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Canine Cosmetic Surgery: Cropping and Docking

Updated on July 14, 2012
Great Dane with cropped ears
Great Dane with cropped ears
Rottweiler with docked tail
Rottweiler with docked tail

The process has been going on for over a century. “Surgical alteration,” “non-therapeutic modification of appearance,” “cosmetic surgery” and “mutilation” are the terms some apply to the process of canine tail docking and ear cropping. This process has sparked an on-going debate with heated arguments by both sides. In their attempt to promote their message, both sides draw upon the “experts.” In the end, the victims or victors are not either side but the dogs, themselves.

What Is Docking And Cropping

Docking and cropping are the surgical removal of specific body parts of an animal shortly after birth or later. Cropping refers to the cutting off at least two thirds of the animal’s earflap. Docking is the removal of a substantial portion of the tail. The process may or may not involve anaesthesia.

Certain breeds are routinely cropped and/or docked. These include Boston Terriers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Miniature Pinschers, Schnauzers, Poodles and Rottweilers. The practice is one way of identifying or even defining a breed. Dogs that ply the show rings comply with an unwritten rule that their dog may or may not have cropped ears and/or a docked tail. Breeders of all types – including reputable, backyard and puppy mills, follow this example. It is a look, the public has come to expect. Should it be?


Those who support the procedure e.g. the Council of Docked Breeds, have simple arguments. They believe

· The process prevents certain health issues of the ear and tail

· Prevents defective tails

· Prevents accidents for working dogs in the field e.g. hunters and herders

· Is relatively painless

· Is necessary

· Defines the breed and its standards

Proponents believe docking and cropping are short-term pain for long-term gain.


Opponents have a very different take on the process. These include the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and several veterinarian associations worldwide. They believe

· It is not necessary for health reasons

· Does not explain why some hunting and working dogs do NOT have cropped ears or docked tails e.g. Labradors, English Setters, Newfoundland dogs, English Pointers, Foxhounds

· Is painful

· Has created genetic tail problems

· Prevents inter-dog communication

· Can affect the puppy psychologically

The supporters of banning the practice find the surgery to be a cosmetic whim introduced centuries ago that has become a practice with little to no practical or ethical justification. It is simply not necessary.

Cosmetic Or Necessary Surgery?

While the proponents seem to be winning in North America, this is not true in Europe and elsewhere. In many countries, both or one practice are banned except for health issues. The United Kingdom has banned unjustified and non-therapeutic docking and cropping. It became the law in 2007. It has been part of the law in most of Australia since 2004. There is no such law in the United States, yet, but New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada have legislation in place. Moreover, their veterinarian associations support restricting the process.

However, many kennel clubs, while they say there is no bias against non-docked dogs in the show ring, continue to keep silent on the topic. In doing so, they are supporting the proponents. If you wish to stop or support it write the local and national kennel clubs as well as your legislative representative. If you are buying a dog and do not want it docked or cropped, be sure to tell the breeder before the birth takes place.


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    • kgnature profile image

      kgnature 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Great info. Thanks.