The New Case For Cropping

“Today I experienced my first seriously negative and rude response to Bandit’s ears being cropped… and I was angry!! I was not angry at this woman’s opinion – everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe and make their own choices and that is absolutely fine. But when someone rudely tells me that I am cruel and I must not have thought that my dog was born good enough, that really rubs me the wrong way.”

“I’ve only had one person give me a half-negative remark…just the usual “aww, poor little doggie, daddy cut your ears off, huh?”

red doberman with cropped earsThese are just two comments from a Doberman forum showing the emotional opinions and impact of having a Doberman cropped.  People can get very mean. My last post on ear cropping resulted in 160 for and against comments! That’s the second most popular and viewed post on this website.

Like most things in life, ear cropping is not a black and white issue. There are many things to consider to make an educated and less emotional decision about this procedure.

I hope this post will help with that.  Let’s start by looking at the pros and cons for having a Doberman cropped.

The Cons of Ear Cropping

  • Like any surgery, this can result in pain and the risk of infection.
  • The post-operation care is a big commitment which can last weeks or months depending on the cut style. You will need to learn the skills needed to re-post the ears yourself at home.
  • Owners of cropped puppies may get stressed worrying about infection, puppy pain or the after-care which is time-consuming. Be prepared mentally for this if it’s your first time.
  • Ear cropping is banned in some countries, so you won’t even have the choice.
  • Finding an experienced ear-cropping vet that does good work on Dobermans, not just other breeds, may be hard. A Doberman crop is different than a boxer crop.
  • It’s an expensive surgical procedure and you may need to travel far to see a cropping vet.
  • It can be argued that it’s un-natural and purely for cosmetic reasons.
  • Some people find it a cruel practice and WILL let you know! either in public or online. Petitions to ban the practice continue.
  • There is no guarantee of success. The ears may not look symmetrical, have the right shape or one ear may end up flopping.
  • As with any surgery, general anesthesia carries some risk (like allergic reactions to medication)
  • It is a sad reality but some in some countries, people crop with going to a vet or using anesthesia. This is, of course, BARBARIC and obvious animal abuse, that should result in criminal charges.
  • Even if you decide to crop, you may doubt that you did the right thing and feel sorry or guilty for putting your pup through this procedure. Again be prepared for a potential emotional roller-coaster.
  • It’s thought that cropping and docking affects body language communication and doesn’t allow the dog to express his emotional state properly to other dogs.
  • Lastly, PETA or similar groups will hate you if you crop a dog.

The Pros of Ear Cropping

  • The cropped/docked doberman is iconic of the breed. Ears that are not cropped, are not honoring the breed standard and what the original creators intended for the breed. If you look at early photos of the Doberman, they all have short cropped ears.  We have to wonder what the original breeders, Mr. Karl Louis Dobermann, Otto Gueller and Philipp Gruenig would think about this whole debate.
  • Some people believe it helps with sound localization. The dog is able to “aim” it’s ear towards sound better. This may not matter much for a family pet but could be important for working dogs.
  • It creates a more alert, intimidating look. There is no denying that a cropped doberman is instantly recognizable and for people who want a doberman to deter crime this may be important.
  • Originally ear cropping did have a functional purpose and was not just a cosmetic procedure. Again for working dogs, a shorter ear prevented either humans or other animals from grabbing hold of their floppy ears during an attack.  Also for dogs that run through wooded areas, the floppy ear (or long tail) could get damaged by the brush. Infection from damaged ears was a serious issue in the early days before advanced medical care.
  • Some people believe that  cropped ears are less prone to ear infections. Scientific data is mixed and people need to consider any possible bias in the research results.  For dogs that live in damp or humid areas, ear cropping may prevent infections caused from trapped moisture.
  • A cropped Doberman will do better in the show ring. I suspect there is a bias by judges towards cropping in dog shows. This may vary depending on the country.
  • New medical procedures, like laser cutting, now make the procedure safer. It’s thought that laser cuts heal faster since there is less tissue trauma. The edges are more precise with less bleeding and scabbing.
  •  Ear cropping is a less invasive surgical procedure than spaying or neutering, which owners do all the time without a second thought. Spaying/neutering is accepted socially even though it can cause problems also, and is not medically necessary.
  • I strongly suspect that a cropped Doberman that ends up in a rescue or animal shelter will be easier to re-home than a floppy ear Doberman. Usually when people decide to get a Doberman, it’s the traditional looking Doberman that they want or imagine.
  • Lastly and I think this maybe the most important issue that doesn’t get talked about, the future of the breeding pool.  A ban on ear cropping may result in some breeders ending their breeding programs or leaving the business.  With fewer breeders, this means a shrinking of the gene pool. A shrinking of the gene pool means there is less genetic diversity which would increase inherited health disorders.  A healthy Doberman could be a rare thing in the future or even lead to its eventual extinction.  Think about that, the extinction of the Doberman breed!
  • And PETA will hate you! (depending on how you feel about this group, this can be either a pro or con)

Legal status of dog tail docking and ear cropping by country

If you’re wondering where ear cropping is banned or allowed this docking wiki appears to be updated.

doberman cropped map of countries that ban or allow procedure

countries that ban ear cropping

a red doberman with natural floppy earsPersonally, I believe that breeders should be responsible for ear cropping before they sell their puppies. After the puppy leaves, the breeder and vet should continue to provide support to new owners for the after-care and ear taping/posting. This is a sign of a good breeder and vet who care about the well-being of their pups and the needs of new dobe owners.  New owners who have newly cropped dogs should not have to fend for themselves. They shouldn’t have to worry and stress, and desperate for help, turn to dog forums to have medical questions answered.

Now here is my personal opinion as an owner who has had both a cropped doberman and two natural ear Dobermans.  I’ve decided that my next doberman will have cropped ears.  I want the iconic, traditional look.  I want people to instantly know my dog is a doberman.  With my floppy ear Dobermans, I get the impression some people aren’t aware that they are in fact purebred Dobermans.

Why is this important to me?

As a petite female who lives on her own, I want a doberman for the personal protection that it offers.  I live in a country (Canada) where I’m not allowed to have a firearm for protection. In fact, I’m not even legally allowed to carry pepper spray for self-defense.  My government expects me to rely on the police (who really only respond to crimes after they have happened, not before). Or they expect me to spend years learning a martial art to protect myself. (Which if you’re gonna do, I recommend Krav Maga.) What are vulnerable or fearful people to do?

I don’t need my dog trained as a guard dog. They will naturally alert me of strangers, and because of the Dobermans intimidating, alert look, they will provide some deterrent against crime.  I suspect a smart burglar will avoid a home being watched by a doberman. And which dog looks like more of a threat, the one with floppy ears or the one with alert standing ears?  While my dogs will be foremost loving, peaceful companions, I like the doberman’s natural protection instincts. And I think Dobermans know this is their job.

Everyone will have to evaluate their own needs and reasons for owning a dog. The to-crop or not-to-crop debate will continue around the world regardless. I hope this post will be helpful in your decision.

Did I miss any other pros or cons to having a doberman cropped? I would love to hear your opinion.

23 Comments

  1. Frank M. said:

    Man domesticated dogs for many reasons, one was protection. While we own a Doberman currently, in the past we have had Rotties. Great family dog & 1st rate protection/guarding instincts. These traits are bred into these dogs for a reason. And yes I own guns. But knowing I had a pet that could see, smell, & hear danger to/in our home before I could was priceless.

    January 28, 2017
  2. Lisa said:

    Pro for cropping – it’s not amputation as is docking. Depending on the type of crop, only ear leather is removed. Healing is very quick because: 1. the pup is very young when the procedure is performed so healing is quick. 2. The ear’s leather is, typically, quite thin. Healing is fast because not much injury has taken place. So, coupled with fast puppy growth and the ears heal within days. It’s the long term posting that most of the public sees and objects to.

    January 4, 2017
  3. Lisa said:

    Please research domestic dogs in the lives of humans. You are terribly mistaken. Most canines were bred to be protective of flocks, herds, farms, property, children… Many breeds do so naturally – no training needed. Only guidance is shown the pup. Even the small Shih Tzu is a palace guard.

    January 4, 2017
  4. Rhonda said:

    What is posted is correct as it’s a dog owners choice….but my 2 cents worth is actually an important addition. We chose to not doc me RedBulls ears but did have one that was…living in a humid area when I get my next pup I will definantly doc its ears…2 reasons…
    1) infections espetually since he loved to swim
    2) the thin ears are extremely subject to boxers ears which did happen to my Red sadly and this is irrepairsble as it is broken vessels…this happens from the ears getting infected and the air moisture even with regular care from myself and my vet…the itching and head shakeing cannot be controlled….docking the ears is the most humane way to go!!!!

    December 26, 2016
  5. Scott said:

    I wanted to know the price for ear cropping in Michigan and a vet that can do it. Thank you Scott

    December 20, 2016
  6. robert crowe said:

    i will be getting a doberman after xmas, and i want the cropped ears. and the bob tail,this is a must for me……thanks bob

    November 27, 2016
  7. Corina said:

    Hello, I was wondering where you live, please? I am in B.C. Canada and I am looking for a black and tan male Doberman. We are Fundraising for me to be able to get a “Seizure/Mobility Service Dog” as soon a possible. Hopefully one that is between 5months old and 2 years old….or one that is already trained for “Epilepsy”.
    I am on a very small disability pension. I just turned a young 60 , LOL and live alone. Many beaches and parks as well as nature around me, and my “Shadow” would be with everywhere, always….never left outside!! Can you please help me?

    October 11, 2016
  8. Jennifer Dial said:

    I see I was typing a little to fast ,but you get the idea

    September 15, 2016
  9. jenn jacobs said:

    I have to comment on this reply.I have a year old female.I got her for protection.and she has done just that.I’m a single mom with 3 small kids. She has stopped a robbery in my home from just barking and growling at the man who was trying to get in a back window.if someone breaks a window and comes in a alarm doesn’t go off.they have to lift the window.or step in front of a motion detector so the alarm will go off.my dog has way better ears then we have.she stopped the intruder before he got in our home,with her looks. I rather stop someone from breaking in completely.not have them break in,a alarm go off,they grab what they can and run.that’s just stupid.why not get a dog who can stop it from happening. The 2nd time someone broke in ,my dfog jumped down off my done bed,and started pacing the floor.I heard someone outside.I looked out and someone was trying to get in my truck.I simply opened the door and let my dog out.and I grabbed the gun,and the phone.I ran outside my dog at him cornered and he was to scared to move. I kept the gun on him until the cops came. I can’t imagine our life without her.my kids and I sleep very well at night knowing she is with us.

    September 15, 2016
  10. AntGrippi said:

    These dogs will react to protect their family whether you want them to or not, it is their instinct, and bread into Dobermans. Domesticated dogs are not natural to begin with, but bred for our different desires or needs. Cropping ears, and docking the tale in the case of a Doberman, is to give the dog the ability to do what it was bred to do. Whether you want your dog out of harms way or not, if you are attacked, a Doberman will almost always try to defend you, and with a long thin brittle tail, and floppy ears, you are leaving any potential attacker, or dog you dog may accidentally get tangled up with easy targets to grab, injure, and control your dog. I’m not saying youre a bad owner if you don’t crop and dock a Doberman, but that if there is the potential that it may ever have to defend you from a human, or stray dog, or dog who shouldn’t be at the dog park, and so on, that the breeding of the dog was unable to do what the breeders intended, and give the Doberman a watch dog/defense dog shorter ears and a shorter tail. It’s a personal choice, but to say it’s cruel, or unnatural is wrong. If it will even slightly help prevent the painful hematoma my dog recently had in his ear, then that alone is worth it.

    August 23, 2016
  11. AntGrippi said:

    People say it’s not natural for a dog to have cropped ears. They completely ignore the fact that domesticated dogs aren’t natural to begin with, and may actually be helped by the “cosmetic procedures” that are done to dobermans, boxers, great danes, Bull dogs, and so on. For example, what canine in nature has long droopy ears? None that I can think of. Humans bread floppy ears into the mix for our own reasons. It’s safe to say that while breeding to reach a certain look, or service of a dog, it’s not an exact science, and some things just don’t go as planned. I.E. they would’ve bread the Doberman to have short, working dog ears, and a shorter thicker stronger tail, if possible, while retaining the other features that were desired. They couldn’t, but a thin brittle tail, and floppy ears on a watch dog are in no way a tactical advantage, so they go. and to this day, even if your doberman is a family pet, their instinct will be to protect you and your family if an attacker or intruder comes at you. Isn’t it better to have your dog who’s instinct it is to react, and help you, be prepeared by not having a tail that easy to grab and break, or ears that are easy to grab and therefore control your beloved pet with? It seems the pros, largely outweigh any short term negatives, and that in a way your doing a disservice to this breed if you have the oppertunity to get these things done but don’t. It’s not always possible depending on how you end up with your new friends, but if it is, I see it as a much better thing for you and the Doberman. That’s just me though, and each is entitled to do as they see fit, as long as there isn’t undue suffering for the dogs.

    August 23, 2016
  12. Jaki said:

    Dobermans are a crime deterrent not a defense against a firearm. If a thief has to choose between breaking into a house with no dog and a house with a dog, they’ll go to the easier house, criminals are lazy cowards that way.
    And you cannot deny that the cropped Dobe looks more intimidating than a floppy ear Dobe. Also, I’ve heard that home alarm systems just encourage criminals to break into your home when you’re there with alarm turned off. Not good.

    August 22, 2016
  13. Miranda said:

    Dogs are not meant to be used for personal protection and ears have zero impact on it. I own Rottweilers and don’t have any firearms, so use ADT for personal protection. It would be totally irresponsible for me to rely on my dogs for “protection” dogs are animals and unless you have them seriously trained by a professional (which is out of question for most people due to cost and commitment) a dog can’t do anything if somebody shows up on your property with a shot gun. What are you going to do, send your dog out to attack him?, yeah right, good luck with that, perhaps that’s the best way to get the poor dogs killed.

    Please people stop thinking dogs are meant to protect you, and that they need “mean looks” to accomplish this. This only increases breed specific legislation… get an alarm system instead.

    August 21, 2016
  14. Mel Marie said:

    I have two dobermans: one B&T buy with cropped ears and one Red lady with natural ears.
    Knowing what I know now, if I could go back in time I would have two Dobermans with cropped ears. Accordingly, I would recommend anyone getting a puppy eligible for cropping to make the investment of care and money needed to crop.
    While I confess the aesthetic of cropped ears is appealing, I base my opinion not on looks, but on health issues.
    First of all, I have literally spent days holding my females ears trying to get them to stop bleeding. Even tiny scratches on her ear can result in nonstop bleeding. Not only is it difficult to get the cuts to heal, I get the added benefit of countless hours scrubbing blood off my walls and out of my clothes.
    In addition to the bleeding issue my female’s natural ears requires a LOT MORE cleaning. They also consistently attract more tricks.
    One other problem is that her ear regularly get stuck open. While it does give her a somewhat comical appearance, the real issue is that she’s obviously uncomfortable when they get stuck that way and often has difficulty getting them to flop back.
    By now you’ve probably realized that my male has had zero problems with his ears. Almost no need for cleaning, rarely any ticks on his ears and those that do attack are very easy to remove. Best of all he has never had a single problem with cuts or bleeding.
    If cropping were a purely cosmetic procedure I would probably be against it, but after seeing first hand the many, many benefits cropped ears have for both dog and owner, I cannot recommend having it done strongly enough.

    May 15, 2016
  15. Michelle said:

    Hi there, what a lot of people may not know with today’s modern medical technologies is that ear cropping is now done by most Vets via a Laser. Under anesthesia, a Laser not only seals the ear, but it sanitize’s the incision. It seals the nerve endings and blood vessels and causes no pain or discomfort to the puppy. There is no bleeding, no swelling, no redness, and the sutures are removed 10 days later with the incision completely healed. As a breeder, I can tell you first hand that EAR LASER SURGERY causes these puppies no pain or discomfort. They are not only under anesthesia, but given pain medications during the procedure and sent home with pain medication as well. As a breeder of Dobermans, I can tell you that they never need the Meds they are sent home with as they never show any signs of pain or discomfort after Laser ear surgery. The outer ears edge is so thin at 8 weeks old and with a Laser sealing it so well these puppies carry on playing and running and jumping just a few hours after the surgery as if nothing has ever happened! Without getting into all the scientific proof there is, ear cropping is actually very beneficial to these breeds as they continue performing there jobs today as police dogs. Guard dogs, search and rescue dogs, tracking, dogs, and so on. It is preventing ear injuries and infections and it has been in there breed standards for hundreds of ears. Genes are very tricky and if they could of created these purebred dogs with erected ears they would of!!! Food for thought, every canine and cat in the wild have Erected Ears or pointed ears and history proves that the long, covered ear or floppy ear is actually a mutation to these purebred dogs. Do the research as it is there! But ear cropping is a simple procedure, taking 30 minutes or less and the puppies go home the same day and a few hours later are running around and playing like nothing ever happened! Some people say that it’s only for looks, but looks is part of there form and function in what they were designed to originally do which they continue to do today as police and military dogs, protection and guard dogs, search and rescue dogs, and so on. Each and every dog owner should have the rights to free choice in decided on whether or not to have there dogs ears done as we need to start educating the public on why and how these procedures are being performed by liscensed veterinarians instead of just listening to the untruths as every story has two sides to it! Bans forced on some countries had also created a devastating black market for ear cropping and those are the puppies that are truly suffering .

    January 27, 2016
  16. Tony Montana said:

    I just had my dogs ears cropped and im happy. I live in Mexico and I surely needed to look menacing because right now that he is a pup, youngsters confused it with a chihuahua lol

    January 11, 2016
  17. Jaki said:

    That does sound like a terrible experience. Personally, the surgery (with anesthesia) doesn’t bother me, it’s the complications afterwards, like your puppy had, that’s worrying.
    And I’ve never heard of plastic implants! That sounds extreme.

    January 10, 2016
  18. Tracey said:

    I was told with my 1st Doberman years ago it was a piece of cake. So I had his ears done. First night he ripped out his stitches. Got an Elizabethan collar & ears restiched. Night #2. He somehow got his back legs around the collar & ripped them out again. That morning took him back to the vet, had them restitched. Then had the same Elizabethan collar, with the addition of his back legs taped with enough tape between them so he could walk, but not get to his stitches. This was horrible. My little puppy was absolutely miserable. I had him in puppy kindergarden to socialize him. He couldn’t play with the other puppies because everytime they would bump his ears, he would yelp. I looked at my little puppy with his taped ears, collar, back legs taped, not being able to just be a puppy & said never again! Then came trying to get those long ears to stand, 1 kept flapping & the vet suggested we could get these plastic implants put in his ears. I said no way. They eventually stood on the last taping. I have not done this since swearing I never would so many years ago. I had a flapper & she never had 1 ear infection her whole life. The rest of my Dobers since have had cropped ears. Only because I’ve hotten rescues since my flapper. Though I think it looks better, I think it’s cruel to the puppy, so not worth it. I wish the people who do have their dog’s ears done could sit in on the surgery. I wonder how many people would never do it again.

    January 10, 2016
  19. Betty Palmer said:

    Having loved 3 Dobermans, one for 11 years rescue, 2years old ears cropped, didn’t stand. Second one 10 years, rescue, 1year old
    Ears stood. And my 3rd dobie, 8 years, purchased at 8 weeks, I’ be had 29 years of experience with both cropped and cropped. I always loved the appearance of cropped ears. I did have several visits to the vet to remove foxtails from my cropped eared dogs. In 2007 I purchased my puppy and decided to forgo the ear cropping. I was very happy with my decision. We hiked Several miles a week, and she followed me all over BLM land on horseback for 8 years. She only had problems with her ear one time, I treated it with vetericyn and took her to the vet to check for a foxtail. No foxtail, vet gave antibiotic cream and ear cleared up quickly. Sabrina loved having her ears cleaned out with a baby wipe after every bath. I wouldn’t turn down a rescue Doberman with cropped ears, but after having both types I prefer not to crop.

    December 26, 2015
  20. Tom said:

    I have a seven year old dobe with cropped ears. The crop was done by two veterinarians at the same time. One, a close family friend, who recently had retired from veterinary medicine and was known for his Doberman cropping. The other a younger vet who had done a few crops using the lazer technique. The younger vet asked our family friend, the retired one for a few pointers a I agreed. Probably the best decision made. They seemed to heal quickly via the lazer method. And both vets provided pointers on how to post them at home. Posting is and art in itself. Love the look of a cropped and docked dobe.

    December 18, 2015
  21. tina said:

    I have a dobe puppy and i get every day people saying how beautiful she is then right to the crop or not crop.. and yes very rude and strongly opinionated people. One lady got me so mad i asked her if she had a son, she said yes …why… i asked did she have him circumsized and if so i said Why? And also noted they do that with NO anesthesia. Its my buisness and my choice. …. maybe the day i see one at a major dog show and win i may consider it.. im just saying …

    November 26, 2015
  22. MissJ said:

    Great points! I was not aware of the anesthesia concern.

    September 6, 2015
  23. Julie said:

    Having had dogs of 2 breeds with drop ears that had ears cropped in adulthood due to ear infections that were difficult to treat, Yes, it can reduce infection, injury, AND it does improve hearing.

    Not just locating sounds but overall sensitivity to sound. It might be interesting to see what Baer testing of sounds on uncropped dogs with ears raised or down might show.

    Having owned, trained and bred Dobermans for 31 years, and worked with several other breeds, drop eared dogs are far more likely to get injuries from another dog even in play. D

    Drop ears are NOT natural but a side effect of domestication, the Russian fur fox experiment clearly showed this. No wild canine nor any wild animals except elephants have drop ears.

    The only possible con I see not listed is that the anesthesia in puppies may affect the brain in ways not yet understood. Such information on infants and children indicates that there may be long term cognitive, mood and behavioral effects due to the growing brain. I’ve not read anything on this with domestic companion animals or livestock but species used for research such as rodents, appear to have long term effects of early anesthesia. In adults, anesthesia may have some long term effects but AFIK this is due to taking weeks or months to totally clear the body.

    September 6, 2015

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