Hundreds of years ago cropping (surgically changing the shape of the ears) was done for practical purposes. For example, to stop the ears being snagged in rough territory and being injured while hunting or working. For dogs that were bred for fighting it gave less for an opponent to grip on to rip off and sure gave a real “don’t mess with me” look. For guarding breeds, it made them look very alert and in tune with everything around them. Some of those purposes have carried on through to today and it’s an important part of the breed’s feature for many people, for aesthetical reasons (they like the look). It can be looked at as a breed’s trademark so to speak and has been said to have even given the upper hand in the show ring on more than the odd occasion. However, nowadays, I must mention that it is becoming less and less popular generally with an ever-growing resistance and controversy to it and even banned in some countries, especially in Europe such as Germany. This is rather interesting, as many of the breeds that typically have the ears cropped, originate from there. In Great Brittan, dogs with cropped ears are actually barred from entering shows.
Types of Crops?
Long Crop: skinny and tapered at the end and here are some typical breeds that experience it. Usually taping, splinting and bandaging will occur with this crop and it is not always guaranteed to hold that perfect erect posture, especially if done poorly of course.
Short Crop: Cut rather short and no taping required, but may need a support moulded inside the ear for a while. Even with this cut there is a difference between being good or bad and show judges will look for perfect crop true to set breed standards.
– Cane Corso (pictured)
– Neapolitan Mastiff
– Caucasian Mountain Dog
– Canary Dog
– Dogo Argentino
By whom and when should it be done?
You will hear various different ages for various different breeds. For this reason, it is better to seek good advice from experienced breeders and specialist veterinarians that actually do perform crops on the breed you are considering as they will shed the best light on the subject. Many vets will actually not go near cropping for various reasons. A couple being, awkward after treatments such as infections or complaints about the look. Early puppyhood most will agree on to get the surgery done and let’s say between the tender age of 7-12 weeks old typically to give you an idea. Ear cartilage sets early in dogs so this explains one reason why needed so soon. The puppy goes under general anaesthesia during the surgery (made to sleep), which always poses a risk of the puppy not waking up!
Taping your dog’s ears will be required after the long crop (for Dobermans, Great Danes, Schnauzer, Boxer and Miniature Pinscher). Here is a great blog post on “How to actually tape your dog’s ears!“
Tell me…do women look better with breast implants? You are probably thinking “what the hell does silicone have to do with dogs?” Not much, I agree, but as an analogy, it is striking. Today I was walking in a shopping mall and saw a woman with “fake boobs”. My train of thought steamed ahead of me and I found myself thinking: “Hey! This is much like cropping a dog’s ears or docking its tail! So….I would like to talk about docking and cropping. (At the end, feel free to answer my initial question, if you feel like it, of course)
Much like with silicone implants, tail docking and ear cropping have been met by a lot of opposition. The tradition first originates from selecting breeding practices and it is seen as cosmetic modification of that which is God-given.
So let me start by explaining what ear cropping is. At about age 9-13 weeks, puppies go under the knife and their whole look changes. While the puppy is anesthetized the outside edge of the puppy’s ears are cropped. The cuts are sutured closed and the ears are placed in a rack so that they stand up, while they heal. Breeds that undergo this procedure include the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Schnauzer, Boxer, Great Dane, and Doberman Pinscher. Cropping was originally done on fighting dogs…to decrease their chances of having an injured ear. On hunting dogs it was also done, but in this case it was done, so that they wouldn’t get tangled in the bushes. Now the main question arises: Is it good to have this procedure done? Well, I have to be honest with you; I like the look of a hardcore Great Dane with cropped ears….or the sleek look of a Doberman with cropped ears. But…- and yes, there is always a but – ….Cropping is no longer necessary. Dog fights have been banned and working dogs have become more family dogs.
Tail docking on the other hand, is a procedure that is done when the puppy is only days old. The tail is twisted off, after a scissor-like instrument has been clamped onto the tail. Length varies according to breeds, with Rottweilers having a shorter docked tail than Weimaraners for instance. If the tail has been docked properly, the fur will grow on the end of it. Yes, again I have to admit it looks good. Stilettos or flats? Hmmm….tough question, even for a gal like me. But while there is little excuse for cropping, there are reasons for docking. A breed standard often dictates it.
A factor which can help us understand the basis for tail docking is a phenomenon called “Happy Tail”. There are those breeds, like the Labradors and the Golden Retrievers that have immensely “Happy Tails”. Although we think of an energetic tail as a sign of happiness, there is more to it than meets the eye. These dogs were physiologically bred to be good swimmers, and the strength of their tail wag helped them with swimming, much like that of an otter. With the immense strength in their tails, they have the power in them to break the tail as is. What results is a painful docking procedure that is much more painful for adult dogs. Other hunting dogs, like the Weimaraner for example has a docked tail because it would be especially painful for the dog to get stuck in underbrush, or a wired fence as such.
So what of breast implants? Well, Women of any age go under the knife and their whole look changes. While the woman is anesthetized, the breasts are opened up at the sides; the silicone is placed inside, under the muscle and the cuts are sutured closed. The breasts are then wrapped up while they heal.
So what is the bottom line here? Well, while I don’t see any use in ear cropping, there may be reasons behind tail docking. A companion dog that will be a family member and a playmate of children doesn’t need to undergo these procedures. If you are adamant on showing your dogs…well then…you may have to adhere to breed standards. However, many reputable breeders don’t believe in cropping or docking, so you can have your pick, if it really bothers you. When it comes to breast implants, should I repeat myself and say, if she is a show-quality bitch she should be allowed to have it done and if she is a companion she should be left in peace? Oh man, what a can of worms I opened with that one…