Pitbull Ear Cropping (Reasons Not To Crop A Pitbull’s Ears)

Are there reasons why pitbull ear cropping can be a good thing? Should you have it done?

Before we begin, we’d like to clarify that it’s not a practice we like and we believe there are more reasons to avoid having your dog’s ears cropped than there are reasons for going ahead. 

Pitbull Ear Cropping

However, we’d like to present a balanced perspective to help you make the right decision, so we’ll look at what ear cropping is, why ear cropping is done, and why some people still support this practice. After that, we’ll leave it up to you to decide. 

What Is Pitbull Ear Cropping?

Ear cropping is the surgical removal of the tip of the ears. A pitbull naturally has upstanding ears with floppy tips.

It’s not a bad look. In fact, many people think it looks pretty cute, but there are folks who don’t want that look, so they have their pitbulls ears cropped while they are puppies aged 8 to 12 weeks. 

The procedure takes place under anesthetic and should never be attempted by anyone other than a professional veterinarian.

An “amateur job,” means no anesthetic, a great deal of pain and trauma for the dog, a high chance of infection, and a high probability of not achieving the desired look even after all of this has taken place. 

There is a misconception that ear cropping is done when Pitbulls are young because they feel little or no pain. This is untrue. The pain is intense.

The reason why it is done this young is that the cartilage of the ears is still soft and the ears can be “trained” after the procedure to achieve an upright look. Recovery is also faster. 

In Pitbulls older than 12 weeks, ear cropping becomes more akin to amputation in terms of the recovery and amount of pain experienced.

So, if you do decide to go ahead with ear cropping, have it done before your puppy is 12 weeks old. Besides this, the desired shape is harder to achieve after this age, because the cartilage of the ears begins to harden.

How are cropped ears trained into an upright position? After the surgery, the remaining parts of the ears are fixed to a rigid frame that holds them up.

This is done so that when they heal, they’ll present the pointed look that people are going for when they choose this procedure for their puppies. 

Why Were Pitbull’s Ears Ever Cropped In The First Place?

Pitbulls Ear Cropping

Dog Fighting

The original reason for ear cropping was to make fighting dogs more efficient and less likely to have their ears ripped off in dogfights.

The floppy ear tips represented a target and a “weakness” and were therefore removed. 

Today, dog fighting for “sport” is illegal, and so it should be! So, it’s to be hoped that no reader of this article will find this reason for cropping a pitbulls ears resonates with them.

Misconception: Prevents Ear Issues

In more recent times, some people developed the belief that cropping a dog’s ears meant that there’d be a reduced chance of ear infections and other ear problems.

However, there is no proof that this is true. In fact, cropping a Pitbulls ears off very short (as some people do) actually exposes the ear to injuries and infections. 

Misconception: Pitbull Ear Cropping Means Better Hearing

There are a few people who believe that erect ears without floppy tips mean that the dog will hear better. After all, a Pitbull with erect ears certainly looks hyper-alert.

Once again, there’s no evidence whatsoever to support this point of view. An animal’s ears are designed to channel sound, and lopping off the tips makes no real improvement in hearing acuity. 

Some experts even believe that Pitbulls with cropped ears hear less well.

They suggest that since ears evolved to channel sound, that floppy tip may even have a function in improving hearing. Remove it, they speculate, and the animal will actually hear less well than it otherwise would. 

Pitbulls Ear Cropping Pros And Cons

Superfluous? Making Pitbulls Look Fiercer

This leaves cosmetic reasons as the primary ones for considering this procedure. For some people, it’s the fiercer look that they’re aiming for.

But let’s be honest here, Pitbulls, charming though your individual dog may be, already have a reputation for being fierce. That this reputation doesn’t apply to a well-reared, well-trained and happy Pitbull doesn’t matter. It exists. 

Just having a Pitbull in your yard is probably enough of a deterrent to intruders. Adding cropped ears to the equation is completely unnecessary. 

In fact, Pitbull ear cropping could even disadvantage your dog since people may overreact to it and see it as a threat even when it’s just minding its own business. 

Not Mandatory: Pitbull Breed Standards

For other folks, it’s a matter of breed standards. And it’s certainly true that in the past, certain breeds of dogs, including Pitbulls and Dobermans were required to have cropped ears if they were to be show animals.

However, owing to the controversial nature of ear cropping, almost every kennel club in the world now accepts dogs with natural ears as conforming to breed standards. 

If you have dreams of showing your Pitbull and winning prizes, don’t fall for the notion that cropping is mandatory for the Pitbull breed standard. Quite simply, it isn’t!

It certainly was in the past, but that is no longer the case. The UKC breed standard states: “Ears are small to medium in size, high set, and may be natural or cropped” 

As for the AKC, it doesn’t recognize Pitbulls as a breed, but they can compete in obedience, agility, and rally competitions where their skills, rather than their looks, make them potential prize-winners.

It’s notable that an increasing number of dogs belonging to breeds whose ears would traditionally have been cropped are now showing up at dog shows in the US with natural ears.

They’re doing very well too, since natural ears are no longer considered a fault. 

With progress being what it is, and a growing number of people actively opposing Pitbull ear cropping, we can expect ear cropping to become increasingly rare. It may even become a disqualifying fault in the future. Food for thought!

Owner’s Preference And Tradition

There’s not much that can be said about this. It is what it is. Some people prefer the look of cropped ears, and decide to go ahead with ear cropping. 

There’s also the matter of tradition. Since ear cropping is traditional for certain breeds, including the Pitbull, some people like to match that tradition. However, we should remember that times change, and we should be ready to change with them. 

Uncropped ears aren’t ugly. In fact, they’re rather cute. And who doesn’t want a cute dog? All the same, the cosmetic advantages of cropped ears do weigh with some dog owners. 

If this is you, remember that your dog must be younger than 12 weeks, and the procedure must be done by a professional veterinarian.

As with any type of surgery, there are risks. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re willing to take them and potentially have complications, or even a puppy that died on the operating table because of anesthesia issues, on your conscience. 

Essential: Pinnectomy for Medical Reasons

A procedure known as a “Pinnectomy” is sometimes performed on older dogs for medical reasons.

Under-pigmented dogs may develop cancer in the tips of the ears if overexposed to sunlight. In this instance, the tips of the ears may be removed in order to stop the cancer from spreading. 

This is the only valid medical reason behind a cropped look, and as you can see, it isn’t done for aesthetic but for medical reasons.

Removing the tips of the ears before there is any diagnosis doesn’t reduce the chances of cancer, so “preventative” cropping won’t work to protect your dog.

Reasons Not To Crop A Pitbull’s Ears

Reasons Not To Crop A Pitbull’s Ears

We’ve already discussed some of the reasons not to crop a Pitbull’s ears when we were looking at the reasons why some people still have this procedure done.

Let’s sum those up before looking at an additional, and rather compelling reason to avoid it. 

  • Cropping isn’t necessary for health and has no health benefits
  • Cropping doesn’t make Pitbulls hear any better – and it may even make them hear less well.
  • It’s a painful and usually unnecessary procedure, carried out on very young puppies. 
  • It may make your Pitbull trust you less or the trauma may have a negative effect on his temperament. 
  • Anesthesia is always a risk and can cause death. 
  • There is a risk of complications. 
  • Even without complications, surgical aftercare will be an added burden on the puppy’s owner.
  • The aggressive look could make people aggressive towards your dog. 

Bonus Reason: It makes it Harder for You to Read Your Dog’s Mood

Dog’s don’t just communicate with their voices. A lot of communication comes in the form of expressions and body language.

The ears are an important part of a dog’s expression. They’re especially important in communicating fear or aggression

For example, a typical “warning” that your dog may be gearing up to defend itself or attack would be for the ears to move to a backward position. It’s his way of telling you that whatever’s going on is triggering him.

As the owner of a Pitbull, it’s important to know when your dog is giving this warning sign so that you can manage the situation appropriately.

American Pibull Mood

But when the ears are cropped, your dog can’t use this expression and might take you by surprise. Could this contribute to the Pitbull’s reputation of attacking without warning? It’s entirely possible!

What’s unknown is how limited ear mobility affects a Pitbull’s ability to communicate with other animals.

It seems fair to assume that it would be the equivalent of a “speech impediment” that might make it harder for your dog to “talk” to other animals. 

Is Pitbull Ear Cropping Legal?

Slowly but surely, ear cropping is becoming illegal around the world. It isn’t allowed in the UK, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Canada. 

Even in the US, where ear cropping is still not illegal, veterinarians are reporting a decline in the number of people asking for this procedure to be done. 

At the same time, there’s an increased number of dogs with cropped ears showing up at shelters. The reasons for this are unclear.

Could they be “fighting dogs” that ran away or were discarded? Or is it just that many people who choose ear cropping aren’t as concerned about their pets’ welfare as they are about its looks? 

Many veterinarians are extremely reluctant to perform a purely cosmetic surgery on young puppies. In fact, the American Veterinary Association is against this practice.

Reasons Not To Crop A Pitbull Ears

So, even when cropping is legal, finding a veterinarian that is willing to perform the procedure might not be as easy as simply popping over to your local veterinarian’s office. 

However, there are some veterinarians who will do it, if only because they’re concerned that a few people might attempt cropping without professional assistance.

If you really feel that you want to go ahead with ear cropping, seek one of these veterinarians out. You may be able to get tips from members of your kennel club if you aren’t sure where to start.

If you like the idea of cropping, have it done professionally. Whatever you do, don’t go for an amateur job.

If it’s the look you’re after, then a home hack job stands a good chance of not producing the result you’re hoping for besides being a massive trauma for the pup. 

Against Ear Cropping? Be Careful With Judgements!

As a final note, some people are so passionately against ear cropping that they’re willing, and even eager, to confront the owners of dogs with cropped ears. But do remember that pinnectomies can be a medical necessity. 

Besides that, with a lot of Pitbulls with cropped ears turning up at shelters, their new owners would not necessarily have made that choice on their own.

Instead, they’re rescuing an animal and are not to blame for the procedure having been done. People like this are deserving of praise rather than censure. 

And, of course, some people are just misguided and think it’s good for their dog’s health to have cropped ears. If anyone is to reason with them against this, let it be their dog’s veterinarian. 

If you suspect that the dog is being used in dogfighting or that it is neglected in any way, report the matter to the relevant authorities.

Confronting supporters of ear cropping will not change their minds about approving the practice, so save your energy for issues where you can make a difference. 

If you want to help to end ear cropping in dogs in the US, sign the Change.org petition against it and don’t follow social media accounts featuring Pitbulls with cropped ears. 

Pitbull Ear Cropping: The Conclusion

Pitbull ear cropping is a cosmetic procedure that requires surgery and is performed on puppies that have just reached the age when they might be able to tolerate anesthesia. Surgery has risks, and the recovery process is painful and uncomfortable. 

While there are still people who admire the look, it isn’t usually necessary, even if the ambition is to own show dogs. 

There is no evidence that ear cropping improves the animal’s health. It may help to prevent torn ears in fighting dogs, but dog fighting is illegal and pet owners should work to prevent confrontations between their Pitbulls and other animals. 

Should you have your Pitbull Puppy’s ears cropped? We would like to suggest that you should not, but the ultimate choice still rests with you, at least, if you live in an area where ear cropping is legal. 

Supposing that you do, please consider why ear cropping has been banned in so many countries and decide for yourself whether inflicting unnecessary pain on your Pitbull puppy is something you’d like to do. Is this a “woke” perspective? We would prefer to say that it’s a humane one. 

Can you love your Pitbull for himself, floppy ears and all? It’s what nature intended! Do we know better than Mother Nature? Probably not!

Still unsure? Talk to your veterinarian about the costs, risks, and potential benefits of ear cropping so that you’re making the best-informed choice possible. 


Hi there, my name is Blake and I have an American Bully named Rocky. I fell in love with the breed around ten years ago after seeing some of my friends adopt a Bully. I love the combination of the muscular physique and calm, loyal companionship that the American Bully breed has to offer. My enthusiasm for the breed has led me to train as a dog behavioralist and trainer. Over the last ten years, I have supported many households in raising their American Bully and maximizing the potential of the breed. I’m delighted to share my knowledge and expertise on this site.

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