Historically speaking, cropping and docking in dogs was done on working dogs who protected livestock. The only purpose for this was to protect their longer body parts from predators.
Today, docking tails and cropping ears is banned in many countries. That’s because there, people see it as a purely cosmetic procedure.
However, there are some countries where it’s still allowed. For example, here in the US where it’s claimed to be part of breed standards as well as tradition.
What’s behind those breed standards? The answer are rules about a dog’s exterior appearance that certain dog clubs set.
In the US, that’s the AKC, aka the American Kennel Club. A good example is their description of the Doberman Pinscher. If you’re interested in it, you can read it here.
Either way, it’s definitely a heated subject with fierce supporters and equally fierce opponents! What’s your take on it? Let me know in the comment section below this post if you’d like!
European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals
My home country Germany banned ear cropping and tail docking. Interestingly enough, Germany even forbids the import of dogs with docked and cropped ears. That’s because both are considered purely cosmetic.
Additionally, they’re also painful (especially the ear cropping) and don’t offer any substantial health benefits. I say that because proponents claim that cropping ears helps avoid ear infections.
Most countries in Europe, but also the U.K, Australia, and several Canadian provinces have the same regulations regarding these procedures. They’re defined in the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals (1992):
Chapter II – Principles for the keeping of pet animals, Article 10 – Surgical operations
Surgical operations for the purpose of modifying the appearance of a pet animal or for other non-curative purposes shall be prohibited and, in particular:
the docking of tails;
the cropping of ears;
declawing and defanging;
Exceptions to these prohibitions shall be permitted only:
if a veterinarian considers non-curative procedures necessary either for veterinary medical reasons or for the benefit of any particular animal;
to prevent reproduction.
a Operations in which the animal will or is likely to experience severe pain shall be carried out under anaesthesia only by a veterinarian or under his supervision.
Operations for which no anaesthesia is required may be carried out by a person competent under national legislation.
How To Naturally Avoid Ear Infections In Dogs
Did you know? The best way to naturally avoid ear infections is to feed raw dog food because it has anti-inflammatory benefits.
I’ve been feeding raw dog food since 2015 and got certified as a raw dog food nutrition specialist in 2020. That said, I witnessed this “side effect” first hand in my pup Buzz.
He’d get ear infections several times per year back in his kibble eating days. Only a few months into raw dog food, and his ears were never cleaner! Truly amazing.
Dewclaw Removal, Cropping And Docking In Dogs
So how exactly does dewclaw removal, cropping and docking work?
Most dogs have dewclaws on their front paws, but some dogs also have them on their hind paws. Some even have double dewclaws.
Did you know that dewclaws fulfill a specific purpose? It’s super interesting!
Dewclaws make it easier for dogs to hold items like bones, antlers, and toys. They also provide traction when running at high speed, and GET THIS, they even allow dogs to pull themselves out of an ice hole!
Some dewclaws are not fully developed, so they actually need to be removed to ensure they won’t accidentally rip off.
With the proper care and regular trimming (just as the other nails), normal dewclaws don’t pose any threat and won’t grow into the paw, which would be very painful.
When tails are docked, they’re partly removed when the dog is only a few days old.
The main downfall of this procedure is that it takes away the dogs’ natural ability to express themselves through their tail. It’s also harder to observe a dog’s body language when their tails are docked.
Additionally, a docked tail makes it much harder for dogs to swim because they need their tail to navigate!
Did you know? Some dogs are born with really short tails, aka bobtails, because of a mutated gene. For instance, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Welsh Corgis and Australian Shepherds.
Ear cropping is also known as cosmetic otoplasty.
When ears are cropped, they’re partially removed and trimmed into a specific shape.
This is usually done when dogs are 7-12 weeks old. Unfortunately, it’s a long and painful process because healing takes several weeks!
In addition to the pain, the risk of infection is fairly high.
I’ve experienced this a few times in my capacity as a dog walker and pet sitter here in the US. It sure takes LONG to heal!
Breeds whose ears typically get cropped are Boxers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Schnauzers, and Great Danes.
The American Veterinary Medical Association Opposes Cropping And Docking
The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) opposes cropping and docking for cosmetic purposes:
EAR CROPPING AND TAIL DOCKING OF DOGS
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.
As a result, many vet schools no longer teach these procedures.
As far as I’m concerned, I take the stand of the AVMA. I’m not a fan of painful procedures that are performed purely for cosmetic reasons.
That said, my Boxer mixes Missy & Buzz don’t have cropped ears, nor are their tails docked or dewclaws removed!
Cropping And Docking In Dogs: Bottom Line
Nowadays, most countries don’t allow cropping and docking in dogs because they don’t offer any health benefits. On the contrary, they’re mostly considered unnecessary and painful.
I personally don’t like the concept of either when they’re done for cosmetic reasons only. I mean, why would we mess around with Mother Nature’s design, right?
She designed the shapes and lengths of ears, tails, as well as dewclaws for specific reasons. So who are we to play around with that?
I obviously don’t have a problem with surgically modifying those body parts when there’s a medical reason for it.
How do you feel about ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal in dogs? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!