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Home > Dogs > Ear Cropping in Dogs, and Why It’s Bad (With Pictures)

Ear Cropping in Dogs, and Why It’s Bad (With Pictures)

white American bully dog with blue eyes and cropped ears

Are you interested in cropping your dog’s ears? Do you want those droopy ears turned into ferocious, fear-infested pointed tips? You’re not alone. About 20 dog breeds commonly get their ears cropped every year. But before you pick up the phone and schedule that vet appointment, hear us out. We want to explain a little more about ear cropping and why it’s bad.


Why Do People Crop the Ears of Dogs?

Ear cropping in dogs has become quite a controversial subject amongst dog owners. People don’t understand why anyone would crop their dogs’ ears, but it wasn’t always so black and white.

In the past, dog owners cropped their dog’s ears for practical reasons. Cropping a dog’s ears equaled better hunting performance because droopy ears snagged on foliage. Prey animals could easily grasp a hold of a dog’s long ears, too. There was also the idea that cropped ears lead to fewer ear infections (although there’s no proof this statement is true).

Likewise, cropped ears made a dog appear more ferocious¹. How can anyone resist a dog with floppy ears?

Nowadays, people crop their dog’s ears for cosmetic reasons. They want their dogs to have the defining features set before them by other dogs. For instance, Doberman Pinschers¹ with cropped pointed ears.

Dog owners who register their dogs in shows may also crop the ears. Many dog shows see it as a way to preserve the breed and its history.

doberman with cropped ears on the beach
Image Credit: Anna Kozakova, Unsplash

Why Is Ear Cropping Bad?

The biggest problem with cropping a dog’s ears is that it is unnecessary mutilation. Not only is it a stressful and painful experience for the dog, but it could also lead to infections and hearing loss. Even when performed by an experienced surgeon, that doesn’t get rid of the dangers and risks associated with surgery and anesthesia.

On top of this, and although the chances are fairly low, if the procedure isn’t done correctly, you now risk having to amputate one or both of your dog’s ears altogether.

Puppies that have had this surgery need a minimum of 6 weeks to heal, although it can take 4 to 5 months for the ears to heal altogether. Not only does this expose your dog to a risk of bleeding, but it could have them in pain for long periods of time. Again, why put your beloved dog through this uncomfortable experience for no beneficial reason? Some may argue that dogs with floppy ears need it done to prevent ear infections. However, ear infections can simply be avoided by cleaning their ears on a regular basis.

The bottom line is that ear cropping is completely unnecessary and can potentially do more harm than good.

How Does Ear Cropping Work?

If ear cropping were painless, more dog owners would do it. But the reality is that it’s painful, uncomfortable, and often unnecessary (although that isn’t always the case).

The Procedure

Puppies between 6 and 12 weeks old experience the procedure, depending on the breed. The ideal time is when the ear cartilage begins to firm so they can heal in a permanent position.

To achieve the desired look, a dog has to undergo a surgical procedure to cut off the floppy part of the ear. After the surgery, the dog’s ears are taped to a hard surface to heal in an upright position.


Recovery takes roughly 2 weeks, but this can vary depending on the operation’s success.

Thankfully, the surgery is done with anesthesia, so dogs don’t need to undergo the procedure fully conscious. During the procedure, dogs receive painkillers and antibiotics to reduce pain and infection.

Dogs typically need 7 to 14 days to fully recover. This includes painkillers, restricted activity, and a follow-up appointment to remove the sutures. After surgery, dogs need their ears posted and/or wrapped for the cartilage to heal in the proper position. Dogs may need another appointment to re-bandage the ears if they get wet or fall off.

If the ears aren’t wrapped and posted correctly, or the bandages don’t hold, the ears could heal abnormally, leaving the ears malformed forever.

doberman puppy with cropped ears getting vet treatment
Image Credit: DuxX, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Dog Ear Cropping?

There are different types of ear crops, and each one depends on your dog’s breed. Even so, each style undergoes the same procedure. Here are some popular ear crops:

Bully Breeds

  • Battle Crop: Leaves less than ⅓ of the ear. The shortest ear crop available.
  • Short Crop: Leaves about ⅓ of the ear. Often used for flat-headed dogs.
  • Medium/Show Crop: Longer than a short crop with less of a base. Gives the dog an overall alert look. This is usually the hardest to get to heal upright.
  • Tall Crop: Leaves about ¾ of the original ear and is narrower. Often used for dogs with ears past the chin.

Dobermans, Danes, Schnauzers

  • Military/Pet Crop: Short in length with a wide base. Doesn’t take long to mold.
  • Medium Crop: Longer than a military crop with less of a base.
  • Show Crop: Longer than a short crop with less of a base. Gives the dog an overall alert look.

Overall, the type of crop dog owners seek largely depends on how much height and base they want. Battle crops are the shortest crop since it removes most of the ear. These crops are rarely done since the ear canal is exposed to debris and harsh weather.

standard schnauzer dog with cropped ears
Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Do Dog Shows Allow Ear Cropping?

The AKC doesn’t accept physical changes to breeds outside the standards. Ear cropping and tail docking have been a common practice in specific breeds for thousands of years. For this reason, many dog shows still uphold the tradition.

The American Kennel Club made a press release in 2008 about the issue.

“The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided.”

So, ear cropping is not only allowed but it’s also considered a standard for specific breeds. The American Kennel Club does emphasize that the procedure should be done by a practicing veterinarian. Dog owners should never crop their dog’s ears themselves.

Can Purebreds Compete Without Cropped Ears?

The AKC does not require cropped ears in their purebred shows. They acknowledge that each dog has the potential to win regardless of if their ears are cropped.

doberman puppy with cropped ears
Image Credit: Budimir Jevtic, Shutterstock

Disadvantages of Dog Ear Cropping

The disadvantages of ear cropping outweigh the pros. Let’s take a look.

  • Ear cropping has already been widely banned
  • Dogs with cropped ears are negatively perceived
  • Freshly cropped ears can become infected
  • It’s a pricey procedure
  • It’s a painful process, even with medication
  • The dog loses a method of communication
  • It’s unnecessary

divider-dog paw

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do vets recommend ear cropping?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) leans against ear cropping, but it’s still widely practiced in many states.

Does cropping a dog’s ears actually help?

There is no sufficient evidence that cropped ears improve hearing or reduce ear infections.

How can I crop my dog’s ears at home?

You should never crop a dog’s ears without veterinary supervision. Doing so can permanently damage the dog’s ears, hearing, and become excruciatingly painful.

What are the risks of ear cropping?

Freshly cropped ears can become infected if not cared for properly. If the ears aren’t set correctly, they can heal in an unpleasant permanent position.

Does cropping a dog’s ears actually help?

Ear cropping ranges from $150 to $600, depending on the clinic, surgeon, and breed of dog.

vet checking the ear of a white labrador
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock



Still think ear cropping is worth it? If you do, we won’t judge. Not every ear-cropping procedure is done for cosmetic reasons. We only want to encourage a different path for you and your dog.

If you choose to crop your dog’s ears, ensure you visit a qualified veterinarian and check that it’s legal in your area. Some breeders crop the ears for you, too. Whatever you choose, ensure your pet’s best interests are in mind.

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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