Common Questions about Cropped Ears and Docked Tails

Cropped ears and docked tails are common terms many owners hear when dealing with pure-bred dogs, although not everyone knows exactly what they are or how they are done.

What Are Cropped Ears?

Ear cropping is performed typically in puppies aged 8 to 12 weeks. Most vets won't perform ear cropping on any puppy over 14 weeks of age. The overall effect is to get a dog's ears to stand erect, rather than droop. This is performed by surgically removing a portion of the ear so that it stands up on its own.

After the surgery, however, dogs must endure several months of 'ear taping,' wherein the ears are taped up to let them heal in an erect position. Sometimes even this does not work, and the dog's ears still droop. Sometimes a vet will perform a second ear-cropping. Second ear crops are even more painful for a dog.

What Are Docked Tails?

Docking is the removal of part of a dog's tail, either through surgical cutting or with the use of a rubber ligature wrapped around the tail for a few days until it falls off on its own. This is generally done about 3 or 4 days old, and is almost always done before a puppy is younger than 14 days. This is done by veterinarians and breeders alike.

Historically, people believed docking tails could prevent rabies and strengthen the back. Nowadays, docking is done more for an aesthetic appeal. Sometimes it is done for hunting or herding breeds whose tails can get in the way while performing their daily duties.

What Breeds Does This Apply to?

Several breeds are either required by AKC regulations to have cropped ears and/or docked tails, or at least accept dogs with either or both. Such breeds include:

  • Boxers
  • Great Danes
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Schnauzers
  • Miniature Pinschers

Do I Have to Do It to My Dog?

Ear cropping and tail docking is not a requirement at all. In fact, many people are pushing for the procedures to be made illegal altogether, as they are viewed as inhumane - the ear cropping especially. A lot of owners prefer the 'natural' look to these dog breeds, although AKC and CKC regulations for some purebreeds still have docking and cropping as a requirement.

There are no medical benefits to cropped ears. However, cropping and docking are both thought to inhibit a dog's ability to interact with other dogs. They lack the tail to wag and move as part of their body language, and their ears do not function properly for communication.

Is Ear Cropping and Tail Docking Legal?

Docking has been banned in the United Kingdom. Any dogs born on or after March 28, 2007, cannot be shown in any show if they have been docked, although dogs born (and docked) before that date may continue to be shown for the length of their life. In England and Wales, ear cropping is also illegal. The only exception to this is for specific working breeds who require docking and/or cropping for entirely work-related reasons. The docking and cropping must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

Docking and cropping is also illegal in Newfoundland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

In the United States, cropping and docking is still legal and unrestricted, although several states have tried to pass bills to make it illegal.