Dog Ear Cropping And Tail Docking: Necessary Or Inhumane?

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Dog with ears croppedEar cropping and tail docking are common today, but are these procedures necessary or purely cosmetic? Is it legal in your state? Learn the history of these practices and why they are still done today. Find out if it’s essential for your dog to have its ears cropped or its tail docked.

Article Overview

What Is Dog Ear Cropping?

Cropping is removing all or part of the external ear flap on a dog. Many countries ban this practice due to the thought of it being purely cosmetic; thus it’s considered animal cruelty to perform unnecessary surgery on an animal.

Why Are Dog’s Ears Cropped?

Most often for perceived health benefits and cosmetic reasons. However, there is no data supporting the idea that cropping a dog’s ears improves its health. Some claims suggest that it can minimize ear infections and improve hearing.

Many breed standards (set by the AKC and other pedigree organizations) have cosmetic requirements, including cropped ears for certain breeds. But, unless you are competing in a dog show or other event that requires these appearance standards, this is not necessary.

Procedure

Ear cropping is typically performed when a dog is between 7 and 12 weeks old, when cropping is considered most effective. General anesthesia is typically used, and about two-thirds of the ear (the external ear flap) is removed as well as many nerve endings.1

Healing Process

Ears are stitched and bandaged for several weeks. The vet may need to check and replace these bandages periodically to ensure proper healing.

Risks

The surgery has risks including the use of general anesthesia and post-surgery complications. Additionally, the ears may become infected, experience bleeding or even need to be amputated (rare but possible with significant complications). The dog’s ears will be sensitive and painful for weeks after surgery. The dog may experience phantom pain, and there is no guarantee on the success of the operation.

21 Common Breeds With Cropped Ears

Below are some common breeds with cropped ears.

  1. Affenpinscher
  2. American Bully
  3. American Pitbull Terrier
  4. American Staffordshire Terrier
  5. Beauceron
  6. Boston Terrier
  7. Bouvier des Flandres
  8. Boxer
  9. Briard
  10. Brussels Griffon
  11. Cane Corso
  12. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
  13. Doberman Pinscher
  14. German Pinscher
  15. Giant Schnauzer
  16. Great Dane
  17. Manchester Terrier
  18. Miniature Pinscher
  19. Miniature Schnauzer
  20. Neapolitan Mastiff
  21. Standard Schnauzer

What Is Dog Tail Docking?

Tail docking is the removal of part of a dog’s tail. The amount removed can vary depending on the breed standards.

Why Are Dog’s Tails Docked?

In the past, tail docking was thought to prevent rabies, strengthen the dog’s back, increase its speed and prevent injuries from fighting.2 

Today, dog’s tails may be docked to prevent the spread of infection (i.e., happy tail), to help heal from disease or for cosmetic reasons. They are also docked to avoid injuries for working dogs who could get their tails caught in something.

However, most tails are docked primarily for cosmetic purposes today, causing unnecessary pain to the dog.

Procedure

There are two ways to dock a tail. The first consists of constricting the blood flow to the tail with a rubber ligature until the tail falls off. This can take a few days. The second is severing the tail with scissors or a scalpel.

Healing Process

Make sure you keep your dog’s bedding clean and monitor the surgical site until it heals fully. The space your dog is in should be kept clean, dry and free of urine and feces.

Your vet will tell you when to remove the bandages, typically 2 to 3 days after surgery. This is generally done with scissors but check with your vet to learn the process they recommend.

Monitor the area for redness, swelling and discharge. If you see them, these are signs of infection. Your dog will probably need a follow-up visit about a week after surgery to have the stitches (if used) removed.

59 Common Breeds With Docked Tails

  1. Airedale Terrier
  2. American Cocker Spaniel
  3. Australian Silky
  4. Australian Shepherd
  5. Australian Terrier
  6. Bouvier des Flandres
  7. Boxer
  8. Bracco Italiano
  9. Brittany
  10. Cane Corsa
  11. Clumber Spaniel
  12. Cocker Spaniel
  13. Dobermann
  14. English Springer Spaniel
  15. Fell Terrier
  16. Field Spaniel
  17. German Short-Haired Pointer
  18. German Wire-Haired Pointer
  19. Giant Schnauzer
  20. Glen of Imaal Terrier
  21. Griffon Bruxellois
  22. Hungarian Vizsla
  23. Irish Terrier
  24. Italian Spinone
  25. Jack Russell Terrier
  26. Kerry Blue Terrier
  27. King Charles Spaniel
  28. Lakeland Terrier
  29. Large Munsterlander
  30. Lucas Terrier
  31. Miniature Pinscher
  32. Miniature Poodle
  33. Miniature Schnauzer
  34. Neopolitan Mastiff
  35. Norfolk Terrier
  36. Norwich Terrier
  37. Old English Sheepdog
  38. Patterdale Terrier
  39. Parson Jack Russell Terrier
  40. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  41. Pinscher
  42. Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  43. Rottweiler
  44. Russian Black Terrier
  45. Schipperke
  46. Schnauzer
  47. Sealyham Terrier
  48. Smooth Fox Terrier
  49. Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  50. Spanish Water Dog
  51. Standard Poodle
  52. Sussex Spaniel
  53. Swedish Vallhund
  54. Toy Poodle
  55. Weimaraner
  56. Welsh Springer Spaniel
  57. Welsh Terrier
  58. Wire-Haired Fox Terrier
  59. Yorkshire Terrier3

State Laws For Ear Cropping & Tail Docking

This information was taken from the AVMA (American Veterinarian Medical Association).

Ear Cropping Laws

  • 9 states regulate ear cropping.
  • It is illegal to crop a dog’s ears in Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania, unless done by a licensed vet while the dog is under anesthetic.
  • Maryland law states that the ear cropping must be “appropriate on the animal.”
  • Massachusetts forbids ear cropping except when performed by a licensed vet.
  • It is illegal in Washington to perform ear cropping except when it is considered a customary management practice.
  • “Animal torture” is illegal in Illinois (includes both ear cropping & tail docking), but has an exception for alteration of an animal done under the direction of a licensed vet.
  • Maine bans mutilating an animal by irreversibly damaging body parts (includes ear cropping & tail docking) but makes an exception if performed by a licensed vet.

Tail Docking Laws

  • 19 states regulate tail docking in some form.
  • Maryland and Pennsylvania are the only states that have provisions restricting the tail docking of dogs.
    • It is illegal in Pennsylvania to dock a dog’s tail if it is older than 5 days, unless it is medically necessary.
    • In Maryland, only vets can perform tail docking and only if they use anesthesia and it’s considered appropriate.
  • Alaska and Louisiana allow tail docking but only if it is done in a sanitary manner, minimizes the dog’s pain and distress, and is done in a timely fashion.

Think Twice Before You Amputate

This short video may make you think twice about cropping your dog’s ears or docking its tail.

Do you think these procedures are humane?

Sources: [1] PetHelpful, [2] Defra, [3] Council of Docked Breeds

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories and more. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs.

Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child. In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly's research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today.

One of Kimberly's favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs, and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

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Shelly
I was researching local rescue dogs to bring into our home the other day and one had a condition called happy tail that caused it to need its tail docked. I had never heard of this before but it seems to be a bigger risk for large, short-haired dogs. It seems that infection would be the primary reason for this to become a problem. Only a dog would get an issue that literally comes from it being too happy! 🙂
Ronda
I definitely don’t think dogs ears should be cropped. I think it just is to make them look tough and scary. I had two pit bull puppies show up at my house one time, and checked all the vets in the area and no one claimed these dogs. They both had these procedures done and I think they were done and bread for fighting. Now as far as do claws, I think they should be removed in the first 3 days of the puppies life. When I was young in the 60s we had a lot of poodles with docked tails, now I just adopted a poodle with out a docked tail, and I see no reason for it. I like her long tail and am letting her hair grow out on it. I don’t really see a purpose for it.
So No I do not think tails or ears should be docked, and Yes on do claws.
Ellen Rust
Well- im against ears and tail chop off. But there is a fact why there is benefit to chop ears and tail. Only benefit to livestock guardian dogs for protecting livestocks. Wolves, coyotes, and other will torn their long ears off to cause it bleeding a lot. Same goes for tail. If there’s no tail or long ears, which mean guardian dog won’t getting tired or lost lot of blood, more chance to defeat wild animal.
ER nurse
Just like amputation of healthy body parts off of babies (circumcision) is wrong!! It’s only done for tradition here in America, and not recommended by any medical organizations worldwide!! Boys and dogs are born perfect!!!
Lolz
I don’t believe your ER nurse claim because if you truly graduated nursing school you would know that circumcision reduces the risk of most penile cancers. Not to mention the hygiene benefits of the procedure. Comparing a proven beneficial procedure to a purely cosmetic procedure like ear cropping is quite ignorant for an “ER nurse”
Aussie
If it were true that circumcision lowers the risk of penile cancers, why doesn’t the rest of the world has vastly higher rates of penile cancer? Circumcision is rare outside of the US (and of course Israel) – yet rates of penile cancer amongst other first world countries is not significantly different than the US. Perhaps “ER” was trained outside the US? Your comment shows you have a limited scope of knowledge and research on the topic. Coming from a country where the practice is so ingrained perhaps adds to your bias.
Theoretically we could remove any part of our bodies to prevent cancer in said body part… but I think I prefer to take the risk!! And to be honest, I’m pretty damn glad my husband’s parents felt the same
Back to the topic of dogs – I can’t imagine my poodle without his very expressive, natural tail. Altering any parts of their bodies for cosmetic purposes is cruel and ignorant.
Joce
Circumcision is not proven beneficial. One study noted a lowered risk in penile cancer for circumcised men, however this type of cancer is extremely rare. It would be like cutting off a girl’s outer labia as an infant to prevent vulvar cancer. Also the hygiene argument is ridiculous as well. It’s 10x harder to brush teeth then to clean under some skin. Maybe I should remove my teeth so I won’t have to worry about cleaning them.
Logic vs Emotions
Wolves,coyotes,foxes,jackals,dingoes,african prairie dogs. And,oh, while were at it – lions,tigers,bears,racoons,wolverines,badgers,skunks,hyenas…wait a second, every mammal on earth has naturally erect ears, including us humans…hmmm, it seems long floppy ears don’t seem to occur in nature, but they do with domestic dogs. Perhaps long floppy, pendulous ears in dogs is a man-made byproduct of years of interference with natural selection and evolution and it came to be mostly on the basis that it’s a structural defect which is tolerated by saps like you because it looks “cute” even though it goes against the way nature intended. Notice how when a dog stands up after sleeping the first thing it does is shake it’s head and/or scratches behind the ear? That’s general discomfort a dog has to live with everyday due to trapped moisture and heat from an ear that doesn’t get enough air flow into the ear canal…assuming it’s not mites which is just as common. And just like circumcision, cropped ears have health benefits too, not mentioning helping working dogs perform a function more safely. Purely cosmetic…I think not.
Mark
Hello,
Where did you get the information that they may experience phantom pain? Curious to know of any studies. Thanks.
-Mark