Ear Cropping

The procedure of ear cropping is believed to have originated in ancient Rome. It was first instituted to prevent injury to the ears of dogs that were raised for hunting, working, or fighting. If the dog was raised for hunting and fighting, a floppy ear could be bitten off. Plus, floppy ears were also subject to bites that could lead to a fatal ear infection. Romans also believed that cropped ears made their animals look more alert and ferocious.

What is Ear Cropping?

There are some popular dog breeds that have their ears cropped as part of their “look.” The breeds include Boxers, Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, Boston Terriers, Great Danes, and Pit Bull Terriers. The process of ear cropping is done when the puppy is between the ages of eight and 12 weeks. This is because the ear cartilage and muscles of the ears haven’t completely developed yet. When ear cropping is done at this age, it will be easier to train ears to stand up straight.

When the procedure is undertaken, a veterinarian will anesthetize the puppy and trim away any unwanted ear tissue. Then the vet closes the incision with sutures. The recovery and healing time for this process can take up to two months. During this time, the puppy’s ears have to be kept in the upright position.  If the puppy’s ears aren’t kept taped in the upright position, then the ear will flop over, and the cropping results won’t be successful.

Many vets will refuse to crop a dog’s ears after they reach a certain age. The cutoff date is typically between 12 and 16 weeks. The weight cut-off can range from 15 to 20 pounds. There are some vets who don’t have a cut-off date and will perform ear cropping regardless of the age or weight.

Ear Cropping Styles

There are different styles of ear cropping for different breeds of dogs. The four types of cropping styles are:

  1. The Battle Crop: This is the shortest of the four types of cropping. It’s an extremely low cut and won’t permit any protection from dirt or insects getting in the dog’s ears.
  2. Short Crop: This type of cropping lets the ear a little longer than the battle crop. With this type of crop, there’s only about one-third of the original ear still left.
  3. Show Crop: This is a medium crop that has more height and is a little longer than the short crop. The show crop is the most requested type of cropping asked for show dogs. It makes the dog look alert and attentive. This type of crop takes the most time, and the most attention after the actual cropping takes place. It takes a lot of time on the part of the owner with wrapping and posting the ears than with the other types of cropping. If attention isn’t paid, then there is a higher risk of the ears not standing in the correct position when healed.
  4. Long Crop: This is the longest type of ear cropping. It leaves three-quarters of the original ear remaining and is popular with pit bull owners.

The most popular and common styles are the short and show styles of cropping. Show crops and short crops on dogs have the most chance of standing erect. When a dog’s ears are cropped too short or too long, the chances of the ears standing erect are lessened. 

Average Prices of Ear Cropping

The average price of ear cropping can be from $150 to over $600 with a median price of about $250. The cost of the ear cropping should include everything, including the surgery, the follow-up visit, pain medications and antibiotics.

The Process

At the first ear cropping appointment, the veterinarian will check to see if the puppy can handle the anesthesia. Blood work is usually completed at this point as well as instructions on what to do before the surgery. Typically, food is restricted the night before surgery, and water restricted the morning of.

Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and ask questions to clarify anything. After the procedure, some veterinarians will keep puppies overnight, and some allow them to go home. Pain medication will be provided whenever the puppy goes home.  When the puppy is home, they’ll be out of sorts for a night or two. The anesthetic will make them drowsy, but their ears will be sore. Be sure to give your puppy pain medication if they seem distressed.

Aftercare

When the puppy is brought home, follow your veterinarian’s instructions to the letter. The puppy’s cone can be removed only if they’re under supervision. The cone is there to help to prevent the puppy from ripping their stitches out and impeding the healing process. Keeping the puppy’s ears clean while healing is essential. It helps to prevent infections and can save another trip to the vet. Peroxide and Neosporin can be used two or three times a day.

If scabs form, they need to be removed immediately. Scabs can interfere with the puppy’s ears standing up. To remove scabs, soak for about five minutes in water. This makes them softer, and easier and less painful to remove. When cleaning the puppy’s ears, keep an eye out for infection. The ears could be red, painful, swell, or have red streaks that extend away from the area. If any signs of infection show up, take the puppy to the veterinarian immediately.

Pros and Cons of Ear Cropping

Pros

The number one argument in favor of ear cropping is that it creates an alert, sharp appearance according to the breed of the dog. This is important for show dogs. None of the major kennel clubs require a breed to have this done, but they do allow it for specific breeds.

Many breeders and owners think it enhances the appearance of the dog and provides a winning edge over a dog with natural ears. Many also believe that cropping lowers the risk of ear infections. An ear that hangs down can trap moisture and breed bacteria and infection. Moisture can’t get trapped in a cropped ear. Many owners feel that cropping a dog’s ears will somewhat improve a dog’s health.

Cons

Many owners feel that the pain of the procedure isn’t worth the appearance, especially since there is a failure rate. Many people just prefer the natural look of a dog’s ears. While the ear infection rate is lower with ear cropping, it’s only slightly lower.

If a dog is properly groomed, including ears, then there isn’t any difference at all. Another argument is that ear cropping is much more painful than an ear infection. If a puppy’s ears aren’t taken care of properly during the healing process after cropping, the ears could become infected. Whether or not an owner wants to crop a puppy’s ear comes down to a personal decision.