Cropping Rights and Misconceptions

Doberman puppy with un-cropped natural ears, floppy.Since the late part of the 20th century, ear cropping has become a controversial practice. Arguing that the procedure is cruel and inhumane,  animal rights groups have fought to end it. In the late 1980’s, most European countries outlawed ear cropping, including Germany. In places where ear cropping is allowed, not all veterinarians believe in it and few are skilled in the technique. As the circle tightens, many Doberman lovers ship their dogs in from areas where cropping is still performed and current standards for the Doberman still include a cropped ear.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has pressured the American Kennel Club (AKC) to prohibit the showing of dogs with cropped ears. However, in the AKC confirmation ring the most successful Dobermans still carry a beautifully cropped set of proud standing ears. Dobermans with the floppy unaltered ear are allowed but have thus far found no particular favor among judges.

In response to anti-cropping efforts in the United States, 24 national breed clubs have formed the National Breed Club Alliance in order to prevent ear cropping bans. Arguments for a ban simoly state that the practice is cruel. Further statements may mention that the Doberman and other dogs look less intimidating with the long floppy ‘natural’ un-cropped ear.

Arguments for maintaining the practice of ear cropping begin by refuting the assertion that the procedure is cruel. No human can speak for a dog. However, Doberman owners who have handled a Doberman puppy through the cropping and subsequent ear training observe no change in behavior after the extremely painful procedure. The freshly cropped eared puppy maintains its endless appetite. It continues in rough play with littermates and other resident animals, and shows no lack of energy.

Cropping advocating will continue. Cropping is essentially returning normal function to the ear. The long floppy ear is in fact ‘unnatural,' bred into the ancestors of the Doberman by man. The cropped ear is the tradition of the Doberman breed and of many other breeds; neglecting it leaves the dog only resembling an ideal member of its breed.

Floppy, uncropped, natural ears.Advantages of a cropped ear should also be considered in the argument. Original reasons for the Doberman ear crop were to protect it. Removing the long fragile part of the ear removes liability from a protection dog. Likewise, docking the tail and breeding for a short smooth coat also removes parts of the dog that could be grasped or easily injured by an attacker. Even outside of combat, these long delicate ears can be easily damaged during the Doberman's rigorous play.

Additional liability accompanies the unaltered ear in that posture. Cropped ears display the dog’s mood in starkly evident ways that the long floppy ears are incapable of. This is an especially crucial need for a powerful protection dog, whether it is being used for protection or not.

Having handled several Dobermans through the cropping process, I will admit that the cropping procedure is somewhat uncomfortable for the dog. I am referring almost entirely to the weeks or months of training the ear. This discomfort is dramatically reduced by simply training the dog to accept the process and not to shake and scratch at what is a mild annoyance. Having also handled dogs through the process of healing an ear infection, which the ear crop prevents almost entirely, I will also admit that one ear infection is much more stressful and harmful than the entire cropping process.