Great Dane ear cropping has become a highly controversial topic. Animal rights activists say it’s cruel.
But adherents say that it’s important to the maintenance of breed standards and may have health benefits. Who is right? As usual, there are no really simple answers.
Before we begin, it would only be fair to say that we do have an interest in allowing Great Danes to keep their natural ears.
All the same, we will try to present a balanced view that will allow you to see both sides of the argument and decide for yourself.
We’ll also answer some questions that may be troubling you. For example, is ear cropping essential if you hope to enter your Great Dane in dog shows?
All this, and more, as we dive into the Great Dane ear cropping debate. Let’s get started!
What Is Ear Cropping?
Great Danes have naturally floppy ears. The idea behind ear cropping is that the droopy part of the ear should be cut off while the puppy is still very young.
The remaining parts of the ear can then be “trained” to present a sharply-pointed appearance. It’s a process that can take months – and it can go badly wrong.
But, if done correctly, there’s no doubt that this form of cosmetic surgery leaves the Great Dane looking somehow “meaner” and more alert.
Cropped ears used to be an undisputed part of the breed standard. If you wanted to win prizes with your Great Dane, it had to have the “classic look,” and that look featured cropped ears.
But is this still the case? Let’s look at that next.
Is Great Dane Ear Cropping Part of the Breed Standard?
Because of very strong backlash from the community opposed to ear cropping – a community that includes veterinary organisations – ear cropping is no longer necessary.
Breed standards that formerly decreed that a Great Dane absolutely had to have cropped ears have been softened.
The current AKC breed standard says: “Ears shall be high set, medium in size and of moderate thickness, folded forward close to the cheek. The top line of the folded ear should be level with the skull. If cropped, the ear length is in proportion to the size of the head and the ears are carried uniformly erect.”
So, although some traditionalists may have a degree of bias against uncropped ears, Great Danes with natural ears can still compete.
They can’t’ “officially” be penalised as poor examples of the breed simply because they never underwent an ear cropping procedure.
In many other countries, even third-world ones, ear cropping has been banned altogether. If you live in one of these countries, a dog with cropped ears may be banned from competing at all.
And, if you were responsible for having your dog’s ears cropped, you could end up in trouble with the law.
It’s not new that the US is slow in legislating for animal rights. It was one of the later countries to adopt a ban against dog fighting for sport, for example.
But why is this an animal rights issue at all? Let’s consider why a great many people think that ear cropping is cruel and unnecessary.
Is Great Dane Ear Cropping Cruel?
Great Danes among the breeds whose ears are cropped at a very young age indeed. The general recommendation is that they should be cropped between the ages of 8 and 10 weeks.
Even those in favor of ear cropping will agree that trying to do this at home without anesthetic is cruel.
And, even supposing ear cropping the “old fashioned” way is something you can stomach, the results are not necessarily desirable.
Apart from the danger of infection, those who do know how to crop a Great Dane’s ears will tell you that it’s an art that requires experience if you want to achieve the “look” that is meant to result in.
Supposing that one can find a veterinarian who is willing to do ear cropping – and many of them won’t – the puppy isn’t out of the woods yet.
While the procedure itself occurs under anesthesia and the puppy doesn’t feel any pain, post-operative pain is real. Pain killing drugs are prescribed.
Healing from the surgery itself is only the start. The procedure is followed by taping the ears up to train them into the desired shape.
For a Great Dane, this process takes four to six months. And complications can arise here too. For example, pressure sores are not uncommon.
So, why all the rigmarole? Could it be that there are reasons other than cosmetic ones to crop a Great Dane’s ears?
Why Some People Think Ear Cropping Is Good For Great Danes
There are, indeed, beliefs that cropping a Great Dane’s ears results in improvements for the dog itself.
However, all of them are debatable and have been argued against by veterinarians, researchers, and animal rights organisations.
Cropping Reduces The Chance Of Ear Injuries
Historically, many working dog breeds had cropped ears because it was thought to reduce the chances of injury.
However, there is no evidence that it does this, and many who would argue that ear-cropping itself is a form of injury.
Cropping Reduces The Chances Of Ear Infections
Certain breeds of dogs are prone to Otitis externa, a type of ear infection. But the American Veterinary Association (AVA) points out: “Most dogs with hanging ears will not suffer from infection and ear conformation is not considered to be a primary cause.”
The AVA goes on to note that many of the dog breeds whose ears are routinely cropped are not especially prone to ear infections. The organisation concludes that ear cropping has no medical grounds in this context.
Cropping Improves A Great Dane’s Hearing
Once again, this is an opinion for which there is no proof whatsoever. In fact, some people argue that the ear is made to channel sound and interfering with its shape might even impair hearing. This opinion is also unproven.
At the very least, we can say that there seems to be no obvious difference in the hearing ability of Great Danes with cropped versus uncropped ears.
Summing It Up: Why Crop A Great Dane’s Ears?
An impartial look at the facts and the evidence leads to only one conclusion. The only inarguable reason for cropping a Great Dane’s ears is that it’s traditional, and some people like the look.
Even if you agree that it is a good look, there are risks to consider before deciding to have your Great Dane puppy’s ears cropped.
Ear Cropping Risks
Anesthesia Is A Risk
Very young puppies are extremely sensitive to anesthetics – and how they react to them can be unpredictable. A bad reaction to anesthetic could even kill a puppy.
Infection Is A Risk
In any form of surgery, post-operative infection is a risk worth considering. Apart from subjecting the puppy to further suffering, it can wreck the “artistic” effect of cropped ears. Simply put, they won’t come out quite as desired.
It Creates Trauma For Very Young Puppies – And This Has Consequences
The British Veterinary Association weighs in on this point. It notes that trauma affects the development of the brain and can have permanent effects on a puppy.
For example, the dog may become much more sensitive to pain throughout its life. And the organization definitely recognizes ear cropping as a source of trauma.
The Ears Won’t Necessarily Turn Out “Right”
Even those who support Great Dane ear cropping say that it’s essential to use a veterinarian with skills and experience in cropping puppies’ ears.
Even with cropping done correctly, there’s quite a big risk that the ears won’t “set” into the shape that they’re meant to take on. Of course, if there are complications, that’s going to happen too.
So, it’s possible to crop a Great Dane’s ears with success in the show ring in mind only to end up with a dog that can’t be entered into shows at all because its ears are “wrong.”
What If You Decide It’s All Worth The Risk And Want To Go Ahead?
So far, we’ve focussed on the Great Dane puppy and what the consequences of ear cropping might mean to it.
But owners don’t come off any too lightly in the ear cropping process either, even though they get to keep their own ears intact.
Costs Of Great Dane Ear Cropping
The cost of the initial procedure is a relatively steep $600 when performed at a veterinarian’s surgery – which is the only place you should consider having it done. But they don’t end there.
To get the desired result, there will be taping and retaping of the ears until the age of 6 months. DIY it when you don’t know how to do it, and you could seriously mess up.
So, most people take their puppies to the veterinarian to get this done. So, count on veterinary expenses over a period of 4 to 6 months following the procedure.
Of course, this is a best-case scenario. If things go wrong, there will be additional veterinary expenses to treat any infections.
Caring For Your Dog After Ear Cropping
Your puppy will need extra care after surgery. You will have to keep your puppy quiet and his ears clean and dry until the sutures are removed.
During this time, and afterwards, during the taping process, you will need to check carefully for signs of pressure sores or inflammation.
And, whatever you do, don’t let your puppy scratch his ears.
The condition of the tape itself needs to be checked, and you will have to have the ear tape replaced by an expert if it starts coming loose. In short, there’s a lot of vigilance involved.
Why Is Ear Cropping Illegal In So Many Countries?
The USA frequently lags behind other countries when it comes to passing animal rights legislation.
When it comes to Great Dane ear cropping, it matches this history – a history that includes banning dog fighting in 1976 . The UK banned this blood “sport” in 1836.
In 2006, the UK banned ear cropping across all breeds unless it was done for “medical reasons,” none of which are common enough to mean that you’ll see many dogs in the UK with cropped ears.
If animal rights sounds “woke” to some readers, we can turn to a science-based opinion – that of the British Veterinary Association.
It concludes that ear cropping is an: “unnecessary, painful mutilation with no welfare benefit.” And, if you’re wondering why so few countries still allow ear cropping, that’s the reason why it is banned.
Seemingly harking back to a bygone era, the AKC still supports ear cropping while not making it a “must” in revised breed standards.
In a simmeringly angry open letter to the American Veterinary association, it reiterates “breed standards” as a good reason for ear cropping and reiterates the “health” and “injury prevention” reasons.
If you think we may have missed the mark on these fallacies, feel free to read yet another veterinary association’s take on this.
For the short version, the conclusion is: “There is no scientific evidence to support the practice of ear cropping or tail docking as procedures that provide any health or welfare benefit for the dog.”
Having looked at supporting and opposing views on ear cropping, we feel that veterinary science offers more trustworthy information than any Kennel Club can.
Veterinarians around the world agree that ear cropping is nothing more than a cosmetic procedure. Even if we wanted to, we wouldn’t feel qualified to argue with that.
Should You Have Your Great Dane’s Ears Cropped?
In our opinion, you shouldn’t. And we also feel that paying more for a puppy with cropped ears encourages a cruel practice.
However, if it isn’t actually illegal, your dog is still your “property” and you can decide what to do with it.
If you do decide to go ahead with ear cropping, please be very sure that it is done by an experienced veterinarian and that aftercare is thorough.
If you’re against Great Dane ear cropping and think this practice should be banned, feel free to sign this petition while being careful not to look at the awful header image of a botched crop that heads it.
Already the owner of a Great Dane with natural ears? Good for you! Give those ears a loving ruffle – and do remember not to be judgemental when you see a Great Dane with cropped ears.
It may well have come from an animal shelter – crops are regularly seen among rescues.