Cropping a dog’s ear entails cutting off some of the ear leather. This surgical procedure requires anesthesia. The treatment is administered usually between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks. The veterinarian tapes the ears for months afterward to get them to heal right. Breeds associated with the procedure include the Boxer, the Doberman Pinscher, Schnauzers, the Great Dane, Pit Bull Terriers, and Miniature Dobermans.
The original intent of cropping a dog’s ears was to give it an advantage in a battle with another dog, another animal, or a human. It gives an opponent less to grab onto. Owners continue to use Dobermans, for instance, for personal protection, so this tradition continues.
Cropping an ear helps it to stand erect. Owners that show certain breeds crop their ears to conform to the breed’s standard. For example, the American Kennel Club’s standard for Doberman Pinscher includes cropped ears and a docked tail.
Some owners crop a dog’s ears to reduce the chance of future ear infections by increasing ventilation of the ear canal. Whether cropping the ears actually reduces the risk of ear infections as opposed to leaving the ears pendulous has been contested. For example, a German study found that boxers in England, where the ears tend not to be cropped, did not have a significantly higher rate of ear infection than boxers in Switzerland, where they tend to be cropped. Aside from the ventilation argument, the belief that cropping ears reduces infection may arise from the observation that some floppy-eared breeds are highly susceptible to ear infection whereas several breeds that tend to be cropped have a low susceptibility.
Paul Dohrman's academic background is in physics and economics. He has professional experience as an educator, mortgage consultant, and casualty actuary. His interests include development economics, technology-based charities, and angel investing.