Ear Cropping Information

Siggy Snow Jan 2021


The purpose of the this page is not to determine if cropping is “right” or “wrong”, but instead to give information on the procedure for those who wish to have a cropped puppy.  Hopefully the following information will enable the puppy owner to make an informed decision as to whether cropping is for them or not. To understand the history on ear cropping, please visit Preserving Our Purebred Dogs video

How Did Cropping Start?

Ear cropping and tail docking began as a utilitarian practice early on when dog breeds were developed and then put to work at the task they were designed to do. Many breeds are cropped. Most people are familiar with Danes, Boxers and Doberman Pinschers as being cropped breeds.  Other breeds frequently cropped are Bouviers des Flanders, Schnauzers, Miniature Pinschers, Briards, and Brussels Griffons to name a few.

In the past, when dogs actually had to work for a living, ears were cropped very short and wide.  Guardian breeds had ears cropped so the thief or trespasser couldn’t grab the dog’s long, floppy ears to hang onto and pull in a tussle.  In early history, Danes were considered a guardian breed (estate protection) in addition to their other “job” of hunting down wild boars.  Long, uncropped ears, carried along the side of the head, were destined to be bitten and shredded, ripped and torn by sharp tusks in the process of taking down a boar.

A 5 minute video on How Did Cropping Start?

The First Step: To Crop or Not to Crop

If you are considering cropping your puppy, and you’ve never been through the procedure before, I would strongly recommend you do your research first. It is my opinion that cropping—done at the right age with a healthy puppy, by a qualified veterinarian experienced in cropping, using the proper surgical techniques and anesthetic, and followed up by proper ear taping by an experienced individual—is neither a horrifying experience or torture. However, if one of those key ingredients is missing, it can be a much different story.

Most “show” breeders are very particular on the “who, how, and what” when it comes to ear cropping. If a purchaser wishes a cropped puppy, the established breeder will have the procedure done at his or her veterinarian on behalf of the purchaser prior to the puppy going into the new home. This is by far the best option since the breeder and their vet have long-term experience in cropping and after-care. The established breeder can also assist the purchaser with ear taping and any questions or problems the purchaser may have.

If the breeder is unable to help assist with cropping information, the puppy owner is on their own.

Chris Spero pic

A few things to keep in mind

• The puppy must be in optimum health to have their ears cropped. Has the puppy had a good start in life, is current on appropriate wormings and vaccinations, and has received a clear veterinarian health exam prior to cropping?
• Cropping is an elective procedure and can be very expensive.
• Cropping must be done by a Dane-experienced vet. Very few vets crop, so you may need to travel a distance to find one who does a good job. Those who do crop generally are booked quite a bit in advance.
• The newly-cropped puppy requires constant supervision. If you work full-time, puppy care will need to be arranged.
• Cropping alone will not result in ears that stand. Diligence and proper ear taping are required for ears to stand properly.
• Ear taping can last until six months-to-one year of age and sometimes even longer with a show-length crop.

Holly taped

Reasons a person may choose to crop

• To avoid injury or damage to ears due to fights with other dogs or animals; or any other injury long, floppy ears could be prone to.
• To lessen the occurrence of ear infections (floppy ears cover the ear canal and help “incubate” any infection).
• To prevent hematomas (blood blisters) that can develop on the edge of uncropped ears. These are usually secondary to ear infections. Ear infections and head-shaking go hand-in-hand. The excessive head-shaking causes the hematomas on the edge of the uncropped ear. These can be very difficult to deal with.
• They prefer the look of a cropped Dane.
• They are going to show and feel a cropped dog may have more of a competitive edge; especially if the dog is from lines that, uncropped, would have incorrect ear set and/or large hound-like ears.

A person might not want to crop because . .

•    They are opposed to the procedure.
•    Cost factor.
•    Time and proper supervision is a factor.
•    The puppy was too old at time of purchase to crop.
•    No qualified veterinarian in the area.
•    Risk factor:  Any surgery is a risk, and the possibility of death during surgery should be considered.

At What Age?

Age is a crucial factor in ear cropping. While the recommended age range can vary from veterinarian to veterinarian and breeder to breeder, the general consensus is that it should be done prior to 12 weeks of age. It is my strong opinion that puppies should be cropped as young as possible—I have mine cropped at 7 ½ weeks and will not crop a puppy after 10 weeks of age. Puppies cropped young tolerate it much better and seem to have a faster rate of recovery. However, there are other factors that might influence cropping age; the weight and body condition of the puppy and the veterinarian’s requirements for vaccinations.

And, while one may find a veterinarian who will crop an older puppy (over six months of age) or even an adult, it is my strong recommendation one does not do so. First, the surgery would be much more difficult, painful and stressful on the dog and second, the chances of nicely-standing ears (when done at that age) are very slim.

Choosing a Vet Who Does Cropping

Remember, ear cropping is an art. You need to carefully choose the veterinarian who will be doing the cropping on your puppy.

There are a few important factors to remember when choosing a veterinarian to do your cropping:
• Only use a vet who comes highly recommended by other long-term, established Dane owners, handlers, exhibitors and breeders. Just because a vet “does Dane crops” doesn’t mean he does nice, pretty ones! Do not choose a veterinarian based on cost or convenience alone. If you don’t know any long-term Dane people, check the breeder directory of the Great Dane Club of America and contact the breeder listed closest to you.
• Make sure the veterinarian is familiar with anesthesia protocols as recommended by the GDCA and uses a heart monitor during surgery.
• Remember the veterinarian best for the job may not be close, and you may have to travel several hours or even overnight. Choosing a veterinarian for cropping with the primary criteria of being close will result in a less-then-perfect experience for you and the puppy.


What to Expect

If your breeder is having your puppy cropped on your behalf prior to pick up, you can discuss with them what to expect.  Some breeders will keep the puppy until the stitches are removed; others let folks take their puppy home right after the procedure.

Depending on your veterinarian’s procedure, you most likely will need to bring your puppy in prior to the cropping date for an exam and pre-surgery blood work.  If the results are satisfactory, the crop can be scheduled.

You may be required to drop the puppy off the night prior to cropping.  Most clinics require this to assure the puppy hasn’t eaten or drank anything after a certain point.  If at all possible, see if they will let you bring the puppy in the morning of the surgery to avoid the overnight stay—but, you must be diligent on the “no drinking no eating” time frame. Breeders with a good relationship with their cropping vet generally can bypass the overnight stay; instead bringing the puppy to the vet in the morning and taking him home that same day.

The puppy will then be cropped.  This will, of course, be under anesthesia and the puppy should be closely monitored during and after surgery.  Some clinics will require you leave the puppy overnight after the surgery.  Pain medications and antibiotics are generally given immediately after cropping. Follow the veterinarians recommendations on additional pain medications, antibiotics, and feeding right after surgery.

When your puppy comes home, the cropped ears generally will be supported in some manner.  The most common method is a Styrofoam cup on top of the head (think of a Shriner).  The puppy will wear this support system until the stitches are ready to be removed at about ten days to two weeks.  The stitches are removed, and the ears go back up in the support until the edges are totally healed.  Once the cropped edges have healed, the ear taping process can begin.

Utmost care and supervision should be used with a newly cropped puppy..  Care must be used when young children are handling the puppy, to assure the cropped edges are not bumped. It the puppy is shaking their head a lot, care must be taken to make sure they are not hitting their ears on the side of the crate during crating time.

Newly cropped ears should be cleaned and medicated daily, or as directed by your vet.  Any excessive redness, swelling, discharge or odor should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian immediately.  Ears should be kept as clean as possible. Care must be used to make sure the puppy does not scratch at the freshly-cropped edges; this could result in infection and damage to the stitches.  A "donut collar" (pictured below), available at PetSmart, is an excellent solution. While some vets may recommend or use an Elizabethan collar, I feel the donut collar is a much better choice.

Ella Cup Donut Nov 444x480

Ear Aftercare

The best crop in the world will not be successful unless the ears are taped correctly and diligently. Taping helps the ear cartilage to “form memory”. Ears are taped, or supported, with a combination tape of metal shim stays, foam rollers or other materials. There are many different methods to tape ears, and it really doesn’t matter which is used as long as the end result is properly-standing ears. Below you can see samples of incorrectly taped ears, correctly taped ears, and ears on a four-month old puppy that show good progress.

The progress of getting the ears is a gradual process. Tapes will last about seven-to-ten days, then they are removed. The ears might stand an hour, then need to be retaped. The next time the tapes are removed, maybe they will stand a couple of hours, and so on. When do the ears stand “for good” (or are “cooked” as I say)? As a general rule, ears are usually up at about six months of age. However, that can vary greatly depending on the length of the crop, ear leather, and diligence of the person taping.

Taping can be done by an experienced breeder, or you can learn yourself. If you choose to do taping yourself, have your first few tries inspected by a qualified person to make sure you are doing it correctly. Some veterinarians do ear taping, but I feel it’s much better for the puppy to be taped in a more-casual venue like his own home or that of a Dane-experienced person.

Uncropped/Natural Ears

Occasionally (actually, quite frequently) uncropped ears in a puppy go “wonky”, flipping over the top of the head or across an eye or folding in the wrong place. This usually occurs around teething time. However, if the owner finds it objectionable, the ears can be taught to form proper set by massaging and taping.

In the information further down on this page, I have examples and a list of resources showing how to massage natural ears and links to resources showing how to tape them.

Ear Misconceptions

Many people are surprised that Danes can be shown uncropped.  However, there are no AKC regulations preventing an uncropped Dane from being shown in the conformation ring.  As long as the ears conform to the breed standard (being the right size and set) there is no reason an uncropped Dane cannot be shown. To see a picture of proper ear set and size, go to Great Dane Standard-Ears.

Rocky 4-19 Newsom uncropped example

In Closing

If you desire a cropped puppy, your best option is to purchase from an experienced breeder who has an established relationship with a vet experienced in cropping. This breeder will have the procedure done on your behalf. This will help to assure not only a beautiful crop, but the procedure goes as smoothly as possible.  I strongly recommend a purchaser have the breeder do this service.  Cropping, like any surgery, does have its risks.  If a person purchases an uncropped puppy, has it cropped and it doesn’t survive—the purchaser has lost both the puppy and the purchase price.  It would be very doubtful the breeder would refund the purchase price.  However, if  a breeder has the puppy cropped and there is a problem, the breeder is responsible.

Pictures Showing Cropped Taping and Properly Standing Ears

Incorrectly tapes ears
Properly standing ears

Pictures Showing Examples of Proper Natural Ears
and Natural Ears Which Would Benefit from Taping

Incorrect untaped ears
Proper uncropped ears

Resources for Ear Cropping
and Taping for both Natural and Cropped Ears

Vets Who Crop

We use Dr. Victoria Peterson at ASP Mobile Veterinary Service. We have been very pleased with not only her crops, but the care she and her staff provide for the puppies. She has done many of the show crops for Danes, Dobermans and Boxers and a large number of companion puppies. Her clinic is quite busy and appointments should be made well in advance.

ASP Mobile Veterinary Service http://www.aspmobilevet.com/
Granite Falls, WA

The following veterinarians crop; however they are listed as a resource rather than a recommendation as I have no personal experience with them.

Dr. Harris/Deer Park Veterinary Clinic
Deer Park (Spokane), WA

Dr. John/Allen Creek Veterinary Hospital
Grants Pass, OR

Dr. Lind/VCA Parkway Animal Hospital
Tacoma, WA

Dr. Shaw/Southgate Animal Clinic
Milwaukie, OR

People Who Provide
Cropped Ear Taping Service

Georgia Hymmen, Daynakin Great Danes
Ferndale, WA

Sherry Acena
Spanaway, WA

Kim Owen
425-330-4100 (text only please)
Granite Falls, WA

Ear Taping Supplies

Ear taping supplies can be difficult to find at your local drug store; however most can be purchased through Amazon. Your breeder or taper can give you recommendations on what supplies to purchase.

I do sell the shim metal stays that many use as part of the support system for taping ears. Information on them along with ordering can be found on my sales page.

YouTube Videos on Ear Taping

There are many methods for ear taping; which method a person uses depends on whether it works for that puppy and the person doing the taping. The main criteria for taping is that it is done correctly. If one method isn’t giving the results you want, try another. Cropped ears that are not standing properly must not be left out of tapes other than for an “airing”. One of mentors once told me that for every day ears are untaped, you add an extra week of taping.

Georgia’s Regular Ear Taping Method

Daynakin Danes Ear Taping

Daynakin Danes Ear Care After Cropping

Georgia’s Temporary Ear Taping Method

Great Dane Ear Taping Part One

Great Dane Ear Taping Part Two

Dog Cropped Ear Taping

More YouTube Videos on Ear Taping

Example of Pockets Caused by Incorrect Taping

Daynakin Danes After Taping

Cropped Ear Taping 1

Cropped Ear Taping 2

Cropped Ear Taping 3

Ear Posting/BackerRod Method

Madison Great Danes Ear Taping Part 1

Madison Great Danes Ear Taping Part 1

Taping Natural Ears

Many people are surprised to learn uncropped ears may need to be taped to train into the proper position. The below methods can also be used for Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

How You Can Help!

Did you find this page helpful? If so, perhaps you would like to make a small donation to Northwest Great Dane Rescue or the Great Dane Club of America Charitable Trust as consideration for the work I put into this page. I also accept Starbucks cards!