The process of shortening a dog’s ears is commonly referred to as cropping. It is a fairly controversial topic in the world of dog lovers.
Those who are advocates of cropping claim there are some physical benefits to the procedure, while those who oppose cropping are adamant about the procedure being obviously barbaric in nature, and state that it does not have any real benefit except for aesthetic or cosmetic reasons.
Today, many purebred dogs like the Great Dane, the Boxer, the Doberman, the American bully, and the American Pitbull Terrier have cropped ears as part of their breed standard.
There are other working dogs like the German Shepherd, the Rottweiler, the Tibetan Mastiff, the Cane Corso, and many more that aren’t typically submitted to this banal procedure, but, of course, there are always exceptions to this rule.
Although we do not condone ear cropping, in this article, we will explain what it is, how it’s performed, and the potential repercussions it entails.
We will unbiasedly take a look at both sides of the spectrum when it comes to reasons why certain people decide to crop their dog’s ears, and why some people oppose it, in order to help you understand whether Pitbull ear cropping is something you want for your Pitbull puppy.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the procedure, how and when it is done, and what the reasoning behind it might be.
What Is Pitbull Ear Cropping?
Ear Cropping is the process of having a licensed veterinarian surgically shorten a dog’s outer ears. Although it is controversial, it is a fairly simple cosmetic procedure where the floppy part of a dog’s ears (the longer part of the ear that we humans love to touch, called the ‘Pinna’) is cut and then taped together or stitched for several weeks. It’s a non-invasive surgical procedure, unlike neutering for male dogs or spaying for female dogs.
This procedure is not something a veterinarian ordinarily learns as part of their curriculum… it can only be learned by observing other skilled veterinarians who have experience with the procedure, and not many vets will agree to do it.
However, if performed by a licensed and skilled veterinarian, the aftercare for ear cropping is very simple.
Taping and splinting aren’t necessary; only salve or ointment is applied to the edge of the ear until the stitches come out on their own. This happens in about a week to a week and a half after the procedure.
After the puppy’s ears heal, they are usually able to stand upright on their own. However, if ear cropping is performed by someone inexperienced or unqualified, it may result in the ears not staying upright and flopping over to their original position.
Ear cropping surgery is usually performed under anesthesia when the puppy is around six to 12 weeks of age.
Pitbull Ear Cropping – Is It A Common Thing To See?
Historically, Pitbulls originated in the early 1800s in the United Kingdom. They were bred from Old English Bulldogs (who were used for a sport known as Bull-baiting) for the purpose of creating a stronger dog breed that would be able to perform better.
Sometime later in the 19th century, large animal baiting was outlawed, so Pitbull owners turned to pit their dogs against each other in dogfighting.
Naturally, all dogs use their ears for balance, communication, and tracking. But, if subjected to dogfighting, the naturally long and floppy ears of Pitbulls proved to be a hindrance.
Their soft ears were considered a weak point prone to maiming and excessive bleeding, which would cause the dog to lose fights. So, for the purpose of dogfighting, a Pitbull’s ears were cropped to eliminate the possibility of injury.
Today, some pet owners still choose to crop their Pittie’s ears for different reasons.
Some think it makes for a more threatening dog look, while other dog owners claim there are health benefits to ear cropping such as improved hearing and a smaller chance of ear infections.
Some Pitbull owners whose dogs participate in dog shows crop their Pitties’ ears because of the AKC’s breed standard for Pitbulls, whereas the United Kennel Club has banned ear cropping under the Animal Welfare Act.
Even though cropped ears are the breed standard for Pitbulls, when considering that the AKC allows all dogs to enter competitions natural and uncropped, it seems unnecessary and cruel to submit your puppy to this cosmetic surgical procedure.
It’s baffling to think about why it’s still so common with Pitbulls.
Sadly, ear cropping isn’t the only thing troubling Pitbull lovers. There’s another problem called tail docking.
Tail docking is yet another notorious cosmetic procedure that you see all the time with this dog breed, but it is not the breed standard for Pitbulls. The modern reason for tail docking is convenience and maneuverability in household environments.
Predominantly, tail docking is done to prevent damage to a dog’s tail tails while working, or in certain situations to stop intruders from being able to grab their tail and gain an advantage.
So, Why Do Some People Still Choose To Crop A Pitbull’s Ears?
There are a few justifiable reasons why you would want to crop your Pitbull’s ears.
Here are some points of reference for advocates of both sides of the problem to take into consideration.
Arguments For Ear Cropping
1. The Look.
Today, one of the main reasons why Pitbull owners choose to crop their Pittie’s ears is for cosmetic reasons… to make them appear more threatening.
There is a certain air of authority about a dog with upright ears that makes you think twice about approaching it. This is the most appealing aspect of having a dog with cropped ears… it always looks like it’s ready for a fight.
However, considering that the Pitbull already gets a bad rap mistakenly labeled as dangerous and aggressive, cropping its ears further exacerbates the problem.
While they may appear dangerous, any Pitbull owner can attest that they are loving and caring sweethearts with a soft spot for their loved ones.
2. Better Hearing.
Some people subject their Pitbull puppies to ear cropping because they believe the procedure allows the dog to hear better, promoting good health.
These people believe that in nature, there is no such thing as a dog with floppy ears that cover the ear canal from air and light, unlike the many man-made breeds of dogs created over time through crossbreeding. They presume that ear cropping re-establishes a naturally functional, erect ear.
However, this has not been proven to be a fact, and it stands to reason that they are able to hear well enough without human intervention.
3. Preventing Ear Infections And Injuries.
Some people claim that having a Pitbull dog’s ears cropped will not only prevent injuries, but also significantly reduce the risk of the Pittie developing ear infections that arise from bites by ticks or mites, or bacteria that thrive in dark and moist environments like the inner ear canal.
Usually, ear wounds are not life-threatening to a dog. They can easily be stitched up, and ear infections can be kept in check with antibiotic treatments.
However, ear wounds can potentially leave a scar on the dog’s head. Even if the stitching is done correctly by a licensed veterinarian, blood flow through the ear can become weakened, resulting in improper healing and partial loss of the ear.
Chronic ear infections can be persistent, recurring, and very painful for the dog, leading to potentially permanent hearing loss.
Some believe that eliminating floppy ears that cover the ear canal results in having a happy and healthy dog that will not be prone to injuries and infections, but others have found the opposite to be true.
Leaving the dog’s ear open to any insect that might end up crawling into the ear canal can also lead to infections.
However, if the Pittie is not subjected to dog fights, or if it has an overall peaceful home life, all of this can be avoided with proper routine care and hygiene.
Arguments Against Ear Cropping
1. Profuse Bleeding During The Procedure.
The blood supply for a dog’s ear flaps comes from the branches of the superficial carotid artery.
The tissue of the dog’s ear itself is densely packed with hundreds of tiny blood vessels that can bleed for an extended period during and after the procedure, resulting in heavy blood loss.
2. Tremendous Pain.
Although the puppy is put to sleep via anesthetics before the procedure is performed, when the anesthetic wears off, your Pitbull puppy may deal with some lingering pain.
There is usually no way to tell for sure how extensive the pain really is, and it remains to be debated whether or not this is the case.
3. Potential Loss Of Trust And Behavioral Changes.
There is a small chance that the dog might develop a fear of the vet or become distrustful towards anyone who was involved in the process of having its ears cropped.
This is usually not the case when ear cropping is done on young puppies, but it may be a factor to consider if you have a grown dog you want to have cropped.
Since they are very young when the procedure is performed, puppies usually go right back to being themselves the very next day; however, if performed on an adult dog, it can potentially result in behavioral changes.
There are countless stories of Pitbull’s nipping people who accidentally or intentionally touch their sensitive cropped ears.
But, this could all very well depend on the dog’s natural character and affinity towards people.
4. It’s A Waste Of Money.
The approximate cost of Pitbull ear cropping ranges from $200 to $600, with the average price being around $250.
The average cost of dog food in the United States is between $20 and $60. That amounts to between $250 and $700 per year.
Not to be the one to tell dog breeders and dog owners how to use their resources, but we believe most people will agree that what you pay for and what you get in this scenario is a bad financial move.
So, the logical conclusion would be to use those funds for nearly a year’s worth of dog food for your puppy.
Pitbull Ear Cropping In Adulthood
Usually, a dog’s ears are cropped between seven and twelve weeks of age. Some people assume the dog’s ears won’t remain standing up if the procedure is not performed at a young age before they fully develop.
If you already own a fully-grown Pitbull dog and you’re considering whether or not it’s feasible to have its ears cropped, the answer is that it’s not entirely impossible.
The fact remains that some veterinarians will agree to perform an ear crop on grown dogs, while others won’t do it after they reach a certain age.
It’s just a matter of finding the right person willing to do the job.
What age your dog is doesn’t seem to be a crucial aspect when it comes to ear cropping.
If your Pittie is six months old and you abruptly decide you want to have its ears cropped, you will certainly be able to find someone who is willing to perform the procedure.
Pitbull Ear Cropping Styles
There are four main types of ear crops that are popular with Pitbull owners today:
• The Long Crop – This is the longest possible cropping style. It requires taping support to heal in a vertical position since the dog’s ear has more weight to it.
• The Show Crop – This cropping style is just a little shorter than the long crop. The ears are more likely to stand erect on their own after healing; therefore, no support is needed with this style.
• The Battle Crop – This style is the shortest available style. By removing the most material, it leaves practically nothing to grab on to. Pitbull dogs with battle cropped ears appear more threatening. This particular cropping style is the most popular choice out of them all.
• The Short Crop – This style is also popular with some Pitbull owners, with the length of the ears being just between the show crop and the battle crop.
Pitbull Ear Hygiene And Health
In general, grooming your Pitbull can be a difficult task that may require some extra effort.
They are known to be very active, and they dislike being groomed, so they may prove to be uncooperative when it’s time to bathe, brush, clip their nails, and clean their ears.
This is why it’s crucial to form the habit early on when they are puppies. Acustom your dog from an early age to grooming or else you’ll have a hard time cleaning its ears when it reaches adulthood.
It’s best to clean their ears with ear-cleaning solutions when giving them a bath. You should give your Pittie a good scrub approximately every three to five weeks.
If your pup still tries to squirm away during a bath, try having a treat handy to reward it for sitting still and being patient.
Eventually, you will get the chance to pour the ear-cleaning solution into your dog’s ear. The solution should entirely fill up the ear canal.
Afterward, softly massage your dog’s ear for about thirty seconds, and then let it shake its head to get rid of any excess fluid. You can then wipe the leftover fluid with a clean cloth.
How To Care For A Pitbull Puppy With Cropped Ears
In case you’ve got a Pitbull whose ears have already been cropped, or you have just decided to have its ears cropped, there are some things you should know about.
There are some people who will crop a dog’s ears unprofessionally, which, in turn, causes more trouble for both the dog and the owner.
Assuming you’re not one of those people who wants to crop a dog’s ears yourself, you should let a professional do it in order to make the entire process easier on the dog.
If you receive a puppy with cropped ears, try and find out who was responsible for the procedure. Was it done by a licensed veterinarian or a so-called professional in their back yard?
We recommend that you find a reputable breeder with high-quality, transparent breeding practices in order to ensure that you get a healthy puppy. You should also get to know the breeder well enough before deciding to purchase your new Pitbull puppy.
It’s more important for breeders to conduct health tests and provide health certifications rather than perform ear cropping or tail docking.
Responsible breeders who care about their dogs will most likely be against these procedures and won’t advise you or anyone else to perform them!
The History Of Ear Cropping And Dog Fighting
Historically, the reason why most dogs with naturally uncropped ears were subjected to ear cropping or tail docking is that they were often used in dogfighting. One of the most popular dog fighting breeds in the world has always been the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Their ears and tail would be shortened to eliminate any perceived point of weakness, and also prevent injuries since a dog’s ears are one of the weak points of a dog and tend to bleed profusely when wounded.
Though it is still legal in some parts of Japan and Russia, today, in most countries in the world, dogfighting is illegal, so the prevalence of ear cropping and tail docking in general has been on the decline.
However, it remains relatively popular. Whether legal or not, dog fights are still being held illicitly in certain parts of Eastern Europe, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Ear Cropping In Other Dog Breeds
Certain dog breeds are often kept with cropped ears. This seems to be the present breed standard for these dogs.
These include breeds like:
• Doberman Pinschers
• Great Danes
Other breeds, like German Shepherds and Corgis, for example, have natural ears raised into adults, so there is no need for cropping. It’s rare for other breeds, like Spaniels and Poodles, to have cropped ears, although some dog owners do it for cosmetic reasons.
Pitbull Tail Docking
Tail docking is the process of having a part of a Pitbull puppy’s tail shortened. This is usually performed when the puppies are merely a couple of days old and their tail is still ‘squishy’.
Tail docking is done without anesthetics… the reason behind this being that the dogs are so young that they won’t even remember it.
Nowadays, more than fifty different dog breeds have their tails docked.
There are a lot of people who still support these practices, yet there are many more of those who stand to reason that they are cruel and serve no particular purpose except giving a dog a more threatening appearance. Even the AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association) stresses the importance of the cessation of ear cropping and tail docking in all breed standards.
Additionally, the AKC (American Kennel Club) states that all dog breeds entered into shows are eligible to win whether their ears and tail are cut or not.
In the past decade, there have been tons of heated debates over the practice of ear cropping and tail docking in dogs in general, but especially with breeds such as the American Pitbull Terrier. Since they already have a reputation for being aggressive and dangerous, the question remains: Should this method still be going strong today?
What Does A Dog Even Use Its Tail For?
What are some fun facts to know about the purpose of a dog’s tail, you ask?
Generally speaking, a dog’s tail is used for balance during movement, and communication with other dogs and humans.
But, different dog breeds have evolved different types of tails, and they always play a crucial role in a dog’s life.
Dog breeds that possess longer fur and a longer tail are known to use their tail as a layer of protection against cold weather, wrapping it around their snout. These are breeds like the Siberian Husky or the American Malamute.
Other breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, have, over time, evolved a thick, furry tail to help them swim better.
Are Ear Cropping And Tail Docking Legal?
The practice of cutting off the ears and the tail of dogs, in general, has been banned in most European countries, including all countries that have signed the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.
It is also illegal in New Zealand, Australia, regions of Spain, and some parts of Canada.
However, contrary to many other countries, the U.S. government has not yet officially passed any law that will regulate the practice of cropping and docking. However, some states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut have already placed strict regulations on this practice.
Today, ear cropping and tail docking are mostly considered to be unethical, primitive, and cruel practices towards dogs since neither method can be considered completely painless for the dog.
Why not just go with the flow of things and let nature take its course?
No matter which way you look at it, besides the fact that it’s painful and completely unnecessary, there is not enough valid evidence to support that Pitbull ear cropping is beneficial in any way, shape, or form to the dog, except to make it look more menacing.
That being, of course, if the Pittie is not being subjected to dogfighting.
No matter what some people might claim, cropping a dog’s ears is solely done for cosmetic purposes. It’s a barbaric and unnecessary cosmetic surgical procedure.
Is a dog with a mighty stature, such as the American Pitbull Terrier, not intimidating enough without having to crop its ears or dock its tail? Why not embrace their lovable nature and promote the good qualities they possess instead of further propagating the inaccurate notion that they are aggressive and dangerous.
Ultimately, you should have a firm grasp of all the facts, pros, and cons before you decide if you should crop your Pitbull’s ears. Do your research, speak with a professional, and then decide if it’s the right thing to do.