Ear Cropping and Tail Docking

So many of our dogs come to us with their ears cropped or their tails docked. Though they may have healed fine, the surgery involved is actually a very painful and completely unnecessary one.

Here is a little information on what the process is like when cropping a canine’s ears:

Ear cropping (Otoplasty) is usually done between 10 to 12 weeks of age, but can and will be preformed later in life depending on the veterinarian. There are many people that are shocked and appalled after learning that the procedure essentially just entails a large portion of the ears being literally sliced off. Not only is it a painful procedure for the animal, but it is an on-going process for up to at least two to three weeks due to having to return multiple times (usually every two to three days) to change bandages. Frequently, owners don’t keep those follow-up appointments, which aids in the potential failure for the anticipated outcome at the same time as increasing the chance of infection and the level of physical discomfort to the dog.

Gotham 1 (Shelter photo)

(Gotham, former shelter dog. Ears improperly cropped, now two different heights and shapes. He was adopted in May of 2013.)

1013085_547859565261043_1935468797_n (Happy home photo)

Though the animal is given anesthesia, often times, the dog wakes up screaming in pain during the surgery because the pain is so intense. The risks are always present, even when the surgery is performed correctly. Even after administering antibiotics, infection can occur and as with any surgery using a general anesthetic, there is always a life risk; especially with a puppy.


(Audrey, former Shelter dog. Ears cropped low. She was adopted September of 2012.)

After surgery, the dog must be monitored extremely carefully. This surgery leaves the dog uncomfortable due to itchy, sore ears. The dog will try to scratch at the wound. Of course, a cone is recommended so this can’t happen, but dogs often find ways to get around that. Inside the bandages, humidity builds up and it is hard to keep them from trying to scratch and remove the tape and bandages during the healing process.


(Robyn, 2-3 year old Corso/Pit mix. Cropped ears. She is available for adoption.)

There is never a satisfaction guarantee for the final results. Luck actually plays a large part in getting the ears to “stand” perfectly. No matter how great the surgeon, some ears are going to end up looking awkward. Many vets will no longer perform this surgery because not only is it purely cosmetic, but it is very painful to the dog. (Certain states are outlawing it altogether.)

7 (One of many shelter photos)

(King Kong, former Shelter dog. Ears cropped. He was adopted December of 2012.)

548757_466895430024124_546512046_n (Happy Home photo)

Years ago, top kennel clubs in both America and in Europe, considered cropped ears as part of a breed’s standard requirements. Throughout the years, many of them have changed their mind on the issue and no longer requiring cropped ears. I’d like to think this came with the education and reality of what really goes on during the process.

Kirby (Shelter Photo)

(Kirby, former Shelter dog. Ears cropped. He was adopted December of 2012.)

971161_533673040013029_1772410360_n (Happy Home photo – Kirby graduates obedience school!)

Unfortunately, we live in a society, where if we can’t find someone who will do something the way we want them to, we go ahead and do it ourselves. Many people, from backyard breeders to dog fighters to your average uninformed dog owner, take it upon themselves to perform this surgery. This is of course a huge mistake. No surgery should ever be performed on anyone – human or animal – unless it is by a licensed doctor or veterinarian. The risks of this surgery are immense and an animal can severely suffer for the rest of its life if performed incorrectly.

1958002_10201869434041133_1839936905_n (Shelter photo)

(Savannah, 3-4 year old Pocket Pit Bull. Ears cropped. Currently in Foster care with Live.Love.Bark. She is available for adoption.)

10250174_222455461283112_8776904396613133758_n (Foster photo)


These people who take it upon themselves to perform the ear cropping are the same types of people that tightly tie off the tail of a dog with rubber bands to cut off the circulation and wait for the tail to eventually fall off on its own.  Which brings me to our next issue – Tail Docking.

379303_494129183967415_629437983_n (Shelter photo)

(Bosco, former Shelter dog. Tail docked. He was adopted January of 2013.)

562136_515605658486434_628711019_n (Happy Home photo)

Docking is the intentional removal of part of an animal’s tail. The term tailing is also commonly used. The term arises because the living flesh of the tail, from which the animal’s tail hairs grow, commonly is known as the dock.


(Happy, former Shelter dog. Tail docked. He was adopted December of 2012.)

Originally, most docking was done for practical purposes. For example, a large horse used for hauling large loads might have its tail docked to prevent it from becoming entangled in tow ropes or harness; without docking, it could be dangerous to the horse, painful if the tail were tangled, and inconvenient to the owner to tie up the horse’s tail for every use.


(Pepper, former Shelter dog. Tail docked. Was adopted in December of 2012)

Tail docking dogs has been understood to date at least to the Roman Empire. The most popular reason for docking dog breeds is to prevent injury to working dogs. In hunting dogs, the tail is docked to prevent it from getting cut up as the dog wags its tail in the brush. This is contested by a wide range of groups and is often considered a form of animal cruelty. This has led to the practice being outlawed and made illegal throughout many countries, in some of which dogs are no longer bred for work, or used as working animals. In the United States it is unrestricted and there are no laws against that or ear cropping.  Some states, including New York have considered bills to make the practice illegal, but no bill has been passed as of yet.


(Delilah, former Shelter dog. Tail docked. She was adopted January of 2013.)

Though many dogs have these surgeries performed and go on to live happy and healthy lives, many people still consider the procedures to be inhumane, unnecessary and abusive. What do you think?


(Scruff, my own dog. Tail docked. Was rescued in February of 2009.)


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4 Responses to Ear Cropping and Tail Docking

  1. Betty Kauffman says:

    As long as ear cropping and tail docking is a requirement for some breeds to be shown through the AKC at dog shows, I don’t believe this practice will end anytime soon in the US.

  2. Tamar says:

    Another important note with tail docking is that the tail is that the tail plays an important part in dog to dog communication. I hope that theses practices end sooner than later.

  3. Miranda says:

    My little Havanese got her tail run over by a car. She was probably cms from death. After trying to have it heal with bi-weekly dressing changes at the Vet, I finally had to have it amputated. It doesn’t seem to bother her, but it upsets me, never to see it wagging any more.😰

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