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Doberman Ear cropping is it necessary?

Cropped ears may be impressive but are they really necessary?



The reason for cropping a Doberman's ears is strictly cosmetic, there are really no medical benefits. The practice therefore can be considered the equivalent of cosmetic surgery for humans, only that it is tended to canines. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has for some time considered the practice of ear cropping medically unnecessary and therefore has opposed to its practice. It has asked practicing veterinarians to warn clients considering this practice, about the potential risks of anesthesia, blood loss, infections and complications.

Stepping back into history, the Doberman breed had its ears initially cropped in order to prevent an attacker to have '' a handle'' to grip onto. Later, the ear crop was believed to allow Dobermans as guard dogs to ''hear better'' and therefore, accomplish their guarding job in a more effective matter.

There are some people that claim that ear cropping prevents ear infections because it allows ears to have a better airflow. This can be true in some circumstances, since floppy ears tend to trap moisture and therefore bacteria, more effectively. However, ear cropping for this purpose only would be a bit extreme. After all, dogs with cropped ears are not entirely immune from ear infections as they may get their fair share of yeast and bacterial infections.

Currently, the AKC allows uncropped ears in the show ring. However, most Doberman show dogs present cropped ears because they want to adhere to the ''breed standard''.

But one should question objectively really what is a breed standard? Shouldn't it be the way a dog is born the end result of genes? If nature programmed a dog to have floppy ears isn't this the real breed standard? This is surely something to give a thought.

More and more countries have banned the practice, considering it ''barbaric and unecessary''.Yet, in the States it is still legal and practiced by many breeders or owners that want to show their dogs.

The main fact dog cropping is still alive today is because Dobermans maintain the ''fierce'' look they were meant to have as guard dogs protecting properties. But today? With more and more stereotyping of vicious dog breeds and breed specific legislations to be passed? Is it really worth it?

Ear cropping in Dobermans is done when the puppy is between 7-9 weeks of age. Waiting too long greatly increases the chances of the ears being unable to stand up.

It is more and more difficult to find veterinarians that will crop ears nowadays. Perhaps this is due to public awareness as more and more veterinarians oppose to it is because they consider the practice unnecessary and painful. Responsible owners therefore thinking about cropping their Dobie's ears should carefully evaluate the pros and cons and ultimately make a wise choice keeping their dog's best interest in mind.

Beautiful doberman with natural ears

For further reading

  • Should Ear Cropping and Tail Docking be Made Illegal...
    Recently, Banfield Pet hospitals have started discontinuing both ear crops and tail docking procedures because both practices are considered primarily cosmetic procedures that go against the overall health and...
  • How dog ear cropping is done
    Ears: in a dog's life they play main vital functions, from powerful hearing devices to effective means of communication. In certain breeds, they also are floppy shaped to protect the vulnerable ear drums from invading insects or rain, in others they.
  • Myths about Dog Ear Cropping
    Recently, the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has considered the practice of ear cropping for cosmetic purposes only, medically unnecessary and therefore has opposed to its practice. While the battle has been going on for quite a...
  • Myths about Dog Ear Cropping


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 15, 2011:

Dave, first off , there is no such thing as ''docked ears'' docking is a term strictly for tails not for ears. Ears are ''cropped'' not docked.

I understand your concerns about ear canals and all, and I have nothing against having crops done when medically necessary. But I find it outright wrong to make it look like Dobermans must be cropped or they will suffer all their lives from terrible and debilitating ear infections.That is downright wrong.

During my career, I have seen dobermans cropped with ear infections and I have seen a plethora of Dobermans un-cropped which lived all their lives with no infections whatsoever.

If I went on to say here that ''ear cropping must be done in Dobermans because GRANTED they will suffer from ear infections all their lives'' I would do a disservice. I will not lie just to make breeders feel happy and get comfort thinking that the cropping was at least justified because it ''saved their dogs' lives'' from ear infections (which by the way many dog breeds suffer from recurrently but no one would EVER think of cropping them!)

Note the veterinary associations I have quoted are all extremely reputable, they are not just ''people making up claims over the internet''. For your information the AVMA, WSAVA and AAHA are veterinary associations that shape the rules and laws that govern veterinary medicine. I will believe them and not the average dog breeder who pops up here to comment on my article and tell me all I say is wrong because they think they know more than such associations.

Note that in countries where are cropping in banned there are thousands, I mean thousands of Dobermans with no problems. Note that reputable veterinary associations claim ear cropping is purely cosmetic and how they demonstrate proof of their studies. And finally note how countless owners of dobies left un-cropped claim they have no issues with ear infections, when ''oddly'' breeders and show dog owners claim they have awful problems of ear infections

Sorry I still cannot buy it and I rather stick with what the AVMA, WSAVA and AAHA have to say about ear crops. Let's just be honest and admit the procedure is done simply for aesthetic reasons. I found a website the other day where several doberman breeders were ethical enough to openly admit it. I have far more respect for people that admit it openly than those who try to find an excuse for it.

I do not mean to be harsh but I know for a fact and have seen that uncropped dobermans do just fine with their floppy ears. It could very likely be you dealt with a batch of Dobes with some genetic predisposition to otic problems.

I can understand ear cropping back in the times when there were no antibiotics and veterinary care was outdated and poor, but nowadays, cropping an ear to prevent an ear infection is like cutting a tennis players' arm to merely prevent tennis elbow.

Dave on November 15, 2011:

I have actually read the reports of which you speak because I had a Cocker Spaniel with the common ear infection issue they have and was thinking about getting her ears docked to stop the infection. My vet point blank told me "DAVE what works for your dobermans ears will not work for the Cocker Spaniel because they are 2 different breeds with two different head shapes." He said in the case of the Cocker Spaniel I have 2 possible surgeries and guess what...he gave me several vet journal reports showing the only way to help the Cocker Spaniel was either a surgery to enlarge the ear canal a procedure I might add that is actually dangerous to the dog due to a possibility of deafness on the dogs part if messed up and even when successful the cocker spaniel often times becomes half crazed because they have issues adjusting to the much higher sound volumes it is now exposed to. The other surgery involved permanatly installing a drain in the dogs ear coming out of the under side of the ear and basically being hidden by the ear flap. This one is much safer but leaves a rubber tube sicking out that can get tore out if the dog is scratching at it or if the dog is wrestling with the other dogs. I ended up electing for option 3. Holding the dog down each weekend. Shaving the insides of its ears. Pouring peroxide in its ears to clean them out and then finally filling them with anti fungal foot powder and working it around until it got all the way in then letting go of the dog and watching as it exploded into a ball of white powder trying to shake it all out. I would did this for 8 years until the dog passed away. I would like to point out that this method some times works on dobermans...but you are dealing with a dog that is potentially 100 lbs versus a dog that is usually never more then 35lbs. SO where am I going with all this. GET A GOOD VET. If your going to buy a Doberman be prepared for what you might have to deal with. just like humans there is no same answer for all of them...some dogs HAVE to have their ears docked..others will not. This isn't a decision left up to someone on the internet this is a decision best left up to YOU and the VET you trust who has PROPERLY EXAMINED the animal and made you a good recommendation based on what they have seen.

Dave on November 15, 2011:

I also can go online and find many different independent studies saying there is very good reasons to crop the dogs ears from vets. Quoting internet research has proven time and time again to be difficult to trace and check its veracity. So I will go by what I have witnessed with my own eyes and ears and since of smell on this matter. While we are on the subject of the ear anatomy let me give you some back ground on where several of the medical studies failed. They were not studying The Doberman Breed specifically. IN DOBERMAN PINCHERS the hanging ear does cause the collapse of the ear canal because the dogs head is shaped wrong for the support of a pendulous ear and does not have the bone spur support for the muscles to attach to for that type of ear. If you compare them to a blood hound or other dog with a similar sized ear you will see the collapse of the ear causing the issue...some dogs more so the others. The way to solve this issue per the vet we used back in the 80's was to try to examine the dogs canals in a hanging position with a boroscope to see just how much collapse there was. If it was ok the dogs would be left alone...if the dogs inner canal was collapsing from the weight of the ear he got his ear docked. We started doing this after the issues of leaving the dogs undocked.For us it was easier to sell the dogs with ears undocked because the people coming us wanted to take the dogs to their own vet to get the ears docked the way they wanted them done. As you well know there is many views on what the proper dock was and predocking the ears would often mean a person who other wise seemed like they were a good match for one of our dogs might go somewhere else. Oddly we found that typically the females could usually go undocked as their ears were typically a fair bit smaller and did not cause as much canal collapse. The simple fact on this matter is the research out there is spotty at best you cant compare apples to oranges. A research paper conducted on COCKER SPANIELS with small rounded heads and ear cavities designed to collapse does not apply to the large rectangular head of a doberman.

Dobielove on November 15, 2011:

We have had Dobes with natural ears for many years. My oldest one is 9. No extra problems of ear infections.

On top of that in England, ear cropping isn't allowed and considered cruel. Show Dobes must show with natural ears.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 14, 2011:

Also wanted to add that floppy ears do not make less than a guard dog. Most working dogs and retrieving dogs for that matter, who depend on their hearing have floppy ears.Dogs have great hearing despite the flap of skin that surrounds it. My Rotts, who are floppy-eared and by the way never had an ear infection, are the best guard dogs ever.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 14, 2011:

Dave, the stuff I quote are not my opinion they are facts from vets. I understand your family has cropped for generations, and it is unfortunate your Dobermans suffered from ear infections, but cropping can not be concluded to be a medically necessary procedure and I am sorry to say this, but I deal with breeders attempting to make it look this way, all the time.

Studies were conducted on this and because it was advocated as NOT being a medically necessary procedure, as a result, ear cropping has been banned in more than 25 countries and several more are being added.

According to the AVMA American Veterinary Medical Association, recent veterinary opinion appears to be that ear conformation affects ventilation and may be a factor contributing to otitis externa incidence and severity. However, most dogs with hanging ears will NOT suffer from infections, and ear conformation is NOT considered to be a primary cause. The basis for this opinion includes the low incidence of otitis externa in many breeds with pendulous ears (e.g., Beagles, Setters) and the presence of other directly causal factors in otitis-prone breeds.''

Interestingly, one of the most affected breeds for ear infections is the German Shepherd dog and it has erect ears!

Furthermore, the AVMA explains ''the surgery commonly performed to avoid (re)occurrence of otitis externa aims to open the ear canal rather than reduce the pinna. In all of the scientific papers we reviewed the authors' recommendation was that at-risk dogs should be monitored and treated proactively in a way that addressed the primary cause—NONE of these papers identified EAR CONFORMATION as the primary cause!''

According to WSAVA, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, ''Ear cropping and/or tail docking in pets for cosmetic reasons are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient'' and ''Ear cropping and/or tail docking in pets for cosmetic reasons are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient''.

If such positions are taken by relevant veterinary associations it means they know what they are doing. They know that ear cropping is to no benefit whatsoever to dogs and know that is a mere cosmetic surgery.

According to veterinarian TJ Dunn:''The fact is that ear infections are common in all sorts of breeds, whether they have cropped ears or not. As a veterinarian with 32 years of experience treating hundreds of thousands of dogs during that time, I cannot find medical justification for cropping a dog's pinnas (outer ear)''

And working as a vet/assistant I have seen my fair share of cropped dogs suffering from recurrent ear infections including cropped Dobermans! I am sorry but I do not buy into the ''ear cropping is done for the dog's own good'' philosophy, simply because I have seen ear infections in dogs regardless of ear conformation and because ear cropping being medically unnecessary is the school of thought of the most reputable veterinary associations which I trust.

You are right to say that keeping a dog natural is a bit of a controversy since breeds were selectively bred by humans. But what I mean by natural is simply keeping the dog as it presents at birth. Didn't humans mess around enough with dogs, making them prone to hip dysplasia, hereditary eye disorders, and heart problems to name a few, to also add an unnecessary cosmetic surgery on top of all the mess we already made?

Dave on November 13, 2011:

Alexadry. the stuff you quote is wrong. I am sorry buy my family has raised over 10 generations of dobermans. Some we left uncropped. ALL the dogs we left uncropped got horrible ear infections and ended up with countless thousands of dollars spent on vet bills and one dog almost going deaf even though we were trying everything we could to stop the infection. The arguments about the dogs being naturally that way does not hold up because the doberman is a man made breed. It was developed over a relatively short period of time (10-50 years) whereas most dog breeds are thousands of years old and mostly untouched. Louis Dobermann slamming 10 different dog breeds together to get the dog he wanted gave us a stunning looking and intelligent dog, but it also has issues of ear infections and hip dysplasia only worsened in the late 70'd early 80s by puppy mill breeders who were irresponsible

Dave on November 13, 2011:

My family has raised Dobermans for years. There are several good reasons to crop the ears. The biggest is the dogs health. Much like Cocker Spaniels the ears can develop infections due to trapped moisture. The second is that it allows the dog to locate sounds better. The 3rd is that a dobermans usual job in life is as a guard dog. Long ears are easy to grab and henceforth control and injure the dog. This protects the dog from both would be criminals and over zealous toddlers.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 05, 2011:

Mari, thank you for posting. I agree, people do have the faculty to choose to go under the knife for cosmetic purposes whereas dogs care less about how they look, and imposing them our egocentric needs is plain stupid and egoistic.

Mari on November 05, 2011:

Comparing dogs to humans is ridiculous. People CHOOSE to have any procedures, dogs do not have that luxury. Keep it real.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 01, 2011:

I would never pierce my ears if it required total anesthesia and weeks of recovery along with wearing ridiculous cones during the whole recovery process! And I think neither would you and countless others! It irritates me when people compare ear cropping with ear piercing. They are like comparing apples with oranges. If you worked with a vet you would be better able to tell the difference. And I tell you, ear cropping is not a walk in the park.

One of my friends lost her Doberman puppy after cropping due to an anesthesia complication. She wished she had her puppy back and never considered this procedure again. She regrets having been so selfish and for losing him for such a stupid cause.

Call me what you want but ear cropping has been banned in over 20 countries and more and more vets are refusing to do this because it is just WRONG


The ear infection literature you mention is a myth many pro-croppers resort to make the procedure appear more HUMANE and NEEDED. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association ''The surgery commonly performed to avoid (re)occurrence of otitis externa aims to open the EAR CANAL rather than reduce the PINNA. Most dogs with hanging ears will NOT suffer from infections,and ear conformation is not considered to be a primary cause. The basis for this opinion includes the low incidence of otitis externa in many breeds with pendulous ears (e.g., Beagles, Setters6) and the presence of other directly causal factors in otitis-prone breeds. No group deems high incidence of otitis externa a VALID REASON for advocating routine cropping of the ears of Cocker Spaniels or Poodles. Some breeds, such as the Dalmatian and the Anatolian Shepherd Dog (where erect ears are an AKC disqualification) were historically cropped, but this tradition waned without apparent ill effects. Nor are traditionally cropped breeds among those with the highest incidence of otitis externa, even in countries where cropping is RARE. Thus it CANNOT be assumed that ear cropping has a medical purpose.''

Here is the link if you think I made this up. I go by FACTS AND NOT HEARSAY.

Zeus on September 01, 2011:

I hope you didn't pierce your ears, and I hope you're not circumcised because both are cosmetic procedures. If so, I am most certain being a hypocrite is probably what you are. Trying to pose as a tree hugger on this subject is where you would fail terribly. The dobermans are more prone to ear infections not cropped.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 17, 2011:

Dogs are not humans and humans are not dogs it is just as simple as that. Imposing to our pets our futile, egoistic and self centered needs is downright wrong. What disturbs me and thousands of people across the globe wanting to ban this useless procedure, is the fact that animals do not have an awareness of their looks, such procedures are therefore carried out only as a sacrifice for selfish owners. REAL animal abuse as you call it, is a real problem, and it would be great if instead of spending hundreds of dollars for such futile surgeries people would donate to organizations against such abuse.

bridget on August 17, 2011:

why don't people have a problem with cosmetic surgery for humans?

"potential risks of anesthesia, blood loss, infections and complications" - human surgery has those same risks.

If you're going to outlaw something as minor as ear cropping maybe you should consider paying attention to human cosmetic surgery or not worrying about ear cropping and worry about REAL animal abuse

hari on May 10, 2011:

cut down its ears

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 31, 2010:

I am with dingy: why get rid of those great ears?

hari on December 29, 2010:

cut down its ears

Carolyn from Northamptonshire on June 24, 2010:

Why get rid off those great ears?

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