Cropping and Docking

Why Crop and Why Dock

Rottweiler with tail

Docking tails and cropping ears is my topic today.  Why do certain dogs have their tails docked (cut very short at birth) and their ears cropped (surgically altered to stand up).

We see tail docking and ear cropping most common in the Doberman, Rottweilers, many Terriers and the Boxer although over 50 breeds have their tails docked as well.  It’s a pretty long list and may not even be complete!

Now, there is a strong movement gathering steam from many Veterinarians, to breeders,to dog owners to prevent these surgeries and ban them outright.  So why do we dock the tails of these dogs?  Well, for most of these breeds it is strictly for show and is cosmetic.  For others, it is a tradition that dates back many many years and was considered in the dog’s best interest.

These dogs such as Boxer’s and Rottweilers had their tails docked to prevent injury while hunting large game and the dogs that didn’t have their tails docked and received injury, were often put down.  However, it is really difficult to find the real answer for most of these breeds and what I find is very conflicting information.

My opinion on tail docking is simple.  If the nature of the breed’s daily life can easily lead to tail injuries, dock them at birth.  I spoke to my vet about this topic and he agreed saying that some breeds are very susceptible to tail injuries such as frequent sprains or fractures that are extremely difficult to fix and require painful surgeries to correct.

undocked-boxerI admit that my opinion on this stems from my favorite breed of dog the Boxer.  Sisko is a wrestler at heart just as Boxers are.  On any given day at the park, Sisko will search out any dog willing to wrestle with him and usually finds another Boxer.  Labs enjoy a good wrestle with a Boxer as well and just a month or so ago, one lab I know well from the park sprained her tail in a wrestling match with another Boxer. In these cases, it is easy to see how tail injuries will occur and it is possible Sisko may have had serious tail injury by now if his tail wasn’t docked.

The other reason for docking tails is for show and is cosmetic only.  This I adamantly disagree with.  If we as humans want to have cosmetic surgery so be it, but our dogs don’t have that choice and docking tails for show is for humans only and has nothing to do with the dog.  The AKC and CKC have similar views on tail docking:

an undocked tail should be severely penalized

Countries that ban or restrict tail docking:

Czech Republic
South Africa
United Kingdom
Virgin Islands

The debate on whether to dock or not to dock will undoubtedly continue for years to come.

Cropping Ears

Great Dane with floppy earsCropping a dog’s ears is a different story in my mind.  I simply cannot see any valid reason why to put a dog through this long and painful procedure when there is no real reason to do so other than for show and for the intimidating look.  Yet the list of dogs that have their ears cropped is just as long as for dogs that have their tails docked.  (I won’t post this list), but will briefly talk about a few with a valid history, the Great Dane, Dogo Argentino (I love this dog), and the Doberman.

The Doberman has been traditionally bred as a protector.  They have been bred lean and tight with no loose skin to grab on to.  Cropping the ears is suppose to eliminate hand holds yet to me that doesn’t make sense.  If they have ears you can grab them.  The other reason given is when the ears are cropped they offer the dog a much better ability to pinpoint sound.  I don’t buy this either as the difference in ears down or ears up is very minimal at best and has never been proven.

In breeds like the Great Dane and Dogo Argentino, they were traditionally bred to hunt wild boar and in Argentina the Dogo is still used for just that.  Now that the Great Dane is best known as a pet, cropping the ears to me isn’t necessary.  For the Dogo, I reluctantly agree because studies have proven that it prevents serious ear injury.

The practice of cropping ears is gradually becoming illegal.


The United States


New Zealand
South Africa
The UK

In Canada, both tail docking and ear cropping are illegal in

Nova Scotia
New Brunswick

We’ll have to see what the next few years bring in regard to these two topics.