Some breeds of dogs through the ages have traditionally been recognized partly by the distinctive look of their head; cropped ears have been a trademark for these breeds. Doberman Pinschers, Boxers and Great Danes come to mind right away. And even many of the smaller breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer have traditionally had their ears surgically cropped to give them a distinctive appearance.

Ear cropping is an optional cosmetic surgery performed by a licensed veterinarian with a purpose to enable the ears to stand erect. Usually recommended to be done around the age of 8-10 weeks old, the procedure is performed in sterile conditions, under anesthesia and with pain medicine. The ears are then cut in a way that instead of flopping down to the side of the head, they would stand erect on the head (after a series of proper taping).

The newly cropped (surgically altered) ears are required a period of bandaging and administrating of antibiotics/pain relieve drugs till the ears are fully healed and then a series of proper taping techique is employed in order to train the ears to stand. The proper taping techique is essential for the ears to ultimately stand, and if not done sufficiently, the ears may never erect correctly. The longer the ear crop length is kept, the more time and consistency is required for its taping.    

Ear cropping is a difficult decision for many purebred dog owners and it should be an informed choice. In our modern times, many people have come to question the need or advisability of cropping the ears of dogs. The aspect of animal cruelty comes into play in that many people will argue that there is no medical, physical, environmental or cosmetic advantage for the dog to have the pinnas (the ear flaps) surgically altered. And to subject any dog to the "disfiguring" and unnecessary surgical procedure and subsequent taping and bandaging that sometimes needs to be done after the surgery amounts to animal cruelty and is indefensible. There are others that will argue that for some dogs, the cropped ear will help prevent ear canal infections and make the opportunity for pinna trauma and infection much less likely. They will state that the ear cropping is no different philosophically or ethically than any elective surgery such as spaying and neutering or removing protruding dew claws.

It is already against the law to crop ears on dogs in many countries including the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, Singapore, Cyprus, and the Virgin Islands. The list of countries imposing ban on ear croppping is extending each year.

Ear cropping, like tail docking and dew claw removal, began centuries ago as a preventive measure against injuries incurred during hunting/guarding exercises. In those times, there were no antibiotics for infections or anesthesias, and no veterinary surgeons to repair cuts, wounds and infections. Owners learned as a practical matter to remove in the first days of life those portions of a puppy's anatomy that were prone to tearing.    

Ears were an easy target in fights, and most of the fighting dogs had their ears cropped. Some hunting and guarding breeds, including the Great Dane (at that time a boarhound) and the boxer, were cropped to prevent injury while hunting. Many flockguarding breeds (such as the Caucasian Owtcharka of Russia and the Akbash Dog of Turkey) had their ears nearly amputated (across, almost flush with the head) since they lived most of their lives out with the flocks and had to face wolves and bears. Even the Saluki had its ears removed in its native Arabia, probably due to the rapid appearance of flies and maggots in any wound.

Almost all early ear crops were short and crude. As advances in husbandry and medicine eliminated the need for short ears, cropping became more fashion than protective medicine. Surgeries were done under anesthesia, and the cuts tended to lengthen and become more graceful and aesthetic in shape. There are no longer any scientifically proven reasons to crop ears. Some say that it prevents ear infections, but veterinarians see plenty of erect-eared dogs (both natural and cropped) with these infections.

Ear taping consisits of wrapping the ears with tape in such a manner that they stand erect on the head. The tape is usually left on for 5 days to a weeks, removed for a day, and then reapplied. This procedure is continued until the ears are fully erect which usually takes 5 to 6 months depending on the lenght of the crop and maybe more in some cases.

Visit the following links to learn the techniques employed by the experts to train the ears to stand upright straight.

  • Linda Arndt - How to tape ears
  • Jill Swedlow - Ear taping

  • Scarbrough Fair Canine Specialty Store

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