Is Ear Cropping and Tail Docking Ethical?

(Updated 2020)

Throughout my dog training career, I have seen many unpleasant examples of animal exploitation.  For example, why do we dock the tails and crop the ears of dogs (mutilate and disfigure) for our pleasure?  In this article, I will be focusing primarily on Canis lupus familiaris although declawing felines is equally as painful, unnecessary, and cruel.

When I see a dog’s ears cropped or tail docked, I cringe.  To think that someone put this dog through unnecessary pain and trauma in the name of “tradition” or for a dog breeder or persons’ vanity, ego, and conformation is sad.

When speaking with a dog breeder in Los Angeles who prides themselves on “proper breeding,” I asked them why are your puppies’ ears docked in all of the photos?  To which her response was “I show my dogs.” Her response is all too common in society today.  To do something mindlessly and unconsciously because of “tradition” or because of some “standard” is nonsensical, and ignorant.  Tradition is the standard only until people think for themselves and realize, that many traditions do not align with one’s values and ethics. Using tradition as a convenient excuse to exploit or injure another is not fair or humane.

Dog welfare organizations and animal rights organizations of all types do not support ear cropping or tail docking. And in Europe ear cropping and tail docking is illegal.

Some people get misinformation about how their newly bought pedigree dog may have the potential to have painful ear infections. This is akin to taking aspirin just in case you get a headache in the future.

There are tons of non-scientific, hypothetical constructs, and myths floating around on the internet. Even veterinarians are not up to date on ethical medical practices.

Adding to the problem, unfortunately, ear cropping and tail docking are high margin businesses, and the struggling veterinarian industry too often uses unethical, immoral cosmetic surgeries strictly for profit. This conflict of interest is glaring and must be investigated by a caring, responsible pet parent.

How Does Tail Docking And Ear Cropping Affect Animal Behavior?

Does tail docking cause your dog to become aggressive towards other dogs? Or other dogs to act aggressively towards your dog?  Yes, it can. Research shows that docking your dog’s tail may make them more vulnerable to dog aggression. Not having a dog tail, may make your dog more fearful, stressed, and anxious.

Why? Because one of a dog’s primary ways to communicate is through body language, specifically through their tail. Cut off a dog’s tail is like cutting off our tongue. Our ability to communicate will be severely compromised. A dog without a tail may lack social skills and have trouble making friends and socializing compared to intact dogs. A tail helps your dog be understood by other dogs (and people).

Further, a dog’s ears also convey a plethora of information about a dog’s emotional state, fear, anxiety, stress, and sociability. Ear cropping takes away the ability of a dog to communicate through ear movement and may cause chronic pain.

Ban Abusive Dog Tail Docking & Ear Cropping

More and more research shows how tail docking and ear cropping are detrimental to a dog’s ability to communicate fully and effectively.  As mentioned, tail docking can be detrimental to your dog’s conspecific social communication. In this incredible video, one can see a dog’s reaction to watching another dog’s tail wagging. It displays the dog’s visual acuminous sensitivity to another canids tail movement and direction.

We are only beginning to learn about how animals communicate. This research also shows how nuanced, subtle, yet vital tail movements and patterns affect social engagement and communication. Needless to say, cutting off a dog’s tail causes many communication problems beyond the moral and ethical implications.

Should I Cut Off My Dog’s Tail?

The answer is no. There is simply no reason to do so. Mutilating a dog’s tail for looks is not humane.

Should I Cut Off My Dog’s Ears?

No, you should not crop a dog’s ears any more than you should crop a person’s ears. It is inhumane and unnecessary. These tail docking and ear croppings are elective surgeries for aesthetics, similar to a person electing to get plastic surgery.

I got involved in animal welfare, teaching, coaching, dog training, behavior, psychology, and helping dogs and families because of my love for all animals (human and nonhuman) not to win dog breed titles at the expense of other sentient beings.

Teachers and caring individuals want to provide optimal care for their students. Not to cause or add undue stress, pain, suffering, or complications. Amputation is performed to “conform” to an aesthetic or look for a breed of a dog. The dog industry needs to reflect on and reevaluate their individual and collective morals and ethics surrounding any practice or tradition that does not serve the very animal we are pledging to care for. Requiring the removal of the human ego from the equation and selflessly providing care for others’ welfare and animal rights.

Is dog parenting a right or a privilege? I spoke extensively about that topic in the article linked above so I won’t go into that here. Ear cropping, tail docking, cat declawing, and voice box removing to stop dogs from barking are all abusive, mutilative surgeries not done for the health, welfare or humane treatment of the animal but strictly for human purposes to please our materialistic, superficial sides and for people to fit in with society’s norms.  There is no justification for winning trophies, ignoring science and education for your dog, cat, and yourself.

Statistics show that tail “docking” and ear “cropping” are almost always not done for medical, safety or therapeutic reasons, but are solely cosmetic and elective procedures.

Many other countries ban the procedures and penalize show dogs with docked tails or cropped ears. Also, making the surgery more painful is that the procedures are normally done without anesthesia and may cause health issues and/or behavior manifestations later in life.

Up-to-date veterinarians agree, unless injury or present disease is located in the tail or ears that can not be cured otherwise, tail docking and ear cropping are absolutely unnecessary and cruel as agreed upon by the American Veterinary Medical Association, AVMA, and countless other medical and professional organizations. Shame on the AKC and any other organization for putting an animal’s looks before the health and welfare of an animal.

Ban tail docking and ear cropping

Tail Docking and Ear Cropping Solutions

Appreciate the beauty that is your dog. Do not support veterinarians that practice outdated, archaic abusive cat declawing, dog ear cropping, and tail docking procedures.  Speak up and educated fellow dog parents. Become an activist and advocate for your best friend. Follow the first rule in medicine and life, do no harm.

ear cropping and tail docking are forms of animal abuse

Ear cropping and tail docking are forms of animal abuse