The main reason why many Dobermans still have their ears cropped is to adhere to the “cosmetic norms” of the breed. Some also believe that ear cropping improves healing and helps prevent ear infections, but many veterinarians are not convinced by this.
Depending on where you live in the world, you may or may not be used to seeing dogs with their ears cropped. In the USA, for example, it is common for certain breeds to have their ears cropped at a young age. The Doberman is one breed that is regularly ear cropped, similar to the American Bulldog and Cane Corso. This is generally done to give a dog a certain “look”.
In other parts of the world, such as in the UK and Australia, it is actually illegal to crops a dog’s ears. You may wonder why this is. Have a read of this article to discover more about ear cropping and to make up your own mind: Why do Dobermans have their ears cropped and is it something you should do with yours too?
What Is Ear Cropping?
Ear Cropping is a surgical procedure, whereby the ears are altered to look a certain way (standing erect ears). This procedure is usually carried out when a dog is very young at about 8 to 12 weeks of age.
Part of the ears (or sometimes all of the ear flaps) are removed. The ears are then taped up for several months, so that they heal in a vertical position, resulting in erect ears rather than pendulous ears.
Why Do Dobermans Have Their Ears Cropped?
This process is not a new one and is something we have been doing to our dogs for centuries.
1. Fewer Injuries
Working dogs would sometimes have their ears cropped as there was a belief it would lead to fewer injuries when out and about.
2. Improved healing
It was also thought that removing the ear flap could improve healing. Those dogs involved in dog fights would commonly have their ears shortened to prevent their opponent from biting on to them.
3. Ear infections
Some owners and breeders would advocate cropping ears as they felt it could prevent ear infections.
4. Cosmetic reasons (the real reason)
Nowadays, the vast majority of Dobermans have cropped ears for cosmetic reasons and because it is the trend. In fact, many breeders will do it without considering there is an alternative. It is simply what they think is “the norm” for the breed.
Many breeders worry that they will have a harder time selling the pups if their ears are left how nature intended.
Interestingly, in the Doberman’s breed description on the Kennel Club Website, it states that their ears should be “Small, neat, set high on head. Normally dropped, but may be erect.” Many see this as a confirmation that the Kennel Club permits cropped ears. Indeed, Dobermans are not born with naturally erect ears.
If a breeder or owner has always grown up around Dobermans with cropped ears, they may never question the practice and continue to have their dogs’ ears cropped.
Similarly, those who show their dog may fear that they would be penalized in the show ring for having pendulous ears.
Do All Dobermans Get Their Ears Cropped?
Nope! Cropping of the ears is an elective procedure that the breeder or owner chooses to do. We now know that there are no real health benefits and that this is a surgery that is done for cosmetic purposes.
No one should feel pressured into doing this and should always perform their own research before making a decision that will affect the dog for the rest of its life.
The only argument for ear cropping:
While there may be an argument that cropping the ears prevents ear infections, many vets are still not convinced.
It’s true that having an erect ear means better ventilation, less moisture, and humidity within the ear canal, so this may go some way to preventing ear infections.
However, most dogs who suffer from chronic ear issues have an underlying skin disease that will predispose the dog to infections whether the ears are cropped or not. Not to mention the fact that owners can generally prevent ear infections in those with pendulous ears by keeping them clean and dry.
Is It Cruel To Crop a Dobermans Ears?
In this author’s opinion, while the owner or breeder’s heart may be in the right place, it is cruel and unnecessary to crop a dog’s ears. Altering their body in such ways has many potential downsides and no real upsides.
Risks and disadvantages to cropping a Doberman’s ears:
- The inherent risk of anaesthesia and surgery. Puppies can experience bleeding, infections and scarring after the procedure. While serious complications are rare, they need to be considered as this is not a medically necessary procedure.
- Cropping causes pain, even when good anaesthesia and pain relief are used. The healing time can be several weeks and there is no doubt that pups will feel tender and uncomfortable. This is occurring during their critical socialisation period and when they are being taken away from their mum and littermates and brought to a new home. This is a lot of stress for one little pup to handle and could have a negative outcome on their anxiety levels and personality.
- Owners need to commit to wrapping and cleaning the ears as they heal, which can take considerable time and effort over a period of several months. Your dog may grow to resent this and it could result in issues with them being handled.
- Dogs are less able to express themselves through their body language when their ears have been cropped. Dogs will naturally point their ears in certain ways and carry them in a particular position in order to communicate with other animal as well as people.
- Your dog may be perceived negatively by the public. Ear cropping inevitably results in a ‘meaner’ and less approachable look. While this is desired by some e.g. those who keep dogs to guard their property, it is not always a good thing. Indeed, if the dog is to be a therapy dog or a normal family pet, the softer look of natural ears is probably for the best. When the public perceive your dog as less threatening, they are more likely to be kind to it and less likely to be frightened by them.
- Complicated healing. For some, their ears will not stand erect after the cropping procedure, or there may be one ear that does and one that doesn’t. The surgery is not a guaranteed success. This is not especially common but is something that needs to be considererd.
- You may garner negative attention from animal right’s activists and members of the public who feel that ear cropping is cruel.
Updated news: VCA Hospitals in Canada has announced a country-wide ban on all cosmetic surgical procedures in pets.
Can You Crop a Doberman’s Ears at Home?
There is no circumstance whereby it would be okay to carry out this medical procedure at home. It needs to be done by a veterinary professional in a sterile environment to avoid infection. Additionally, Pups need anesthesia to prevent them from moving about and feeling pain.
“DIY” cropping is easily messed up. Vets often see ears that have been cropped too short or not short enough and dogs can suffer from lasting effects of this for the rest of their life.
Sadly, you will find a lot of resources online that describe how to crop a dog’s ears at home. Please do not consider this as it is not fair on your animal and you will be causing them a great deal of pain.
I have read accounts that advise using a sedative (which immobilizes your dog) but provides no pain relief. This is truly barbaric! A dog is unable to move or express pain but is feeling everything as their ear is sliced through.
Should You Crop Your Dobermans Ears?
Ultimately, as the owner, this is your decision. Of course, this is assuming you live in a state that permits ear cropping. You should feel happy that you are well informed of what ear cropping is and that you have a good reason for doing it. If in doubt, talk to your vet who will help guide you on your decision.
It is important to mention that it may be (in a small number of cases) medically advised to have a dog’s ears cropped. This might be the case if a dog has metastatic cancer on the ear flap or if they are suffering from chronic infections that are not clearing. In these cases, when advised by a professional, ear cropping is the right decision.
Why do Dobermans get their ears cropped?
The most common reason is to adhere to “breed standards”. Some say ear cropping improves performance and reduces ear infections, but there’s little evidence to support this.
Can Dobermans have naturally pointed ears?
No, Dobermans will have naturally floppy ears when born. They only stand erect if they have been cropped.
When do Doberman ears stand up?
Doberman ears will not stand up on their own, they will only stand up if they have been cropped.
At what age do Dobermans get their ears cropped?
Most ear cropping procedures in Dobermans happen between 8-12 weeks of age.
Does ear cropping hurt a Doberman?
Anesthesia is usually used, but the procedure can result in long-lasting pain for several weeks as the puppy recovers.
Do you have to crop your Dobermans ears?
Absolutely not. This is a procedure that’s optional, and no Doberman needs to have their ears cropped. In many countries, the procedure is illegal and is becoming less popular as time goes on.
Do cropped ears keep growing?
Doberman ears do continue to grow after being cropped. Growth is slow and in some cases may not be noticeable until well into adult years.
Ear cropping seems to be slowly falling out of favor. As humans become more in tune with the emotional needs of our pets and the rights that they have, surgical procedures including ear cropping and tail docking are widely viewed as unnecessary and cruel.
When those who breed the dog and those who judge them in the show ring still advocate for ear cropping, it can be difficult to change thinking patterns among the general public. Being well informed is half the battle and hopefully, ear cropping will soon be a thing of the past.