Dog Ear Cropping Methods

By Jo Chester

Ear cropping and tail docking are two controversial forms of canine surgery. Although ear cropping is mentioned in many show dog breed standards, the American Veterinary Medical Association recently changed its official stance on cropping, stating that it now opposes cropping done solely for cosmetic purposes. Due to its controversial nature, responsible dog owners will only seek safe and professionally done surgery from qualified veterinarians who do not oppose cropping on an ethical basis.

Ethical and Unethical Ear Cropping

Many people question the ethics behind cropping any dog's ears. Because the ethicality of ear cropping is often called into question, the responsible dog owner will always seek the services of a licensed veterinarian to perform the surgery. Surgery performed by the dog owner, such as that performed using scissors or an Exacto knife, are universally considered unethical and may even be illegal.

Different Cropping Styles

Different breeds have different cropping styles based on the purpose of the crop, the firmness of the ear leather, the shape of the dog's skull, and the dog's expression. The dog owner must determine the best style prior to having the ears cropped and must be able to express this desire to the vet performing the surgery.

The Ethical Surgical Procedure

Vet tech Laura Thompson explains that the cropping procedure today is performed in a sterile operating room with the dog under sedation. After the dog is immobilized, the veterinarian will mark the ear leather as a guide before making the incisions. After the ear leather has been removed, the ears may or may not be sutured closed, depending on the practices of that veterinarian. The ears are then taped in an upright position (posted) and bandaged and taped to the brace.

Other Ear Cropping Procedures

Some dog breeders still prefer to crop their own dogs' ears, either out of habit or due to their inability to get a vet to perform the procedure. Because they generally do not have access to anesthesia, they numb the ears using topical agents or ice. After marking the ears as the vet would do, the person performing the surgery uses either sterilized scissors or a sterilized craft knife to cut the ear leather.

Sharp kitchen or craft shears are the typical instrument of choice for cropping small dogs' ears at home. Because of the hesitation marks that might be left using scissors, people cropping ears on medium-, large- or giant-sized breeds may choose to use a knife to form a smoother edge. Following the procedure, clean the wound and dust it with an antiseptic powder to assist with healing.

This procedure, no matter the tools being used, places the puppy at risk of injury or death. Ear cropping can be a traumatic surgery and is best performed by a skilled professional.


Ear cropping methods have changed a great deal. Unlike very early practices, which often consisted of amputation at the root with a knife, today's dogs are provided with excellent medical and surgical care, relieving a great deal of stress for both owner and dog in the process.