Dog Ear Cropping And Tail Docking: Necessary Or Inhumane?

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.


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.


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.


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