Cropping is the removal of part of the external ear, or pinna, and the veterinary procedure is known as cosmetic otoplasty. Ear cropping is believed to have started in ancient Rome. Floppy-eared dogs used for hunting, fighting, or defending flocks from predators were at greater risk of injury from an opposing animal tearing the ear, so ears were cropped to reduce the number of places another dog or animal could grab. Ear cropping in Great Danes began to prevent the ripping and tearing of the ear when confronting wild boar during a hunt.

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Today, ear cropping is banned in a growing number of countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales.

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The American and Canadian Kennel Clubs both permit ear cropping. Out of the 192 breeds recognized today, the AKC currently acknowledges 20 cropped breeds, including the Great Dane. The Great Dane Breed Standard states that there shall be no preference between cropped and natural ears, either being correct.

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AKC’s current policy states:

The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided.

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Current veterinary science provides no medical or physical advantage to ear cropping. In 1999, the American Veterinary Medical Association determined “Ear cropping and tail docking in dogs for cosmetic reasons are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient. These procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection. Therefore, veterinarians should counsel dog owners about these matters before agreeing to perform these surgeries.”

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The American Veterinary Medical Association’s current policy states:

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.

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The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) also opposes ear cropping and tail docking in the dog for cosmetic purposes.

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As such, American veterinary schools generally do not teach cropping, and there are a very limited number of vets experienced in this procedure who must learn on the job. Because of this, it is important to find a vet with experience and recommendations.

The decision to crop or not to crop is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Dark Water Danes respects the right of puppy owners to make the decision that is best for their situation.

Puppy owners must ask themselves some questions before deciding which choice to make.

Why have I decided to crop my puppy?

Cropping today is done purely for aesthetic purposes. We strongly urge you to do your research and consider the choice in detail before making the decision whether or not to crop. Even if the dog is being shown in conformation, the culture in the US is changing. Natural eared Great Danes are becoming more common in the show ring, and more are finishing their AKC Championships today than ever before. Dark Water Danes does not crop our personal dogs, even though we show in AKC conformation.

Do I understand the risks associated with ear cropping?

Cropping involves putting a very young puppy under general anesthesia, which is itself a risk. The surgery causes trauma and pain and there are risks of complications. There is a very real possibility that putting your puppy through this elective procedure could result in the puppy’s death.

How much time am I willing to put into ear taping and aftercare? Do I have a local vet experienced in the care of cropped ears should I have trouble taping them myself?

After the ear cropping surgery, the ears must be taped in order to train them into the desired shape and carriage. Daily taping and dressing of the ears is required, and can take up to a year or more to result in erect ears. Cropped ears are a commitment, and there is nothing desirable about a cropped Dane left untaped. The ability of the ears to stand depends solely on the ability of the owner to follow through with taping procedures.

There is no guarantee that your puppy’s ears will stand, or that your puppy will not have complications from the surgery.