Docking and cropping refers to the removal of parts of a dog's tail and ears. This procedure is completed on certain dog breeds to meet breed standards for dog shows. In addition, many people dock purebred dogs’ (such as boxers) tails out of tradition.
Many people believe it is cruel; others believe docking and cropping prevent health issues. But is docking a dog’s tail and cropping their ears necessary? No, docking and cropping are optional cosmetic surgeries unless you want to meet the breed standard in a dog show.
What Is Ear and Tail Docking in Dogs?
Docking is when part of a dog’s tail is removed for cosmetic or working reasons. This is usually done before a puppy turns five days old. If a person wants to get the procedure done later, experts recommend waiting until the dog is eight to 12 weeks old.
Ear cropping is another cosmetic procedure that some owners get for their dogs. When an ear is cropped, the floppy part of it is cut off, making it stand on end. A vet performs this procedure when the puppy is about six to 12 weeks old.
The Procedure for Tail Docking
When a puppy is one to five days old, a breeder will put a constricting band on the tail or have part of it surgically removed by a veterinarian.
The constricting band is tied to the dog’s tail and left on until the tissue dies and falls off. Some experts consider this procedure unsafe because it poses a risk of infection.
The surgery is usually a quick procedure. The veterinarian will take a pair of surgical scissors and clip off part of the puppy’s tail while it is still small and not as hard to cut through. Many times, vets perform this procedure without anesthesia. The amount of the tail people remove varies based on the dog breed.
The procedure for ear cropping is different than the procedure for tail docking. Here, the cosmetic surgery is performed by a veterinarian, and they usually put the dog “under” before moving forward. After the surgery, larger dog breeds usually have their ears taped, bandaged, or tied to a solid object to encourage the ears to remain upright.
There’s Controversy Surrounding Docking and Cropping
Although people have had dogs’ tails docked and ears cropped for thousands of years, the topic remains controversial. Many European countries outlawed docking. However, it is still a widespread practice in the U.S. According to the American Kennel Club, docking practices are an “integral part of defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health.”
In contrast, the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly opposes the procedure in a statement that reads: “The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.”
Each side has its reasons for discouraging or promoting tail docking and ear cropping.
Reasons People Are Against Docking
Many people who are against this procedure cite several reasons for their disapproval. For instance, although these procedures are performed early in a dog’s life, it’s still painful and mostly done without general anesthetic.
People against docking also believe it is wrong to perform these cosmetic surgeries to alter the dog’s natural looks. There are risks of infection and pain after the procedure while the puppy is healing. Finally, dogs with cropped ears may not be able to communicate as well with other dogs, leading to miscommunication and fighting.
Reasons People Are Pro Docking
On the other hand, proponents of tail docking and ear cropping believe that these procedures benefit the dog’s health. Some say ear cropping reduces the risk of ear infections. Floppy-eared dogs, like Spaniels, are more likely to develop ear infections than, say, German Shepherds.
Proponents of these procedures also argue:
- Working dogs with docked tails (like Rottweilers) have fewer incidents of tail injuries. Their tails can get caught in fences or grabbed by other animals in combat.
- Cropped ears give a guard dog better hearing, making them appear and act more alert. It also prevents people from being able to grab their ears if there is an altercation.
- Proponents of ear cropping and tail docking also give the dog the breed standard appearance, which helps them to enter dog shows and win.
Breeds That Commonly Get Docked or Cropped
Out of the 200 registered dog breeds with the AKC, 80 of those breeds are traditionally docked. The AKC continues to add breeds to this list, but here is an overview of some of the more popular dog breeds people dock. They include:
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Scottish Terriers
- Pitbull Terriers
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Rat Terriers
- American Cocker Spaniels
- German Wirehaired Pointers
- Doberman pinschers
- Welsh Corgis
- Yorkshire Terriers
Many more dog breeds have docking as part of their breed standard.
Docking a Dog’s Tail and Ears Is Optional
Docking a dog’s tail and cropping its ears is an optional cosmetic surgery that some breeders and dog owners choose to get for their dogs. Owners have this procedure performed for many years for aesthetic and health purposes. The subject is a hot topic of debate within the dog community.
In countries in Europe, docking is outlawed; however, the U.S. does not regulate docking, meaning that it is left up to the owners and veterinarians whether a dog gets docked.
Either way, it is your choice whether you get your dog’s tail docked and ears cropped. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making this decision.