.  If the ears are not kept taped up, they will flop over and the results of the cropping will not be desirable. 

Pitbull ear cropping styles

pitbull ear cropping styles

The Pros

The major argument in favor of ear cropping is that it can create a sharp, alert appearance that adheres to the dog’s breed standard.  For show dogs, this can be important.  While none of the major kennel clubs in the United States require any breed to have this alteration in order to compete, they allow for it in certain breeds. Breeds that have traditionally had cropped ears are usually still shown this way, as many breeders and owners believe it preserves the traditional look of the breed.  They believe it enhances their dog’s appearance and may provide a winning edge over dogs with natural ears. Those who are for ear cropping appreciate the historical aspect of their dogs’ breeding and strive to preserve the integrity of the original appearance. 

Another pro-cropping argument is the idea that dogs with upright ears may have a lowered risk of getting ear infections.  When a dog’s ear hangs down over the ear canal, moisture can be trapped inside, promoting the growth of bacteria and infection.  When the ears stand up, moisture is more easily be removed from the ear through the process of evaporation.  This means that dogs that have upright ears (naturally or due to cropping) are slightly less prone to painful ear infections.   For this reason, some dog enthusiasts believe cropping a dog’s ears means doing the dog a favor.   While there isn’t a very significant difference in health between dogs with cropped ears and dogs with natural ears, some feel that it is important to point out that cropping a dog’s ears can potentially improve a dog’s health to a small degree.

The Cons

Those who are against ear cropping are quick to point out that the process is obviously painful for puppies.  Not only do puppies have to endure sore ears after surgery, but they also have to tolerate having their ears taped up in itchy contraptions for a significant length of time afterward.  For those who disapprove of ear cropping, the pain is not worth the appearance of cropped ears, especially considering the rate of failure.  Many times the owner will not be satisfied with the cut of the ears or the ears will fail to stand up straight, even after months of taping.  Additionally, some people simply prefer the look of natural ears on a dog.  Even though cropped ears are the norm with certain breeds in the show ring, a small number of competitors are now choosing to go natural.  While their dogs may look slightly different, they cannot be penalized simply for not having cropped ears.

Those who oppose the practice of ear cropping also dismiss the health benefits proclaimed by their pro-cropping counterparts.  While they acknowledge that dogs with upright ears may have a slightly lower risk of developing ear infections, they emphasize that the difference is just that – slight.  If dogs are properly groomed and cared for, those with natural ears are not at any significant risk.   Additionally, they point out that cropping the ears is at least, if not more painful than an ear infection.  Also, if puppies’ cropped ears are not looked after diligently during the healing process, they could be become infected from improper healing.

6 aftercare tips

  1. Keep them clean: Be sure to keep your dog’s ears as clean as possible. Cleaning them 2 -3 times daily with peroxide and neosporin is absolutely necessary.
  2. Remove any scabs: As soon as you notice scabs starting to form, it’s essential that you remove them immediately. Scabs will prevent the ears from standing properly when healed. Soaking them in warm water prior to removing them will ease the pain of removing them.
  3. Listen to the vet: If the vet instructs you to return to their office on a certain date – be there. If your dog’s stitches are left in too long, they can lead to infections, as well as prevent the ears from healing properly.
  4. Add supplements to their diet: This will speed up the healing process, keep their immune system strong, and ensure their getting the proper building blocks to recover.
  5. Treat infections right away: If your dog’s ears happen to get infected, call the vet right away. Your vet will want to give your dog a thorough examination, clean their ears, and most likely prescribe antibiotics.
  6. If your dogs ears aren’t standing properly, tape them. (As seen in the video below).

Frequent asked questions

Q: How old does my dog need to be? / What’s the age limit?

A: Most vets recommend getting your pups ears cropped between 7-12 weeks of age. A common myths is that a dog’s ears won’t stand if they’re not cropped while they’re puppies. This is not true. The age will not effect the quality of the crop or prevent them from standing. You can crop your dog’s ears at any age. However, most vets will not crop the dogs ears once they reach a certain age. Other vets have no age limit and will crop a full grown dog’s ears.

Q: How much does it cost? / What’s the price of an ear crop?

A: The cost varies greatly. Vets charge anywhere from $150.00 up to $800.00 in some cases. A fair and average price to pay for a crop is 250.00. This will include the follow up visit, pain medicine, and in some cases amoxicillin (Antibiotics).

Video of an Ear Cropping Surgery

The Final Verdict

After all is said and done, the decision on whether or not to crop a puppy’s ear s is up to the owner.  Some people feel it is cruel to make a puppy go through pain for appearance’s sake, while others believe ear cropping is important in preserving a breed’s trademark appearance.  Whichever stance an owner takes, it is important that he acts responsibly.  If an owner decides to have his puppy’s ears cropped, the surgery should be done by an experienced and reputable veterinarian.  The owner should also fully understand and be committed to the aftercare process, and that the results may not turn out exactly as he hoped they would.  An owner who wishes to keep a puppy’s ears natural should understand that this dog will look slightly different from the traditional appearance of the breed.  He should also be sure to regularly clean the dog’s ears and check for signs of infection

When it comes right down to it, the decision of whether or not to crop does not need to be a polarizing one.  Dogs with cropped ears and dogs with natural ears are both beautiful to those who love them, and with the right care, both can live happy, healthy lives. 

Related article: https://bullymax.com/puppy-ear-cropping/