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To Crop Or Not To Crop - Ear Cropping

dog health ear cropping


Ear cropping, surgically modifying dog ears, is a trademark for some breeds. Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Miniature Schnauzers, and more, are often altered to give them a distinctive appearance. For those with purebreds, it’s a tradition that almost seems compulsory. However, ear cropping is increasingly being brought into question. In some countries, the practice has been banned. What are some of the arguments on both sides? This is your ear cropping rundown.

For those who aren't sure, ear cropping is an elective surgery. Many purebred guardians choose to cut off the floppy part of the dog’s ear, also called the pinna. It’s an anesthetized procedure performed on puppies around six to 12 weeks old. Following the procedure, their ears are taped to splints for several weeks during the healing process, so they heal in an upright position.

The Case for Cropping

There are those who argue that ear cropping will help prevent ear canal infections. The idea is that by cutting the “pinna,” the outside of the ear, the opportunity for other ear trauma is much less likely. It reduces the likelihood of ear infections and reduces the chances of ear injury should their pup every get into a dogfight. It is also cited that cropping may help dogs to hear better.

The American Kennel Club (AKC), is one of many authorities on dogs, in particular, purebreds. They have stated that practices such as ear cropping for certain breeds are “integral to defining and preserving breed character.”

It is also argued that ear cropping is no different philosophically or ethically than any elective surgery such as spaying and neutering, tail docking, or removing protruding dew claws.

The Case Against Cropping

Those who oppose ear cropping, offer several replies.  

Regarding the health benefit claims by purebred guardians, anti-cropping dog guardians argue the surgery itself is inflicting trauma, so claiming an intent to reduce the likelihood of ear trauma doesn’t ring true for them. One of the very risks of this surgery is the possibility of ear infection. In addition, ear cropping is not performed on breeds genetically predisposed to ear infections, such as poodles and spaniels. They also cite that there is no scientific evidence that dogs with cropped ears can hear better.

While the AKC supports cropping as a breed standard, the American Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and more oppose the practice. Emily Patterson-Kane, animal welfare scientist of the AVMA welfare division has said, “The most common reason for cropping and docking is to give a dog a certain look. That means it poses unnecessary risks.”

Many veterinarians and animal hospitals no longer offer the surgery, citing expense and pain for the dog. Their argument is that ear cropping may be an elective surgery, like spaying and neutering. However, ear cropping does not result in enough of a health benefit to the dog. Spaying and neutering reduce the likelihood of accidental and unnecessary breeding, reducing the cost to the community and dog guardians.

Julie Hecht, dog behavior researcher and science writer, has written about the effect ear cropping can have on our dog’s personalities, how we communicate with them, and the limitations on their ability to communicate effectively with other dogs. Ears and tails are “useful and meaningful in dog-dog communication.”

Dr. T.J. Dunn, Jr., DVM says, “So the choice to crop a dog's ears is a personal decision that a purebred dog owner needs to weigh carefully -- partly because what you think you will get may not occur.” Dr. Dunn is referring to the common result after surgery from even the most experienced surgeon that the ears often do not both stand erect. They can end up being mismatched or short and floppy, rather than natural and floppy.

Whether we decide to crop or not to crop, there will be criticism. Breeders will disagree with those who opt out of the surgery because they often side with the AKC about the need for breed standards. And many vets no longer offer the surgery cautioning against it, citing unnecessary expense and pain. As a fading trend, much of the public is against it, but there are plenty in favor of maintaining purebred standards.

As canine companions and dog guardians, the decision is ultimately a personal one. The best question we can ask when faced with the decision is, are the risks and pain my dog may experience worth it? We need to weigh all the pros and cons, talk to our vet, and then make the best decision for our fur-baby.

ear cropping vet organics ecoearsAt Vet Organics, we can at least offer the solution to ear infections, whether our pup's ears are cropped or not. EcoEars is a powerful natural formula that can provide fast relief. It is a pet pantry staple in many homes around the world. Consider adding it to your canine companion first aid kit. 

Michelle Lievense

Michelle is a writer and ghostwriter, specializing in wellness, sustainability, and global social change. She is particularly fond of serving ethical organizations who contribute to a better life for people and animals through humane and environmentally responsible missions. At Vet Organics, Michelle uses her time as a vet tech, her academic studies in animal science and behavior, and nearly a decade working on a ranch teaching animal husbandry to write on a variety of cat and canine health topics. When she isn't writing, Michelle can be found hiking in the mountains of Colorado with her dogs or snuggled up with a good book and her cats.

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*Results may vary based on factors such as age, size and physical condition of your pet.