When you hear the term “ear cropping” you likely think of Pitbulls. While Pitbull dogs aren’t the only breeds that have their ears cropped, they are some of the most common breeds to undergo this controversial practice.
Pitbulls already get a bad rep, and the practice of ear cropping doesn’t help the public’s opinion of these dogs being scary and aggressive.
And while many countries throughout the world have since banned allowing people to crop pitbull ears, the United States still allows it.
Why do we crop Pitbull ears, where did the practice come from, and what are the consequences you should prepare for if you choose to crop Pitbull ears?
In today’s article, we are going to answer some of these questions and get to the bottom of Pitbull ear cropping.
What Is A Pitbull?
There are several different types of Pitbulls, and there are also many breeds wrongly labeled as Pit Bulls.
Pitbulls come in a variety of different breeds, though not all dogs labeled as Pit Bulls actually are true Pitbulls.
In fact, according to most experts, there are only a few types of true Pitbulls categorized. These Pitbull types include the American Pitbull Terrier, The American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bulldog, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
That said, there are many other types of Bully breeds and Pitbull mixes that are labeled as Pit Bulls, and many for good reason.
Most “Pitbull” type dogs have large, square heads, muscular bodies, and smooth, short coats. Most importantly, these dogs all have a similar history or origin.
This is where the Pitbull controversy comes in. Pitbulls are famous for their historical use in blood sports and bull baiting. They were bred for their strong jaws, incredible devotion, and unflappable courage.
However, throughout history, Pitbulls and other Bully breeds have played many other roles. Many of them have performed as police and military dogs, search and rescue dogs, farm dogs, guard dogs and even service dogs.
In fact, Pitbulls have been proven to be affectionate, devoted, gentle and loving. They are patient with children, friendly with people, and when properly raised and socialized, get along well with other pets.
Sadly, their days as fighting dogs follows them, causing controversial breed bans, breed discrimination, and fear amongst the public. This continues, even though recent studies have proven that Pitbulls are actually no more aggressive or unpredictable than any other breed.
Worse still, this reputation has led to irresponsible breeders and owners using the dog as a symbol of status, power and aggression. And this is where ear cropping comes in.
When people crop Pitbull ears today, it is generally to make the Pitbull look more ferocious and intimidating, and this brings us to a whole new topic of discussion.
Should Pitbull ear cropping be banned in the United States?
It’s a debate many are having. But in order to participate in the debate, we should first learn more about it.
What Does It Mean To Crop Pitbull Ears?
Cropping a Pitbull’s ears is the act of removing the soft parts of the dog’s ear and leaving behind the harder cartilage.
Cropping a Pitbull’s ears is the process of removing the soft, floppy part of the ear known as the pinna. This is the part of the ear that is easily manipulated. The removal of this part of the ear is done with the sole purpose of leaving the ears in an upright, erect position.
The process is only to be performed on puppies no older than 12 weeks of age, and only to be performed by a professional veterinarian. It requires a surgical procedure that involves putting the puppy under anesthesia.
The cost for Pitbull ear cropping ranges between $150 to $600, although this cost can vary depending on your veterinarian and how your puppy handles the procedure. Ear cropping can come with a multitude of complications, which can cost you even more money down the road.
Other Breeds That Commonly Have Their Ears Cropped
According to the American Kennel Club, the following breeds maintain ear cropping as part of their breed standard:
- The American Pitbull Terrier
- The Boxer
- The Brussels Griffon
- The Great Dane
- The Boston Terrier
- The Standard Doberman Pinscher
- The Cane Corso
- The German Pinscher
- The Neapolitan Mastiff
- The Giant Schnauzer
- The Standard Schnauzer
- The Bouvier des Flandres
- The Beauceron
- And The Manchester Terrier
Is It Legal To Crop Pitbull Ears In The United States?
As of now, it is still legal in the United States to crop Pitbull ears in many regions. However, not all states or cities allow the practice of ear cropping in dogs, and many animal welfare groups have come together in hopes to ban the practice officially.
States That Restrict Ear Cropping In The US:
- New York
- New Hampshire
- Washington Stain
Countries That Ban Canine Ear Cropping:
- South Africa
- The Virgin Islands
- Czech Republic
Most provinces in Canada – all but two, in fact – ban ear cropping and tail docking. The only two provinces that still allow people to crop Pitbull ears include Onteroa and Alberta.
However, many animal welfare groups and even the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have come together to ban the practice in Canada entirely.
The History Behind Pitbull Ear Cropping
Originally, ear cropping on Pitbulls was done to protect the Pitbull during dog fights.
When you take a step back and look at the practice of ear cropping and tail docking, it seems a bit barbaric. Why would we want to remove parts of our dogs at all?
Actually, there was once a sound reason for people to crop Pitbull ears. In their early days as fighting dogs, ear cropping was (most likely) done to reduce their chances of severe injury. Removing the floppy part of the Pitbull’s ears reduced the chances of the opponent dog from biting and severely injuring this sensitive area.
Sadly, this practice was likely not just for the dog’s benefit. The owner would crop Pitbull ears solely to enhance his chances of winning in the games.
But what about tail docking and ear cropping of other breeds?
Working dogs throughout history have undergone tail docking and ear cropping. As you saw above, there is a long list of breeds who maintain ear cropping as a breed standard in the United States.
Many of these breeds were working dogs, and ear cropping was implemented to protect them from certain injuries or infections, or to improve their working ability.
That said, the majority of dogs today are not working dogs. Most are companion dogs with no real need to have cropped ears. So then why do people still crop Pitbull ears, and are there any advantages?
Furthermore, what is the actual process of Pitbull ear cropping?
Let’s find out.
The Cropping Process – How Cropping Is Achieved
The cropping process occurs on Pitbull puppies between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks of age.
Naturally, Pitbulls are born with floppy ears that are similar to other adorable breeds like Golden Retrievers or Labs.
As they grow, their ears become more erect and tend to fold over. However, because Pitbulls come in a variety of breeds, the shape and length of their ears will vary.
As we already know, the floppy, soft part of your Pitbull’s ear is called the pinna. This is the part of the ear that is removed when your dog undergoes ear cropping. Although it is still legal in many states to crop Pitbull ears, many veterinarians are refusing to participate in the cropping process.
We should also note that dogs over the age of 12 weeks should not have their ears cropped, and no reputable veterinarian will participate in allowing this to occur in dogs older than 12 weeks.
If you crop Pitbull ears in a dog that is over 12 weeks, the risks are higher for serious infection and extreme pain, and there is even a high chance that the cropping won’t hold.
This is due to the cartilage in your dog’s pinna, which thickens as your dog ages. After 12 weeks, the cartilage is too thick to ensure the procedure will work.
However, if your dog is under 12 weeks and you find a vet that practices ear cropping, the process goes something like this:
Pitbull puppies are brought into the veterinarian for an evaluation where their age and overall health will be considered. Since puppies need to undergo anesthesia to have their ears cropped, they should have a complete physical to ensure they are healthy enough to do so.
Once your dog is under anesthesia, the operation usually takes between 30 to 45 minutes. The soft part of the pinna is removed and the ear is then sutured and bandaged. The bandages are designed to wrap and hold your dog’s ears in an upright position so that they will heal in the erect position that is desired.
Depending on your dog, the healing process can take anywhere from weeks to months. Bandages will need to be removed and replaced, and the sutured area will need to be cleaned and looked after carefully.
During this healing process after you crop Pitbull ears, there is a good chance of infection. Your dog is also going to be in a good amount of pain and will require pain medication and follow up visits to ensure he is healing properly.
As with all surgical procedures, there can be serious complications that accompany cropping your dog’s ears, which only increases the controversy surrounding this unnecessary procedure.
Why Do Some People Still Crop Pitbull Ears?
Cropping a pitbull’s ears is a controversial practice. Some still support the act while other experts agree it is unnecessary and even harmful to your dog’s health.
There are a few reasons dogs continue to undergo ear cropping today, in spite of what we now know is a dangerous and often unnecessary procedure.
First, some AKC breed standards continue to recognize ear cropping amongst dogs, which can benefit dogs in the show ring.
Other reasons to crop some dog’s ears are medical, with reputable veterinarians doing so to reduce ear infections in certain breeds.
But what about when it comes to Pitbull ears? Bloodsports have long been outlawed, so why do some people still crop Pitbull ears? Well, there are many reasons a person might consider doing this, though the most common is for vanity purposes.
For most Pitbull enthusiasts, Pitbulls are viewed as the underdog of the canine kingdom. They’ve endured years of mistreatment in their fighting days and continue to still be used in underground dog fighting rings today. They are also still considered by some to be aggressive and unpredictable, though studies disprove this.
Sadly, there are those who seek Pitbulls out due to their poor reputation, and exploit this reputation for their own gain.
So, what is the main reason some people crop Pitbull ears? To make their Pitbull appear more intimidating.
In fact, research has shown that dogs with cropped ears are viewed as being more aggressive and intimidating than dogs who maintain their natural ear shape.
This has a devastating impact on dogs like Pitbulls, who in many regions throughout the United States continue suffer breed bans and discrimination.
Pitbulls are also disproportionately the first types of dogs to be euthanized when turned over to shelters, while irresponsible breeders continue to breed them at an exponential rate because, you know, everyone loves a puppy.
So, is there really ever a good reason to crop a Pitbull ears? In our opinion, (and in many other opinions), the answer is a resounding no.
But if you’re still not convinced, let’s talk more about the safety repercussions of choosing to crop Pitbull ears.
Is It Safe To Crop Pitbull Ears? The Hidden Problems Behind This Controversial Practice
Ear cropping is not only painful for your dog, it can lead to unnecessary medical issues including infections during healing.
According to the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) ear cropping is solely a “cosmetic procedure with potential negative outcomes for the animal”. Sadly, this hasn’t stopped many people in the United States from moving forward and choosing to crop Pitbull ears.
Are you on the fence? Let’s take a look at the evidence and the pros and cons of ear cropping in dogs.
Benefits Of Choosing To Crop Pitbull Ears
- A Potential Reduction Of Ear Infections
It has been suggested that ear cropping can help reduce the chances of ear infections. For this reason, some veterinarians will participate in the practice, especially if dogs have suffered chronic infections in the past.
However, there is no evidence to support that ear cropping truly does reduce ear infections, and in fact cropping your dog’s ears may actually lead to different types of infections and risks of other ailments, as we’ll cover further down.
- A More Intimidating or “Scarier” Looking Guard Dog
One of the main reasons, according to most (but not all) experts behind choosing to crop Pitbull ears is for vanity purposes. This means that owners want their dogs to look a particular way, most notably a way that is intimidating to others.
Pitbulls are often utilized as protection dogs, and the practice of cropping their ears can aid in this overall purpose based solely on appearance.
- Qualifying Your Dog For Competitions
There is an assumption that dogs will have a higher chance of winning in competitions if they meet all of the qualifying breed standards for their breed. This includes ear cropping for dogs like the American Pitbull Terrier.
While the American Kennel Club does still support and withhold their position on ear cropping, they have also stated that dogs without cropped ears are accepted and will not be judged on this characteristic.
Risks Behind Choosing To Crop Pitbull Ears
- General Anesthesia Complications
General anesthesia is always necessary if you choose to crop Pitbull ears. This means that your dog will be completely unconscious during the ear cropping procedure and will need to be intubated.
Risks that are associated with general anesthesia can vary and range from mild to severe. Some of the most common risks include nausea, vomiting leading to aspiration, aspiration-induced pneumonia, organ failure, cardiac arrest, visual impairments, seizures and clotting disorders.
Of course, general anesthesia is commonly used for a number of necessary procedures. Reputable veterinarians will take all precautions necessary to reduce potential risks and ensure your dog is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia before a procedure.
That said, there are still risks associated with anesthesia. This makes it that much more controversial to put your dog under anesthesia for what is often considered an unnecessary medical procedure like ear cropping.
- Postoperative Complications
Post-surgical infections are some of the most common issues owners face when choosing to crop Pitbull ears. As with all surgical procedures, keeping the wound clean and dry is imperative to ensuring the wound heals properly.
With dogs, however, this can be difficult. There is also the chance of severe scarring, which can occur with ear cropping and may lead to serious pain and further surgical procedures for your dog.
When you crop Pitbull ears, you should also prepare for your dog to be in a good amount of pain. This pain can last for weeks or months.
Furthermore, there is also no guarantee that your dog’s ears will maintain the cosmetic look you are going for. Some dogs who undergo ear cropping end up with damaged ears and lifelong complications.
- An Inability To Properly Communicate
Your dog’s ears aren’t just for hearing. Like a human’s smile, dog ears play an intrical part in how your dog communicates. You can tell a lot by your dog’s ears and where they stand, whether they are perked up, pinned back, relaxed or alert.
Dogs not only use their ears to communicate with their owners, but they also use them to communicate with other dogs. When you crop Pitbull ears, you are permanently placing them in an alert, erect position.
This position can wrongly communicate to other dogs that your Pitbull is challenging them, leading to confusion, aggression, and sometimes dog fights.
- Trauma To The Dog
When you choose to crop Pitbull ears, remember that your Pitbull must be between 6 and 12 weeks of age. This is also around the time puppies undergo their natural fear period, which is the time in their life where they build core memories and beliefs about what is safe in the world and what is not.
The fear period is an especially important time in a puppy’s life, and it is when socialization is key to ensure your dog grows up happy, healthy and well-rounded.
Dogs who undergo traumatizing experiences during their fear period are much more likely to develop emotional and behavioral issues as they age.
Good News For Pit Bulls – The Breed Standard Is Changing
Many clubs and breed associations are changing standard breed requirements to dissuade the outdated practice of ear cropping.
The American Kennel Club supports ear cropping for certain breeds, stating that it is “integral to defining and preserving breed character”. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association disagrees, claiming that ear cropping is an unnecessary cosmetic procedure that carries serious risks.
Here’s the good news.
While the debate rages on, the standard is shifting for breeds like Pitbulls, which means it is no longer necessary to crop Pitbull ears in order to compete in the show ring.
So, while some still support the practice, the reality is that ear cropping is no longer required to ensure your Pitbull dog wins in his category or stands out to judges. So, if your sole purpose to crop Pitbull ears is to ensure your American Pitbull Terrier is recognized by the American Kennel Club, you no longer have to worry.
Furthermore, there are many veterinarians throughout the United States who refuse to practice ear cropping and tail docking unless it is absolutely medically necessary. This is true even in States where ear cropping is deemed legal.
For Pitbulls and animal welfare advocates, this is a huge step towards banning the procedure and dissuading people to make the choice to crop Pitbull ears at all.
Tips On Keeping Your Pitbull’s Ears Healthy – Cropped Or Not
Your Pitbull’s ears are an intrical part of his body. It’s important to keep them healthy.
Your Pitbull’s ears are more than just adorable fur flaps. They help him to hear, allow him to better communicate with his canine counterparts and human family, and even help him to regulate his body temperature.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies when they get hot. Instead, they only have sweat glands in their paws and in their ears to help them stay cool.
For this reason amongst many others, it’s incredibly important to ensure you keep your dog’s ears healthy and clean.
Remember, dogs have much longer ear canals than humans have, and these ear canals not only build up an excess of moisture and wax, but they can also contain debris picked up from when your dog is playing outdoors.
And because your dog’s ear canals are longer than our own, they also stay moist. This means that your dog’s ears are more likely to produce bacteria, and this bacteria creates the perfect habitat for parasites like ear mites.
Pitbull ears are sensitive, and they can be prone to a number of other issues as well.
The most common ear ailments Pitbull ears may encounter include:
- Ear Infections
- Ear Mites
- And Aural Hematoma
Whether or not you crop Pitbull ears, it’s very important to keep your dog’s ears clean and to look out for signs of the above health issues.
The best way to clean your Pitbull’s ears is to ensure you use proper ear cleaning products and follow the tips listed below.
The Do’s and Don’ts Of Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears
- DO use a soft cloth or cotton ball to clean your dog’s ears
- DO use dog-safe ear cleaning solution only as recommended
- DO use vet-recommended ear cleaning solutions to routinely clean your dog’s ears
- DO check your dog’s ears regularly to ensure they are clean, free of buildup, and don’t have a foul odor
- DON’T use a cotton swab or q-tip to clean your dog’s ear canal
- DON’T use human ear medications or ear drops in your dog’s ears
- DON’T ignore signs of infection like redness, swelling, excessive itching, or a foul odor
Should You Crop Pitbull Ears?
Cropping your dog’s ears could lead to a number of risks and complications, and you must ask yourself if these risks are worth it.
It’s difficult not to take a biased stance when it comes to choosing to crop Pitbull ears. That said, the practice is still legal here in many regions of the United States. This means that, if you want to crop Pitbull ears, you certainly can.
However, wanting to crop Pitbull ears and needing to crop Pitbull ears are two different things. We implore you to continue to dig into the pros and cons of ear cropping when it comes to your dog, and to seriously consider the risks involved with this dangerous procedure.
As far as where we stand, we cannot recommend that you crop Pitbull ears unless it is deemed medically necessary by a responsible and trusted veterinarian.
We hope this article has been an informative one, and we would love to hear your opinion now on Pitbull ear cropping.
Tell us what you think about this highly controversial practice in the comment section below.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.