The Argument For Altered Dogs

"When I look at a Dobe with standing ears and an erect posture, I am thrilled anew." - Terri Finn of DeerHollow Dobermans.
"When I look at a Dobe with standing ears and an erect posture, I am thrilled anew." - Terri Finn of DeerHollow Dobermans.

Did You Know?

A medical necessity is considered to be any medical activity justifiable by reasonable evidence-based clinical standards of care. This is a United States legal doctrine. Medical necessities include but are not limited to:

  • A leg that is mangled beyond repair, where leg amputation is medically necessary.
  • Tails that receive severe injuries, where tail amputation is medically necessary.
  • An animal that has been violently eviscerated, where an immediate euthanasia is medically necessary.

Let's face it, dog people may all love dogs, but not all dog people agree. One such thing that dog lovers talk about is livid with both passion and debate. Veterinarians, breeders, show-ring aficionados, and average pet owners alike have all taken up fervent opinions on the matter - some for, and some against. Only just ten years ago these practices would not have been given a second thought, but in today's Green and Internet society, many people are changing their views. So what is this controversial argument that has recently sprung up in the long, largely undiluted history of our beloved canis familiaris?

I'm talking, of course, about "canine cosmetic surgery" - that is, the docking of tails and cropping of ears for anything other than medical necessity.

Docking

The docking of a canine's tail is a procedure that occurs when the animal is typically around 42 hours old. Due to the small size of newborns, no anesthesia is used during tail docks (it is difficult to safely dose very small animals for anesthesia, and is therefore avoided). The amputation is administered approximately between the third and fourth coccygeal vertebrae, depending on breed. Through means of either a swift cut, or, less commonly, a rubber band placed tightly around the tail to prevent blood flow and promote the natural shedding of the dead tail, the tail is removed. Tail docks are most commonly issued for purebred dogs to comply with breed standards, but they can also be preemptive fool proofs against tail injury, or for hygenic purposes in the case of very wooly or hairy dogs (this is also why sheep tails are docked).

Cropping

An ear cropping is a procedure in which a dog's ears are reshaped through surgery, by trimming approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the pinna. This is performed under anesthesia, since the puppy is by now approximately 10 weeks old. After skillful completion, the ears are "trained" to stand upright by being taped to a small splint for a period of time, which, depending on the particular dog, can be a couple of weeks to a few months. Ear cropping is most commonly performed to comply with a breed standard.

Floppy ears are a genetic trait resulting from domestication.
Floppy ears are a genetic trait resulting from domestication.

Is It Natural?

A popular argument against the alteration of dogs is that these procedures are not natural. The dictionary sense of being natural is anything that is in accordance with or determined by nature, or a higher deity. In the current age where hipsters run rampant, recycled toilet paper is common, and electric cars and environmentally friendly businesses are popping up out of the woodwork, animal welfare and awareness are issues that are growing exponentially in the importance of peoples' minds.

This is a long time coming, just around the corner from a generation of science that until recently considered animals to be incapable of even the simple concepts of fear or pain. Being natural is an important part of peoples' lives these days, but while it is perfectly fine for one to control his own habits by switching to a vegetarian diet or bicycling instead of driving, is this necessarily entitlement for one to decide the actions of other people and their preferences when it comes to their animals?

There is growing debate that the docking and cropping practices should be put to a stop due to the cruel-to-some methods used and the potentially shallow idea of an animal being altered physically to appeal aesthetically to an owner. Since short tails are not how dogs are typically born, docking them is viewed with distaste. Since cropped ears are contradictory to the animal's original, floppy-eared form as a puppy, it is often considered a useless and selfish practice. After all, what need does an owner have to alter his perfect-as-is puppy in the first place?

Let us consider the fact that dogs, in all their glorious breeds, are animals that have effectively been created by humans through thousands of years of selective breeding. Our ancestors took beasts that were wild and uniformly untamed and shaped them through generations upon generations of trial and error projects in order to form the tallest, the fastest, the smallest, the smartest, the fiercest, and the cutest canines known to man. The low carriage of the dachshund, the delicate skeleton of the greyhound, and the abnormal megaly of the wolfhound are all anatomies that do not exist as God, or Nature, intended.

Did You Know?

Dogs with dropped ears are at a higher risk for things such as ear infections and mite infestations. Yeast and bacterial infections in floppy-eared dogs can be contributed to humid environments, food allergies, or obstructions. This is not to mention aural hematomas and general trauma such as those which are acquired through playing or fighting. Since dropped ears are unnatural, medical issues resulting from their state are not entirely shocking, but worth mentioning in the face of anti-cropping supporters.

Is this any less unnatural than a Shar Pei's peculiar coat or unmatched wrinkles?
Is this any less unnatural than a Shar Pei's peculiar coat or unmatched wrinkles?
Can this be called unnatural in the face of the bug-eyed pug?
Can this be called unnatural in the face of the bug-eyed pug?

Indeed, as seen with the Australian dingo, when domestic dogs become feral and return to their wild roots once more, they ultimately will regain the appearance of natural wild dogs such as wolves and coyotes with Spitz-like fur, bushy tails, and upright ears. These wild dogs, which we consider our dogs to be descendants of, have alert, upright ears. In fact, floppy ears in general are a sign of domestication in almost every animal we know. Generations upon generations of pampered, docile lives have morphed the dog into a comfy couch potato with less and less reliance on pricked ears. It is still unknown for sure why there exists such a correlation between floppyness and domestication, but one thing is for sure - it does have its fair share of problems.

Being humans, we are surrounded by unnatural practices every day. Even you, most likely, were born unnaturally through the assistance of heavy drugs or possibly a cesarean section. Male children are even naturally born with foreskin, yet this is commonly removed through means of ceremonial surgery - circumcision. Is it because we are surrounded by so many unnatural anomalies in our day-to-day life that we feel we need to compensate by expanding our attention and control to the welfare of our animals?

Yet with all this talk of natural, it's puzzling how so many owners embrace that which is most unnatural by choosing breeds or mutts that are as far removed from their wild counterparts as possible. Domed heads, buggy eyes, and rolls of loose skin are a few of the traits many people fall in love with. These people become supporters of Basset hounds, Shar peis, Corgis, and Pugs. It is perhaps strange how the propagation of these commonly handicapped creations are considered normal (even though they trip over their own ears, suffer severe corneal ulcers, and can die from respiratory distress), whereas the sleek Doberman with upright ears or the sure footed Brittney spaniel with a docked tail is considered unacceptable due to its aberrance. It is obvious that the state of au naturale is not the issue here - it is a matter of personal opinion.

Could our abhorrence with canine alteration be in direct correlation with our own personal fear of surgery?
Could our abhorrence with canine alteration be in direct correlation with our own personal fear of surgery?

Is It Painful?

The natural state of an animal aside, many people are put off by the possible pain one may experience when undergoing such procedures. After all, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released a statement in 2008 declaring their opposition to the procedures in question. This is an unfortunate supporter to lose for purists of historically cropped and docked breeds. The AVMA generally has a good track record when it comes to policies they support and set as veterinary standards, however, as of late they have shown a history of dabbling and even partnering with HSUS, a powerful anti-pet group.

The apparent position of AVMA and the majority of those opposing crops and docks is that these procedures are painful and immensely unpleasant for the animal to the point of being unethical. Yet dogs go under anesthesia to have their natural reproductive organs removed or tied off, preventing the occurrence of testosterone and estrogen which affects all aspects of their lives, and the AVMA is vehemently in favor of this.

Dipping into the subject of circumcision again, are these practices performed on baby boys painful? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they are. This type of procedure is understandably stressful for a child yet it holds no definitive, medical value. Oftentimes circumcision is performed without anesthesia. Is it possibly that pain that we may deem appropriate for our children, we cannot seem to bare in our pets? There are those who would call this infant surgery a cruel and pointless mutilation, yet it remains legal because the parents are considered to hold the legal right to consent, and a trained professional is present

Another controversial, but entirely legal practice involving possible discomfort and individuals who lack a say in the matter, is the act of piercing childrens' ears at professional ear piercing studios. This may have been more popular back in the '90s, but it still occurs with some frequency all across the United States. There are both supporters and criticizers, as with anything involving children, yet even this seems more widely accepted than similarly simple procedures performed by legal professionals on privately owned animals.

Proponents of docks and crops are firm in agreement that the pain experienced, if any, during these procedures are short-lived and minimal. Professor Dr. R. Fritsch, Leader of the Clinic of Veterinary Surgeons at Justus-Lieberg University in Germany, sheds some light on puppy nervous systems by saying,

"The docking of tails and the removal of dew claws in puppies less than 4 days old without anesthetic, is not connected with any serious pain in such a way that it cannot be allowed from the point of view of the protection of animals... The conscious feeling of pain is still not very likely at that age." (1)

Many veterinarians agree with this perspective, such as veterinarian Wendy Wallner,

"Individual dogs, like people, have different levels of pain tolerance. In general, boxers are very pain tolerant and most puppies returning home from an ear crop will be eating normally and playing just as they did before surgery within hours of the procedure." (2)

...And veterinarian Sophia Koster,

"I've had to dock the tails of dogs who were older because they got injured, and that can be very painful. When you dock a puppy's tail though, the pain is short-lived. The pain occurs with the actual cut. Then it's over, and the puppy is fine." (3)

When it comes to the very best for your pet or your children, who says what is good and what is bad? And is it anyone's right to control that?
When it comes to the very best for your pet or your children, who says what is good and what is bad? And is it anyone's right to control that?

Is It Ethical?

Those of us who are bound to the jurisdiction of animal care, whether we be shelter volunteers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians, assistants, techs, or even humble kennel workers, often find ourselves in situations where we are faced with challenging scenarios that define for us what is right and what is wrong when it comes to animal husbandry.

Starving a dog is wrong. Leaving a dog in a hot car is wrong. Hurting an animal out of malice is wrong. But what about the more difficult to answer topic? What about the topic of whether or not purebred dogs are wrong? The practice of breeding animals for a specific look, size, and color - is this okay? Are we subjugating living creatures to our whims and desires by even having them breed at all?

Are English bulldogs, basset hounds, and Komondors ethical? Some of these breeds cannot even reproduce, much less live, on their own. They would surely perish in the wild. Being that many dogs are unnaturally bred to produce certain looks pleasing to our eyes, does this forfeit their right to remain naturally eared and tailed? They have already lost the height in their legs, the strength of their necks, the thickness of their pelt, and the fierceness in their demeanor. They are no longer natural at all, but rather hand-picked by us to achieve a look, a temperament, and a result that we desire.

Are ear crops and tail docks ethical? Why shouldn't they be? Performed under the seasoned eye of an experienced medical team and watched over by the warmth of a doting family who is willing to shell out top dollar for the highest quality care, how can these practices be considered animal cruelty?

Ethically, isn't spaying and neutering a more pressing matter than cropping and docking? Both are procedures that alter, yet one has the ability to stunt growth, impair instincts, and alter the course of innate behavior itself, with the capacity to morph a previously spirited animal into a droll beanbag (4). Yet which procedure is practiced freely among veterinarians with no questions asked?

History is important to any true supporter of their favorite dog breed, as this is what defines the dogs they love.
History is important to any true supporter of their favorite dog breed, as this is what defines the dogs they love.

Defending History

Many owners of traditionally cropped or docked breeds will not only defend their rights as free choosing pet owners, but also their appreciation for the historical look of the dogs themselves when bred, fashioned, and trained in the manner of their ancestors and with the vision of their originators in mind. When a Border collie navigates sheep - this feels right. When a Bloodhound follows scent, this seems correct. When a Doberman looks and acts the way he was bred to be - this is perfection. In the words of Ginette Elliot, a British Doberman pinscher breeder and secretary of the Council of Docked Breeds,

"Cropped ears make a Dobe's head look sculpted, clean and sharp. They impart a look of great intelligence and alertness and an 'I will protect you with my life' look. If I had the choice, I would have the cropped ears on my Dobes and keep the Doberman the way his creator, Friedrich Dobermann, intended."

She concludes by saying the following about this thousand year old breed,

"We are only the custodians of our beloved Dobermans during our lifetime. Let us not be the generation that's remembered for changing the breed out of all recognition." (3)

These days, the historical look of dogs such as this schnauzer is in jeopardy.
These days, the historical look of dogs such as this schnauzer is in jeopardy.

Legislation and Bans

While true concern for animals shows an evolved mindset and a valuable respect for the sanctity of life, I strongly feel that many people go overboard in the face of the thousands of animals that are in need every day. These people can become overwhelmed, and their emotions have a tendency to overflow. I call these people Bleeding Hearts, and there is no man, woman or child, who can dissuade them from seeing anything other than immediate threats and immediate victims. The victims are any animals which they deem to be kept inhumanely for a variety of differing reasons, and the threats, of course, are every other human who does not agree with their thinking.

These people can fight modest battles within their local neighborhood, making their opinions known simply through activity within the community, or they can form powerful groups. These groups, in turn, have the power to change rules, form legislation, and prevent pet owners of all walks of life from the freedoms they held previously. There are people like this attacking all fronts of pet ownership, from the realm of horsemanship to the world of hamsters, and naturally the society of the dog is no exception. There is a tendency these days to turn any facet of the canine-human relationship into a subject of animal abuse - including but not limited to the brand of food given, the type of collars worn, and even the tone of voice and choice of words used during training.

Strong opinions are shared by both alter-aficionados and anti-alter antagonists, but only one of these sides wishes to force the other to conform completely to their own agendas. People who own docked breeds love their docked pets, but they do not condemn the choice of their neighbor who chooses to leave their Australian shepherd wholly tailed. Why is it then that those who love their naturally eared dogs seem so adamant on forcing the rest of the world to comply to their own personal opinions about canine appearance?

Already in Europe, many countries are banning these procedures, forcing pet owners to travel great distances to the remaining countries that still offer them. For example, in Germany it is illegal for veterinarians to offer cropping services, but in France it is perfectly fine. The United States, in a never-ending quest to try to match European culture, seems to be drawing close to similar bans.

It is an unfortunate day when Dangerous Dog and Injurious Wildlife laws are passed unfairly, banning well-meaning, intelligently capable people from owning the creatures they love in the places they wish to live. But on that same emotion I find it equally sad when anti-crop-and-dock talk is proposed by seemingly well-meaning individuals. Have we lost all of our desire to choose what we feel is best for our own situations, and allow our peers to hear us while keeping their own freedoms in tact? Or are we content to order others to agree with us, or let others tell us what to do - nay, force us?

It is also a very real fear that in the aftermath of statewide bans occurring in the United States, there would undoubtedly be a rise of home surgeries performed by individuals untrained in the medical field - resulting in ugly work and possible danger to the dogs. This is already being seen in some locations, where many vets have refused the services and even the education to learn the art. Is this irresponsible of veterinarians, to refuse services which would be legally paid for and safely performed in a clinic, so that a desperate owner may be forced to try it themselves for a much better price but a much higher risk of failure? Is this, in and of itself, promoting animal abuse by denying care?

A veterinarian cropping your Pit Bull is animal abuse in the same way that letting your child play with your Pit Bull is child abuse.
A veterinarian cropping your Pit Bull is animal abuse in the same way that letting your child play with your Pit Bull is child abuse.

In Closing

We don't often realize that there are pet laws creeping up all around us, targeting many angles of ownership that, I feel, will strangle many of our hard-earned and often-bragged-of "freedoms" in concerns to not only what animals we keep here in the United States, but how exactly we keep them, where we keep them, and precisely what they should and should not look like. (5)(6) At the end of every day, I strongly feel that cropping and docking procedures should be the choice of the owners themselves, as should the decision to feed your dog Purina or a raw diet, wear a martingale or a prong collar, or train using the word 'no.' Nobody forces an owner to crop or dock their dog, subsequently I think equal respect in regards to fellow dog lovers and owners should be given to those who choose to alter their animals professionally.

I believe the freedom of choice, when considered wisely and humanely, is paramount when it comes to every decision within pet ownership. We are all pet owners, we all love our pets, and we are all concerned about their care, it's high-time we started acting like we were on the same team. A lack of understanding in regards to differing opinions in pet husbandry can only result in ignorance and intolerance, which will ultimately be everyone's downfall. Martin Niemöller stated it best when he said,

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Sources and Further Reading

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Comments 26 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Ignorance is always at the root of arguments like this one. Well-researched and presented hub!


KarlawithaK profile image

KarlawithaK 4 years ago from Oregon

Very comprehensive hub on the topic. As a dog lover who has owned breeds whose standard includes docks and/or crops, I love the research that you presented. Few people take the time to look far into this subject, but its best to make an informed decision. Great job!


Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 years ago from New York

This is actually a great argument that I often bring up toward those who are against the pets I keep. I personally find it unethical to breed bad traits into dogs and other animals that will impair them to unacceptable levels. I wouldn't maim myself, my hypothetical children, or my pets in the name of aesthetics. Neutering and spaying may have negative effects, but we don't do that for aesthetics, we do that to try to eliminate deaths of other animals due to overpopulation, therefore I deem the effects worth it. I'm not a fan of the purebred culture as the standards for dogs are mostly made up (bull dogs for instance, no longer serve any functional purpose and suffer health problems).

Still, I will not impose my beliefs on anyone else, I don't think that the mild forms of mutilation should be banned even though I don't approve of it. In the broad scheme of things the pain isn't 'that' drastic and it is temporary, from what I understand.


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Melissa I am glad you do not expect everyone to follow your ideas of what you would personally allow or not allow for your own pets. I think this shows an intelligent pet owner who is concerned for their animals but with a mature understanding of the world surrounding them.

Personally I also agree with spaying and neutering, but I am aware of the possible side effects and I never try to cover up the fact that this is a rather drastic alteration to an animal's life. These procedures exist not only because it will prevent unwanted offspring, but we feel it will make the animal's life easier and it will make them easier to live with in the end. This is especially true with some exotics, who may have the ability to stress themselves to death unless their hormones are suppressed or removed (female ferrets, male tortoises, birds, etc).


Bukarella profile image

Bukarella 4 years ago

First things first, I disagree with piercing ears for a child who didn't ask for his/her ears to be pierced. I don't understand why parents' sense of taste has to translate into pain and discomfort for a child, no matter how mild it is. So that point is invalid from my perspective. And the researchers who are trying to claim that cropping ears doesn't hurt, how many of them are putting themselves or their children through surgery that cuts off half of their own ears?.. Thought so.

It's mind boggling for me to see advocacy for putting a creature through discomfort of a surgery for superficial, vain reasons (tell me they love wearing those cones? and they need the cones in the first place because their ears don't bother them at all after surgery, right?) The argument "it's natural, because people bred the dogs" is also silly. Well, in Germany, right before WWII, they used to manipulate marriages to create "a perfect race", a perfect "breed" of a human, if you wish. Does that mean that people claimed victory over nature and were free to do with the "perfect" babies what they wished? Breeding didn't create anything new, it simply altered the appearance of something that already existed. People did not "create" every breed of dog out of dust, they started with what nature gave them, and that's a living and breathing pup, which is quite a bit.

I'm not sure how this is even a question. Of course it's painful and unethical! A paper cut hurts! A splinter hurts! Cutting off a section of a body organ, such as ear, cutting through cartilage will hurt. Common sense, apparently, is not that common. If you really want to prove your point, I suggest you crop your ears, and walk around with a cone around your neck, big enough to keep your hands away from your face, for a couple of weeks. That will be a much better form of research. Let's not forget, good study can easily be duplicated, so you better be willing and able to find someone else who can follow your steps and report the same findings. If you still think it's nothing to worry about, I'll take a closer look at the arguments you present.

P.S. This may come as a shock to many, but not all research out there is valid. *gasp*


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Many people, when concerned about an animal's well being, will respond with the 'I wish this would happen to you' scenario or even the 'why don't you do this to yourself and see how it feels' route. I find this a particularly odd method of argument, as it is highly unlikely that anyone would do the things that animals do just to find out what it's like. People don't wear dog collars and lead one another around on leashes, and they certainly don't put each other in crates for the night. These are all acceptable practices for dogs, however. Are these enjoyable experiences for animals? Are you saying we will never know for sure unless a human conducts studies of humans in animal situations?

Most people would not vouch to crop their ears (though it is a form of human body modification along with tattoos and piercings), but most people are also unwilling to undergo a hysterectomy or an orchiectomy (spay or neuter). It's a little ridiculous to assume that humans can be treated the same way as animals, or should be treated the same way as animals commonly are as some absurd form of leveling punishment.

All research has an agenda. This does not make one science any particularly less valid than another.


Bukarella profile image

Bukarella 4 years ago

Your last point only proves my point.

Your first point, simply means "well, yeah, okay.. I don't want to admit that cutting off half an ear does hurt quite a bit and will be followed by an uncomfortable recovery period for the dog, but it's okay, because it's a dog. Putting collars on dogs is okay, so should be putting them through surgery for my amusement."

You are also correct pointing out that one does not have to go through a painful experience yourself to understand that something hurts. It's called having empathy and being sensitive to the pain of a living being.

You may find all this sensitive nonsense ridiculous and absurd. I find seeing an animal going through surgery and wearing a cone for your idea of what is beautiful to be ridiculous and absurd. Guess we'll both have to live with that.

I can't imagine changing your mind, but I sure hope that someone who reads this while they are considering whether or not they should crop their doberman's ears my arguments to be more compelling than yours.


DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

I was really surprised reading this since the majority opinion, at least those who write about it, seems to be going the other way.

The AVMA does not possess the absolute truth, although they would like all of the practitioners in the US to believe they do. They would like ear cropping banned just like in the UK.

I am writing an article on "When is Ear Surgery Necessary for Your Dog" and hope to have it published soon.


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

DrMark, I would be very interested to read it whenever you are finished. It is true, most people that write about this topic are interested in outlawing the practices completely. I, too, would be happy to see another article that exlains a different side of the argument.


Bukarella profile image

Bukarella 4 years ago

Shame on us, if we are so helpless that we need an organization ( be it AVMA or someone else) and legislation in place, to tell us whether or not it's ethical to inflict pain on an animal for cosmetic reasons.


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Bukarella, I understand your concerns and I do respect the your opinion on the matter. You have the freedom to opt out of these procedures for your own pets, and I'm certain you enjoy that freedom.


DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

Actually Bukarella is not the problem since she does have the freedom of opting out of these procedures for her own pets. The problem is legislation that tells us we do not have the freedom.

Bukarella, you can not imagine the pain that a dog goes through after suffering a total ear canal ablation, a procedure that is only necessary in breeds like the Cocker Spaniel with floppy ears (selected by humans, of course).


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Well the "problem" always starts with the people. In the same manner as Dangerous Dog laws, if enough people believing the same thing rally together and make a loud enough complaint and throw enough money around, laws are likely to change in favor of their cause - whether they are based on misguided or incomplete information or not. This is not an uncommon occurrence when it comes to pet legislation, unfortunately.


Bukarella profile image

Bukarella 4 years ago

The laws tell us not to kill, that's not a bad thing. The laws tell us not to steal, also not a bad thing. The laws tell us not to abuse animals, I'm all for that kind of law. If a law is there to protect an animal from pain, because people feel it's their right to inflict that pain, I have no issues with such a "limitation" of someone's freedom.

As far as the ear infection goes, I can imagine it is a very painful condition, just from the sound of it . I would assume anyone who cares for the welfare of the animals will be spending time advocating responsible breeding (which results in responsible selling and educated owners) and proper care regarding cleaning ears, vs. defending the right of someone else to cut dogs' ears.

As I'm typing this I'm week 3 into 5 projected weeks of wearing two casts, one for each of my feet. It sure as heck not a pleasant experience. But let me assure you, I would not have preferred if you cut off my feet to prevent me from such a condition. ;)


agilitymach profile image

agilitymach 4 years ago

As a dog agility enthusiast, I am personally against most - but not all - dockings and croppings. I do believe that for dogs that were bred for the purpose of hunting that tail docking has an advantage. My understanding from my hunting friends is that undocked dogs really do suffer quite a bit of tail damage during hunts.

That being said, I am a big believer in the dog being able to move and respond as nature intended. For instance, dogs use their tails as rudders. In agility, we see this often as dogs lower their tails for take off for a jump to achieve elevation. At the apex of the jump, the dog's tail will rise - even over it's back - as it uses it's rudder to head back to the ground.

Watch a dog whip through the weave poles and you will watch a rudder in action. Pictures of dogs going through the poles catch the tail whipping about as one of the dog's tools to keep it balanced.

Of course docked dogs do agility all of the time - and successfully - but the photos and videos easily show that the tail is a tool the dogs use. As an owner of athletic dogs, I want my dog to have all of the tools necessary to be safe in extreme activity.

Ears also serve a function as a communication tool. Ear docking came about for protection dogs to make them appear alert and on guard. However, knowing dog language, this causes a huge issue. When dogs are "speaking" to each other, they will send non-verbal signals, and the ears are a huge part of their language. An ear raised up in an alert manner means, "Bring it on, bud." An ear gently lowered (not flattened but gently lowered) is a sign of submission. It means, "Hey, I'm friendly and don't want to start anything."

A study was done (I believe you can find it in Stanley Cohen's book "How to Speak Doggish") that found that dogs with docked ears got into fights 30 percent (I believe) more often than other breeds. Why? Because these poor dogs are forced by their surgically created ears to always be saying, "I'm ready for a rumble."

Also, as for the ear infection, when the UK banned ear cropping, the incidents of ear infections did NOT increase as expected. The ears of the dogs typically docked are not so folded over that air cannot reach them to keep infections at bay. That occurs with the really floppy earred dogs like the American Cocker or English Cocker.

I completely agree that breeders, breed standards but even worse - breed trends that go against breed standards - have caused dogs to suffer needlessly. The extreme ear of the Cocker is one example. The extreme rear angulation we are now seeing in the Gernman Shepherd is another. The short snout of the English Bulldog that causes so many health issues for that breed is another. And unfortunately there are many more. None of these are good.

But neither is, IMO, forcing dogs to undergo surgery to alter for appearance alone.

Like I stated, I do see some true need for docking to protect working dogs. But beyond that, give me the lightly flopped ears and waggy long tails that work like rudders when the dog's run. That's what I love to see on a dog!

BTW, I do not own dogs that are normally docked or cropped, and if I did and had the ability to choose, I would choose to have neither done.


OTEE profile image

OTEE 4 years ago from India

A well written hub, but not one that I would rate as giving a balanced perspective of the issue. The author gives the research that favors the case for surgically altered animals; she could have cited research that supported the counter-case too. As has already been said, research and research findings are always suspect, because they are conducted with a predefined end in mind.

Being a first time pet owner I have had my own share of ethical dilemmas. I live in India have an English Cocker - so is it even right to breed a dog suited for the temperate English climate in India? Definitely not. Then why did I do it? At that time I wasn't even sensitive to such an issue. Having kept a pet, I am now more sensitive to these issues. My values and ethical guidelines have changed to be more empathetic.

We had a litter from my Pappa and none of the pups were docked, because they were all going to be kept as house pets. They were not going to be used for hunting. All of them are fine and none the worse for wear. Of course, I agree that anecdotal evidence cannot be proof of anything.

Having said that, my stand on this issue is that unless there is a case (medical) for such alterations, such artificial alteration of animals should be avoided.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, I tend to go in-between on some of the subjects, but I must admit that the small dogs that are being bred now are beginning to suffer because of it, take the pug for example, their noses are so small they can't breath properly, and so on. But i am not an expert so I really can't say what's good for them or not, but personally? I say they should be left alone, great hub though and really thorough points, voted up! cheers nell


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Thanks for reading through it and coming away with something other than negative comments :) I appreciate sharing my opinion and having it received maturely by people such as yourself.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Wow, very informative. I'm offended when people ask me if I had my shih tzu/pekingnese/terrier mutt's talk cut off. Personally I couldn't do that. BUT, I do appreciate the other perspective. The procedure, especially with the ears, might be necessary to prevent health issues. I would disagree just for looks but not for the health of the pet.

Excellent article! Many votes!


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Thanks so much, Victoria. Working at a vet clinic now since I posted this Hub, I can only confirm that animals (any animal) with floppy ears have a much higher risk of infection than do animals with upright ears.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 3 years ago from Baltimore, MD

An interesting hub. My boyfriend's pit bull has adorable floppy ears and I can't imagine him having the cropped ears. Of course, that means his ears maybe need to be cleaned a bit more regularly than a dog with cropped ears, but other than that, I can't see a reason for it. He is just so cute with those floppy ears!

Voted up and interesting!


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 3 years ago from Washington state Author

Thanks, Jeannie. One of my dogs has floppy ears too, and I think he is the most handsome devil around :) While I do love the look of cropped ears on purebred dogs which have been historically bred to capture a certain "feel and function," I also know that an animal's worth should never be based on appearances alone. I merely support a pet owner's right to choose.


Francesca 2 years ago

surgical procedures should only be done for the betterment of the dog. Such as cropping a tail for hygene in fluffy working dogs or if you live in a ridiculously humid climate (the southeast) crop the ears. I think that is a pretty straight forward rule. A dog should not be judged on these alterations and the defense of being historical is absurd as many dog breeds were historically fought. To do it purely for looks is vain and you should look at your priorities of loving the dog or your ego. Also spaying your dogs has health benefits and makes for a less moody animal making them more available to be homed to more people.

Also am against circumcision until adulthood.


Johnk85 2 years ago

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Jorge 23 months ago

Welcome home. We wish you all A wondrous New Year fileld with more grand adventures, health, Sibe magic, great surprises (of the good kind), and always love.Thanks for the gift of your friendship. It means a lot to us.Puff's current favorite thing is an old chewy stick she found in the dog toy box which has now also become White Dog's favorite, which has also become Quinn's so it goes outside with Puff, comes in with WD, is snatched up by Quinn. Only Nuka with her 8 teeth isn't interested! Now mind you we have a graveyard's assortment of bones throughout the house but it only this one.


Mila 23 months ago

My favorite toy is my beevar. It still squeaks, even though I've had it for a very long time. Kat doesn't have a big favorite, but she likes to take Nylabones to different rooms and then leave them there so Mom has to gather them all up again.Steve

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