Pet owners, veterinarians and dog show competitors have long debated the question of whether or not a dog’s ears should be cropped. While some believe the practice is cruel and inhumane, others maintain that cropped ears make a dog both healthier and more attractive. Both sides of this argument suggest several reasons to support their decisions.
Ear cropping is the clipping and reshaping of a dog’s ears so that they stand upright instead of drooping in the natural fashion. Puppies typically undergo this surgery around the age of 7 to 15 weeks, when the ears are strong but not fully formed. After the ears have been cropped, they must remain wrapped and taped properly so that they do not fold over or become unattractive. Many times, a puppy must receive consistent veterinary care for several weeks to make sure its ears heal as they should. Some breeds that are known for their cropped ears include Dobermans, great Danes, boxers, and schnauzers.
Appearance is a main motivation for many pet owners to have their dog’s ears cropped. Some simply believe that cropped ears are more attractive than the typical drooping ears that most dogs have. Among certain prestigious breeds, cropped ears are considered more stylish than natural ears. However, natural ears are becoming increasingly popular, even among breeds that traditionally have cropped ears.
Owners often take a special interest in a dog’s appearance when it is serving the function of a guard dog. For example, Doberman pinschers are known for their cropped ears and docked tails, which give them a more alert, intimidating appearance. While this may not be important for a family that keeps a Doberman as a pet, it would hardly stand for an attack police dog to have playful, floppy ears.
Dogs with special functions may also benefit from the sharp hearing cropped ears produce. According to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, dogs with cropped ears can locate sound within a five degree angle of its source, while dogs with natural ears can only pinpoint a noise within 20 degrees. In a critical situation, this advantage may mean the difference between life and death.
Some veterinarians claim that cropped ears are less prone to infection than natural ears. However, others maintain that ear cropping is not a factor in ear infections. The American Veterinary Medical Association resolves this disagreement by stating that, while ears that droop abnormally increase the risk of ear infections, there is not yet any evidence to support the claim that cropped ears lower the risk. Regardless of whether a dog’s ears are cropped or natural, weekly ear cleanings can usually prevent infections.
The biggest drawback to ear cropping is the claim that the practice is unethical and inhumane. This is certainly the case among untrained breeders who crop ears themselves in order to save money. In fact, ear cropping has been completely outlawed in most of Europe and Asia. That said, the ear cropping procedure has become significantly more advanced in the last few decades, making the surgery much less painful for the puppy.