Ear cropping. Some people like it, some hate it. Some people will say it is necessary while others will say it is cruel. Ear cropping is definitely controversial topic and if you are thinking about getting a puppy of a breed that usually has a cropped ears, you might be wondering, why people actually crop the dogs ears. What are the pros and cons of this procedure.
Lets start with briefly explaining what ear cropping actually is. It is a procedure in which part of the external visible ear flap is removed. Sometimes it involves taping as well, which is making the ears pointy. This is typical for example in Dobermans. The cropping is done when the dog is still a very young puppy, typically between the age of 6 – 14 weeks.
Now lets talk about the supposed pros and cons of ear cropping. I will start with the pros and we can go a little back to history to understand to pros. The dog ear can be viewed as a weak spot when the dog has to defend something against a strong predator as the ear can be easily bitten or torn during the fight, which is why many livestock guardian breeds have their ear cropped. Breeds that were used for dog fights have their ears cropped for the same reason. So the number one advantage is, that it makes the dog better for protection and guarding work as there is a lesser chance of damaging the ear.
Some hunting dogs also had their ear cropped in the past and the reason for it was to improve their hearing and sound localization. There is a belief that dogs with cropped ears could hear better, as they could more easily swivel their ears in the direction of sound, especially in comparsion to the dogs with large floppy ears. One of the argument of people supporting this idea is, that there are almost no wild dogs with large floppy ears and that it is not natural for dogs to have floppy ears.
The third and possibly the biggest advantage of ear cropping is belief, that it will reduce ear infections. It is certainly true, that dogs with large floppy ears like Basset Hounds suffer from ear infections more often than dogs with small ears. Ear cropping open up the ear canal and increase airflow into it, which can lead to drier ear and fewer ear infections. But it is debatable how big is the effect of the ear cropping on decreasing the ammount of ear infections.
The last advantage, if you can say it like that, is only cosmetical and it is that it makes the dog look differently. Some people want make their dog look traditional, the same way how they looked in the past. Some people want to make the dog look fierce and some want to make them look natural, similar to wolves. Some breeds even have it written in their breed standard, that the ears should be cropped, which is why people who want their dog on shows must go through this procedure. But as i said, this reason is only cosmetical and i dont think it is a real advantage. But it is probably the number one reason why people crop their dogs ears these days, as there are not that many working dogs, who would really need their ears cropped for working purposes or safety reasons.
Now lets mention the cons of ear cropping. The biggest con probably is, that the ear cropping is unnecessary. Today, when most of the dogs are companion dogs and you can prevent ear infections even in dogs with floppy ears, there is no real reason for ear cropping in most of the dogs.
Especially if the cropping is done traditionally and not surgically with the veterinarian, there are big health risks and the dog can potentionally loose the hearing. Traditional cropping is also extremely painful and stresful for the pup.
When the ear cropping is done surgically by the veterinarian, the risk of health issues and infections is limited to minimum, but still, any surgery are dangerous to some degree and you do not want to put dogs under general anesthesia if not necessary, especially when it comes to cosmetical procedure.
During the surgery, dogs are normally under full anesthesia, so they do not feel any pain, but they most certainly feel pain, or discomfort, after the surgery and after the pain medications wear off. How much pain and how big the pain is, is debated.
Another disadvantage is, that the procedure is not always succesfull. Sure, most of the time, the veterinarian will do a great job, but there is no guarantee. Sometimes one ear can be crooked, sometimes neither of both ears will stand. There is just no guarantee when it comes to surgeries.
And the last disadvantage, and again, i am not sure if this can be really counted as disadvantage, is judgement by people who are strongly against ear cropping. Some people will not like you and they will view you as cruel if you have a dog with cropped ears.
This is a list of pros and cons of ear cropping. What is my opinion about this topic? I personally find ear cropping unnecessary. I am not a big fan of ear cropping or tail docking in dogs, especially in companion dogs where there is no real benefit of doing it.
It is also important to say, that in many countries the ear cropping is outlawed and the number of countries is slightly increasing year by year. So you are not allowed to crop your dogs ears everywhere in the world.