Ear cropping is one of the most notorious practices among dog owners still due to current breed standards, especially for the American Bully. But is American Bulldog ear cropping necessary?
Well, American Bulldog ear cropping is necessary ONLY when there’s an ear disease that requires it, and for no other reason.
But why do people submit their poor Bullies to such an act?
Mainly it’s to make them look tougher and to act as some form of prestige.
It was common to do so when dog fighting was still a thing and has stayed since. Keep in mind that this is still very much a “sport” that is done, albeit illegal in the United States nowadays.
Nowadays people use it to show off, and, while I’m supposed to stay unbiased in these articles, I simply can’t help but look at these acts in revulsion for the Bully dog owners who do it and compassion for the poor Bullies.
If you’d like to find out more about this act, its origin, why people do it as well as answers to some of the more frequently asked questions regarding the topic, make sure to read on.
American Bulldog Ear Cropping: What Is It?
The name of the procedure already explains most of it. It’s an act where a person cuts off part of the external edge of the ear, usually the floppy bit when the dog is relatively young to give him a more menacing appearance.
This practice is pretty ancient, some reports dating back more than three hundred years ago, though, at that time they had a more practical use and were done to dogs primarily used for hunting or herding.
Hunting And Herding Safety
Why? Well, these would be done as a safety measure as the ears are often the target of wild animals should the dog engage them to defend the flock or to hunt the animal down, depending on his purpose.
They’d go for the ear and get a good grip on it, often causing more damage to the dog than the actual cropping would.
Hence, the dog’s owners began preemptively cropping parts of them down, to protect their dog from more serious damage later down the line.
Some reports even state that said ears would later get grilled and then fed to the puppies to make them more gruff and hardened. Obviously a superstition, but that was the way back in the day.
These acts weren’t done with clean instruments back then either with sheep shears commonly used for the act or a similarly sharp object.
And it’s done relatively early in a dog’s life, about 5-6 weeks of age so it doesn’t hurt as much as it would a fully grown adult.
They were either left pointed to resemble that of a fox, or even rounded to look more like a bear’s ears, leaving very little room for them to get grabbed while still preserving their primary function.
Protection Against Infections
Later on, as the subject got a bit more researched, the act of ear cropping would spread to other dogs as a means of preventing infection.
It was usually done for working dogs since they were the most prone to it given their working environments.
This act is called a pinnectomy and is done to prevent said infections, especially ones more prone to mutating to some forms of skin cancer.
“Safety” In Dogfighting
While ironic to its core, the act of dog cropping was also performed for dogfighting as a means of safety for dogs, the very same reason they were done for hunting, so the ears wouldn’t get caught in another dog’s jaws.
Though the idea of safety in such a horrible blood sport is laughable and is, perhaps, the most gruesome example of this already unethical act to date.
Is The Act Of Ear Cropping Illegal?
Sadly not. It’s illegal in Wales and England, but it’s very much legal in other European countries.
As far as the US is concerned, it’s merely regulated within 9 states, with 5 of the 9 having a special clause stating that the procedure must be performed by a licensed vet through a surgical procedure and have valid reason to be performed.
The states in question are:
• New Hampshire
• New York
Are There Any Similarly Gruesome Acts That Are Legal?
Of course there are, tail docking is one such act. The process where a dog’s tail is cut off early to, once again, make him more menacing or for aesthetic reasons.
Some American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standards even demand this of certain breeds which is absolutely ridiculous.
Certainly, you don’t have to abide by these standards, unless you mean to compete in dog shows, in which case you may be out of luck with certain dog breeds.
In any case, this act was also done for herding dogs to protect the ear from getting caught by a hoof or similar if they’re passing underfoot which could end up trampling the tail itself or even the dog in question.
Though more regulated than ear cropping (21 states), it’s still something that should be weeded out of modern society and only performed if necessary for medical reasons.
Another relatively cruel act, depending on your point of view, is ear taping.
While primarily done for cosmetic reasons, it’s also allegedly performed in hunting dogs to keep their ears down when passing through thick forests or brush.
Ears can be taped up or down.
The most common dogs affected by ears getting taped up are German Shepherds as it’s, once again, the breed standard to have them pointing upwards.
However, these experiences can range from relatively mild to completely unpleasant and traumatizingly uncomfortable for the dogs, so do keep that in mind.
Where Is The Act Of Ear Cropping Still Practiced?
Ear cropping in general is still widely performed in all walks of life. Farmsteads and rural communities still do it out of tradition, more urban communities and celebrities do it out of some form of breed standard and prestige.
American bulldog ear cropping is particularly popular in these urban communities because it was popularized by various celebrities, be it rappers, influencers, popstars or the like for the sake of merchandise, social media clout or similar.
For that, many American bulldog puppies end up having to suffer through this and have to grow up with some potentially damaging consequences.
Why Are A Dog’s Ears Important?
We all know that both the tail and the ears are an important part of a dog’s body, and not just for the sake of being body parts.
A Tool For Communication
They’re two key components in letting us closely translate a dog’s emotional state and their overall intent.
We, as a species, have learned to interpret the various gestures they perform utilizing their entire bodies, but primarily the position of their tail and ears to have a better relationship with our canine companions.
Another obvious issue with ear cropping in American Bullies is that all dogs use their ears to better orientate themselves.
Dog’s have a very keen sense of hearing and rely on it even more than us humans do. It’s what allows them to interact with the world around them.
When you damage the floppy ears of a dog by cropping them, it’s very likely that you’re inhibiting their ability to hear, for the ear to better funnel the sound over to the ear canal and further.
While there’s no definitive proof, there are two different sides of the coin where one believes that cropping makes dogs hear better while the other believes the opposite.
I’m fervently in the latter group, but I’m not the one deciding for your dog, just stating the facts.
Will It Shorten My Bully’s Lifespan?
Absolutely not. While a commonly unnecessary and painful act for the dog, it’s only painful in the short term. He gets used to it over time and lives a completely healthy life.
Of course, that’s as long as the procedure was done by a certified professional with clean tools who made sure to disinfect and properly treat the cut, allowing it to heal properly.
The same goes for any dog breed, though make sure this is performed when they’re still young and not when your dog reaches adulthood as it’ll only be more painful and traumatizing for him.
How Common Is Ear Cropping Nowadays?
Well, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the RSPCA for short, there’s been a drastic increase in reports of ear cropping in the last few years in countries like England and Wales where there’s been an actual ban in ear cropping.
A staggering 236% increase, to be exact, and that was only up to the year 2019, numbers have likely fluctuated further in the past few years, but this was the most up-to-date info that I could uncover.
As for the United States, we have a more concrete number, a shocking 130000 puppies get their ears cropped each year.
That may seem small, but consider that about 40% of households in the US own at least one dog and that the average family consists of 3-4 people.
While that only goes up to half a million Americans on average and is a small percentage by any standard, that’s still a lot when you consider this is done annually and a dog’s lifespan is anywhere between 11-15 years, give or take a few.
The numbers add up to a sizable chunk, and it’s still very much legal since both the Canadian and the American Kennel Clubs still allow the practice to continue.
While they claim it’s purely for standardization purposes of the bully breed, a good number of people do it just to make the dog look fierce or dangerous.
That said, finding a licensed vet that’ll do it for a non-medical reason is thankfully becoming harder and harder.
Which Dog Breeds Have It As A Standard To Get Their Ears Cropped?
Well, there are around 20 dog breeds that the AKC recognized as a breed with cropped ears.
Here are some of the more common ones:
• Boston Terriers
• Doberman Pinschers
• Great Danes
• Cane Corsos
• American Staffordshire Bull Terriers
• German Shorthaired Pointers
Is There Any Reason As To Why I Should Crop My Dog’s Ears?
There are reasons why you should be doing this, but they’re not that common.
The Breed Standard
The first is the more basic reason, having to conform to breed standards. If you want to participate in dog shows, you’ll have to adapt to the norm unless it’s optional (and, in most cases, it’s not)
Thankfully, a lot of specialized veterinarians will provide this service and will make sure it’s as painless as possible for your canine companion.
It’s not uncommon to have your dog suffer an ear infection, some of the more severe ones even potentially causing skin cancer of all things, albeit pretty rare.
For this reason, most dogs have the floppy part of their ears cropped to prevent such an infection from spreading further or taking root in the first place.
Funnily enough, the one dog breed that is most susceptible to one of the more common infections, Otitis Externa, Spaniels, don’t get their ears cropped nor do they have it as a breed standard.
There’s also some deliberation whether or not it helps with circulation for American Bulldogs specifically.
If you have a clumsier dog or your yard is full of rough terrain with thick brush and similar, potentially dangerous environments, you may get your dog’s ears cropped for his overall safety.
For example, if on a farm and operating heavy machinery, a dog’s ear may end up getting caught in it, or, for a less severe example, going through the woods which can get his ears caught on a branch or similar.
Two very unlikely scenarios for a breed like the American Bulldog, but you get the idea.
Why Is Ear Cropping Done At Such An Early Age?
According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), it’s done early because, at an early age, puppies aren’t yet fully aware of their surroundings and their nervous systems haven’t fully developed yet.
This allows the vets to perform procedures like tail docking and ear cropping that would otherwise be painful without much fuss.
Plus, it also allows the ears to conform to the new standard and grow out into a healthier, less obtrusive shape.
Whereas, in later years, your dog becomes a little more ‘sensitive’ in a manner of speaking, and the procedure becomes a lot more painful. Not to mention adults are a lot harder to keep down as opposed to pups.
Does Ear Cropping Affect My Bullies’ Behavior In Any Way?
Well, not directly, but the people’s perception of the dog may lead to a different social upbringing.
People and dogs alike may see him as more aggressive, serious, less eager to play, even less desirable by dog standards because he was ‘modified’.
All of this shunning can eventually lead to him reflecting these traits if exposed to them long enough which could pose a problem later down the line for everyone involved.
How Long Does It Take For The Ear To Heal After Cropping?
It usually depends from dog to dog, but, on average, it takes anywhere from one to two months for the ears to fully heal.
Initially they’ll be sutured and bandages which should be removed after a week or two.
After that, they’ll get something hard taped up against the ears to prevent them from touching anything that might irritate the area and to keep them propped up to get that desired look of constant alertness.
In time, they’ll heal in that position and everything will be removed from them, completing the procedure fully.
Should anything look off during this healing period, don’t hesitate to call up the veterinarian who performed the procedure to ask about further steps that you may need to take or if you need to schedule a check-up to determine the source of the problem.
What Should I Do During The Healing Period To Make My Dog More Comfortable?
Having a dog heal from an ear cropping procedure doesn’t just revolve around those two steps. There are plenty of things that need to happen in the meantime that you can help out with.
The first thing to keep in mind is that your dog will need plenty of aftercare even with him not feeling the pain fully, he’s still a puppy and will need your love and attention.
He’ll also need to get weekly bandage changes to keep them fresh and from becoming a hindrance more than a help.
Also, make sure to follow instructions regarding the proper medical attention you yourself have to administer to your doggo’s ears, be it cleaning them or putting antibiotics on them to prevent further infection.
Don’t get the bandages wet though as that’ll render them way less effective at their designated task of keeping the incision safe from outside elements.
Aside from that, the puppy himself is the biggest danger to the healing process as he’s often playful and will try to scratch at them.
You can prevent this by getting him a cone. This may make him feel a bit isolated which is why it’s important that you’re around him to show him that he’s still loved.
Should your dog start to cry from the irritation that he can’t reach or some pain, you can always give the puppy’s ears a light soak in warm water to help ease the symptoms and provide relief.
Who Can I Ask About Ear Cropping?
The best, and only person you should be taking proper advice about cropping your dog’s ears is a certified veterinarian.
Neither me nor anyone else on the internet or in your group of friends for that matter most likely, is qualified to talk to you about your dog’s health.
A vet can check your dog and determine whether or not he needs to get his ears cropped for medical reasons or for breed conformation purposes since he can get more intimate knowledge of your dog’s overall health.
How Much Does An Ear Cropping Procedure Cost?
Ear cropping is certainly a costly procedure, with prices ranging anywhere from about 150-ish dollars all the way up to a sizable 600 dollar price tag, depending on vet demands.
That said, do keep in mind that just because the price is higher, doesn’t mean the quality of the procedure will be better, that’s entirely dependent on the vet.
Do your research beforehand to determine which local vet is the best person for the job as it can end up being more painful than it needs to be for your dear Bully boy.
What Kinds Of Ear Crops Can American Bullies Get?
There isn’t just one specific crop style that your dog can get either, there are several to choose from, should the procedure be deemed necessary, depending on length and purpose.
The Short Crop is the first option, and usually one of the most recommended ones. It leaves a healthy bit of ear up while still keeping all of the ear’s functionalities and keeping him eligible for dog shows if you want him to participate.
The Long Crop is next which, given how little is taken off the ear, is surprisingly unpopular despite keeping most of the dog’s original identity, though that’s mostly due to aesthetic reasons.
It only takes about a quarter of the dog’s ear.
The Battle Crop is the third option, often the most popular one when dogfighting was a thing as it took off almost the entire ear. Nowadays, a bit less so seeing how it leaves the ear canal open to debris and similar particles.
The Show Crop is the final option which leaves more than the short crop does and is, as the name implies, one of the most popular lengths for dog shows, albeit not a must as other crops work just as well.
American Bulldog ear cropping is certainly not a necessary procedure and certain countries, like Wales and England, have banned the act for the sake of overall animal welfare.
However, it’s still practiced in many other countries and is very much legal to do as such, with the amount of ear cropping growing in number each year.
Most breeders will already perform the act of dog ear cropping when you want to go out and get one given how they want to conform to breed standards and the popular thing at the time.
That said, if the litter is new and you’d like a Bully without his ears cropped, you can always ask the dog breeder in question to see if he’ll be able to reserve you one.
Ear cropping isn’t all bad however, as there are specific cases like having to deal with ear infections or the use of a dog for hunting or herding where the act is justified.
That said, the American Bully isn’t making the latter given his brachycephalic nature not making him suited for hunting given his breathing difficulties.
With all that said and done, it’s up to you to decide whether or not getting your dog’s ears cropped is the right call for your precious pooch or if you’d rather leave him all natural.
I fully advise consulting with your dog’s vet or any other certified pet health care professional on the matter before making a decision with such permanent effects.
However, I’m sure that you’ll be able to make the best decision for your canine companion. Until next time.