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Cropping Your Dog's Tail or Clipping His Ears

What to expect after your pooch gets his makeover.

May 24, 2018 3 min read
Cropping Your Dog's Tail or Clipping His Ears

Ear Cropping Your Dog

Ear cropping is done on a select group of dogs for cosmetic purposes only.  Boxers, Great Danes, Doberman Pincers, Miniature Pincers, and American Pit Bull Terriers, are among the more common breeds in which ear cropping is performed.

Usually recommended to be done around the age of 10-14 weeks old, the procedure requires full anesthesia.  The ears are then cut in a way that instead of flopping down to the side of the head, they stand erect on the head to a point.  In most breeds however, the ears require a period of bandaging and support splinting in order to get them to stay in an upright position, or to “stand up.”  Banding is essential for the ears to ultimately stand, and if not done properly or for a sufficient period of time, the ears may not stand erect.  The longer the ear length is, the more time required for splinting. 

Although breeders can perform this procedure, it is best left to a licensed veterinarian, who has appropriate anesthetics.  For puppies undergoing this procedure expect at least a few weeks of painful, sensitive ears.  Unfortunately, the splinting of the ears is necessary especially during the early stages of healing, which adds to their discomfort.  Unless you're planning to show your dog in conformation classes, ear cropping is unnecessary, and at that point is simply personal preference. 

Be sure you understand all that is involved not only with the surgery, but afterwards during the splinting procedures.  Your veterinarian will tell you what to expect, and what conditions to watch for which will require that you seek medical attention. You will need to follow your veterinarian’s instruction thoroughly not only to prevent infection or injury to your dog, but also to help ensure the procedure is successful. You would not want to put your dog through this discomfort more than once.

The Association of Veterinary Medicine (AVMA) has recently made a statement regarding cosmetic ear cropping and tail docking in the dog.  Essentially, and ultimately the AVMA would like to see this type of cosmetic procedure discontinued for cosmetic purposes only.

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Docking Your Dog's Tail

This procedure is typically performed on puppies between 3 and 7 days of age.  No anesthetic is involved, and the tails are docked or cut to an appropriate length for the breed.  

If the procedure is done by a veterinarian, the tail is clamped a short distance from the body, and the portion of the tail outside the clamp is cut or torn away. Many breeders dock their pups themselves using a method that has been proven to be far more painful, called "banding," or tying off the tail. This stops the blood supply, which results in dry gangrene. The dead portion of the tail usually falls off about three days later. This can be likened to slamming your finger in a car door and leaving it there. Puppies undergoing any method of tail-docking squeal and cry, yet advocates assert that the newborn pup’s nervous system is unable to feel the pain. This is an ongoing debate.

If this procedure is done on a dog older than one week, it is recommended that you wait until the puppy is at an appropriate age where it can safely handle being given anesthesia. Performing the procedure when the dog is older will also involve a longer healing process.  

Some things to remember when docking the tail of an older dog:

  • There is pain associated with this procedure, more so than in very young puppies
  • There may bleeding
  • Premature stitch (as the dog will try to chew on the area that is irritated)
  • Poor healing of the area
  • A greater chance for scarring to occur.

Unless the dog is being utilized for show purposes in the conformation ring, tail docking is best left undone if beyond the age of 5-7 days. 

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