Dog Breeds Dog Health

Doberman Ear Cropping – Reasons For It, Docking History & Risks

Written by Tracey

Most of us are familiar with the Doberman Pinscher. Their lean frame and muscular body make them great guard dogs, while their pointed ears give them their signature fierce look. However, Dobermans aren’t born with pointed ears, but have their ears cropped.

Ear cropping is the process of surgically altering the shape of a dog’s ears, which is mostly performed on Doberman Pinschers. By cropping their ears as puppies, Doberman Pinschers grow up with the pointed ears that have become a signature characteristic of the breed.

There is controversy around the process of ear cropping. Some people believe that it’s a procedure that can keep your Doberman healthy from ear infections. Others feel that it’s a cruel and arbitrary cosmetic surgery. To learn more, read on.

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Ear Cropping in Dobermans

The black and rust (tan) color Doberman Pinscher is the most popular and common variation.

Ear cropping is the process of surgically altering a dog’s ears to point upright. This surgery is often performed under general anesthesia and is relatively routine in the United States. Most breeders will perform the surgery when they still have the puppies under their care.

And although most dogs have ears that naturally flop down, others will have ears that perk upright (such as the spitz type breeds). Doberman Pinschers have ears that naturally flop but the majority of Dobermans will have pointed ears because they’ve been cropped.

Why Ear Cropping Was Performed

Ear cropping was historically performed as a surgery for practical reasons in an effort to keep their dogs from harm. Because many dogs have long, large, floppy ears that can possibly get caught on branches when dogs run through the woods.

For example, people who owned hunting dogs wanted to avoid their dogs’ ears getting torn when running through the woods, so they cropped the ears. Should the dog get injured during the hunt, the dog would not be able to continue.

In other places around the world, cropping was performed to keep ear infections at bay. People who defend ear cropping still make the argument that the surgery prevents ear infections since it allows air to touch the ears and keeps moisture from collecting.

In many rural areas of the world as well in places that are now more developed, dogs were used as shepherds. Just think of the number of breeds you know that carry the title “shepherd.” There’s the German shepherd, Australian shepherd, and the list goes on.

People who owned shepherd dogs kept their dogs’ ears short to help during wolf or bear attack. This kept the dogs from being yanked by the ears. In addition, herding dogs may also opt to crop their ears to prevent any injuries sustained from the livestock.

Why Dobermans Get Their Ears Cropped

Doberman Pinschers were not herding dogs, hunting dogs or shepherds. However, they were working dogs bred to be guardians and protectors. In fact, they were first developed by a tax collector who at the time, had a “dangerous job.”

After all, not all people liked the person collecting money from them. Plus, tax collectors had to carry a lot of cash with them during their job. As such, Dobermans were brought along as a deterrent and a means to protect the collector.

So why did Doberman Pinschers needed to crop their ears? Because the Doberman’s ears are thin and flap around, they were cropped for primarily safety reasons. Scuffles during work can lead to serious injuries, including a torn or cut ear.

If a thief tries to grab the money bag from the tax collector, the Doberman is expected to chase and attack. Ear injuries can be rather painful and difficult to heal. Plus, the healing process can take a long time, thus putting the guardian dog out of commission.

The reason for cropping a Doberman’s ears is not as obvious today. While they are still premier guard dogs, they encounter such situations much less. As a family pet, there is very little functional reasons for docking the ears – other than tradition and cosmetics.

When Ear Cropping is Performed

Ear cropping is performed when dogs are puppies because it’s believed that puppies won’t feel as much pain. Or rather, they won’t remember the procedure. Though the timeframe for ear cropping will differ, most tend to get their ears cropped between weeks 6 and 12.

The floppy outer part of the puppy’s ears is surgically removed, and the remaining part of the ears is taped to a board while they heal. As you can imagine, this process can be gruesome. And if you do this with an older dog, they may be traumatized.

This surgery is thought to have both aesthetic and medical advantages but is mostly performed for visual appeal. Plus, for people with breed attachments, they want their dog to look like its parents. In other words, opting into a surgery to make them look like Mom and Dad.

The Origins of Ear Cropping

As a general practice worldwide, ear cropping isn’t new. In fact, it’s a rather old procedure that has its roots in agricultural practices. That is, where dogs served as hunting companions, shepherds, and even as guard dogs.

In the past, nearly all dog breeds (including Doberman Pinschers) served a role in society. And when dogs were used as helpers and not just pets, ear cropping was commonplace because it allegedly kept dogs “safe” in the work environment.

According to the Briarlea Kennel, dog ear cropping was originally performed as a medically necessary surgery. Ear cropping has origins all over the world and is historically linked to places as far or wide as Britain and Turkey, as well as Russia and the United States.

No matter which country, ear cropping is popular in different breeds that were used by the locals as hunting dogs as well as shepherding dogs. Just like how some herding or working dogs have their tails cropped, ear cropping was done for the same reason.

Is Ear Cropping Legal Everywhere?

Ear cropping has become a controversial practice, particularly in European countries where animal welfare standards are different. While ear cropping was once a normal practice in some communities, it is now being restricted around the world as an act of animal cruelty.

Countries such as Australia, Ireland, Denmark, New Zealand, Scotland and more have all banned ear cropping. Some owners (and lawmakers) believe that ear cropping is purely a cosmetic procedure that serves little functional purpose to Dobermans.

On the other hand, some will argue that this is the best choice for all animals as it prevents pain in dogs. Those feel they should be able to alter their dog’s ears through what they believe is a helpful surgery. Because of these two views, not all countries have banned ear cropping.

Is Ear Cropping Still Important?

Today, ear cropping is performed as a purely aesthetic surgery. The writers at the Briarlea Kennel believe that the surgery is performed for exclusively visual purposes. With over 400 years of tradition in ear cropping, the procedure has been kept alive.

However, the modern veterinary science is clear. There is no medical reason that ear cropping should be performed on dogs, especially if they are a household pet. The only exception is if the Doberman is used for modern work, such as the K9 police force.

Plus, plenty of Doberman breeders will often crop their puppies’ ears by default, even before they get to your home. This is because it’s the breed standard for Doberman Pinschers, according to the AKC. Regarding ears, the standard says “ears normally cropped and carried erect.

To become a reputable AKC breeder there are benefits, including top recognition and in return, the ability to charge higher prices. That said, ethical breeders tend to “go by the book.” In other words, they will often crop the ears of their Doberman pups.

Does Ear Cropping Hurt a Doberman?

Dobermans are some of the most intelligent dogs in the world.

There are plenty of owners out there who feel that ear cropping can be a helpful way to keep their Dobe from ear infections. Another reason that people dock their dogs’ ears is the look. The pointed cropped ears are a trademark of the breed.

However, this question is the biggest part of the controversy over whether or not ear cropping is worthwhile for your dog. Does ear cropping actually hurt your Doberman Pinscher? Read on to learn about this heated debate.

Will My Doberman Feel Pain?

Think of ear cropping as a sort of plastic surgery for dogs. Sometimes people get nose jobs because of an injury. But other times, they simply want to change the look of their profile.

But just like any surgery, there is a fair amount of pain associated with ear cropping. You’re essentially chopping the cartilage of the ears and letting it heal on a stiff board. Your Doberman must feel at least some sort of pain, right?

During the procedure, there’s a high chance your Doberman will be under anesthesia. That being said, a Doberman will likely not feel any pain during the surgery and procedure. However, that does not mean they won’t experience pain afterwards.

The healing process for ear docking in Doberman may be a lengthy one. According to The Spruce Pets, the entire healing timeline can be between 4 to 8 weeks. Every time your pup bumps their ears, they may likely experience pain.

Whether you’re getting your dog’s ears cropped to prevent illness or if you just like the look of pointed ears for your Doberman, ear cropping is a medical procedure that runs a number of risks.

What Is the Surgery Like?

Ear cropping hurts as much as any other mild veterinary surgery. According to the Canine Journal, a vet removes about two thirds of your Doberman’s ears when they’re cropping. Remember, the ear cropping surgery isn’t just a reconstruction of your the ears – it’s an amputation.

Imagine if a doctor were to remove two thirds of your ears, then stitch them back up. It would take a few weeks to heal. Plus, you would have to take immense caution to not disturb the healing wound or the surrounding area. This is what’s required for ear cropping.

Risks of Ear Cropping

Dobermans get along best with young energetic children that are old enough to respect them.

Just like asking how painful ear cropping surgery is, it’s important to remember that ear cropping may come with risks. Also, ear cropping is done under general anesthesia, which, as the Canine Journal mentions, has its own set of risks.

Though it’s used regularly in both dogs and humans, general anesthesia is a risky procedure. Not all owners understand how general anesthesia works. So, it’s important to inform yourself before you allow your dog to undergo a risky surgery like ear cropping.

About General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is a procedure where the veterinarian team injects your dog with a cocktail of medicines. This will knock them out during the procedure. Can you imagine the Doberman being awake during the surgery?

During the surgery, it’s important for the vet team to keep an eye on the dog. Their blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heartbeat should be monitored to ensure that your pup doesn’t slip too far under. It’s a balancing act that requires much attention to detail.

Just like in humans, some dogs don’t take well to general anesthesia. In fact, there has been many cases of dogs passing away under general anesthesia because their bodies aren’t equipped to handle the anesthetic medications.

In some cases, blood tests (called Preanesthetic bloodwork) will be taken before the surgery. This will help ensure that general anesthesia will be okay for your Doberman. If the bloodwork shows anything abnormal, the proper adjustments will be made with anesthesia.

Other Ear Cropping Risk Factors

While ear cropping surgeries are performed on puppies, ear cropping can be a risky surgery if your dog is older. More specifically, senior dogs are at a greater risk for death under anesthesia because of their weakened constitution.

Another reason that dogs might have a difficult time under general anesthesia is if they already have breathing problems. Dog breeds with a hereditary breathing problem like Pugs and Boxers may have a hard time under anesthesia.

These dogs are at a slightly higher risk. But even so, plenty of those dog breeds have been put under anesthesia with little to no problems. Adjustments are often made. The good news is that Dobermans are not Brachycephalic Dogs and won’t have the same risk.

About Elective Surgeries

There are several different opinions on the main surgeries that Dobermans undergo in their lifetime. In the first of these surgeries is spaying or neutering. Most people believe that spaying and neutering is an essential surgery for dogs to undergo unless they’ll be used by breeders.

In addition, Animal rights groups consistently champion for accessible fixing practices and want to keep extra pups off the streets. Even so, many animal rights activists also oppose ear cropping because they feel that it is an unnecessary procedure.

However, there are many people who don’t feel that their dogs need to be fixed. As such, this leads to an excessive number of puppies ending up being abandoned or mistreated. And in turn, increases the number of neglected or unwanted dogs in shelters.

Ethics of Ear Cropping

Ear cropping has been a point of contention for decades both in the United States and around the world. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a wealth of information on their website about the legality and ethics of ear cropping and other elective veterinary surgeries.

While ear cropping is technically legal in the United States, individual states have their own laws and regulations regarding elective veterinary surgeries such as ear cropping, tail docking, de-vocalization, and tattooing and piercing.

When it comes to ear cropping, only nine states have regulations on the procedure. The remaining forty-one states have no regulations on the procedure. This means that any pet owner can technically perform this “surgery” on an un-anesthetized Doberman.

The nine states that do have regulations on ear cropping are Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maine, Washington, and Massachusetts. The laws vary from state to state, but those with regulations tend to require a licensed vet perform the surgery.

Should I Crop My Doberman’s Ears?

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If you’ve recently adopted a Doberman puppy from a shelter or bought one from a breeder, then the decision may be yours. It’s always important that you make an informed decision so you can give your dog the best treatment and life possible.

Ask Yourself Why

The first step to determining whether or not you should crop your Doberman’s ears is to ask yourself: why? Are you concerned about the health of your dog? If you’re worried about your dog contracting ear infections, don’t automatically opt into the ear-cropping surgery.

If you’re concerned about breed cohesiveness, consider why. Do you like the look of the pointed ears on a Doberman because it’s truly something that you want for your dog, or is it just because that is what you’re used to?

Do your own research and consult with your vet to get their opinion on the procedure. It’s only your responsibility to determine whether or not this aesthetic choice is best for your Doberman. But no matter what you decide on, they will be excellent and loving dogs.

Determine Potential Risk Factors

The second step to determining if you should crop your Doberman’s ears or not is to find out if your pup has any potential risk factors. If your Doberman is a puppy, then it’s likely that the procedure will go smoothly. Though, it’s best to check with a vet.

However, if you’ve recently adopted an older Doberman and want to crop their ears, you should be a little very mindful because older dogs can often suffer complications under general anesthesia. This is one of the biggest risk factors and shouldn’t be overlooked.

You should also discuss with your vet about any breathing or lung issues your Doberman might have. Because many dogs have to have a breathing tube installed during the cropping surgery, it’s crucial to make sure that your dog will be able to breathe properly.

Check Your Local Laws

If you’ve decided to go ahead with getting your dog’s ears cropped, then you will have to read up on the laws in your state about ear cropping. But no matter what your local laws are, you should always have a licensed vet perform ear cropping.

This is a serious surgery with potential for complications.

Make an appointment with your vet and discuss the ins and outs of the procedure with them to make sure they’re familiar with the surgery and your local laws enforcing it. You should have complete faith in your vet, especially since you’re putting your sweet Doberman’s life in their hands.

If you live outside the US, it’s important to look up your country’s laws on ear cropping. If you live in Europe, it’s likely that your country has outlawed ear cropping entirely. However, some countries do still allow the procedure to be performed under strict guidelines.

Conclusion: Ear Cropping in Dobes

Ear cropping is a commonplace but controversial surgery. It’s a procedure performed on few dog breeds, particularly Doberman Pinschers, to mold their floppy ears into a pointed shape. Dobes are known for their pointed ears, even though this happens surgically, not naturally.

Ear cropping is an elective surgery with a broad history. That is, this procedure has been performed all around the world on a number of different species, particularly on those who have been used as hunters, shepherds, and guard dogs.

Yes – ear cropping was once a practical surgery that helped prevent ear infections, tears, and attacks, but the surgery is almost entirely cosmetic at this point in history. The decision to crop a Doberman’s ears is up to you entirely.

This should always be an informed decision, not one made under pressure. I hope this information on Doberman ear cropping helps you make a wise decision for your pup.

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About the author

Tracey

Tracey J is a licensed vet tech. With over 5 years of veterinary technician experience, she's dedicated her life and career to dogs. When she's not studying or working, she's taking care of her Mini Australian Shepherd - Olympus!

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