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Ear Cropping

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Q: I am being trained in Canada to become a clicker trainer. I have three great Danes and an American pit bull terrier. All four of my dogs have had their ears cropped. My trainer has told me that I can no longer crop dogs because once I become a clicker trainer, cropping is unethical and promotes unethical practices for clicker trainers. In Canada it's legal to crop ears and dock tails. I show and breed great Danes, which is why I choose to crop. I also chose to crop my pit bull to represent the breed as she is my service dog and is registered with assistant animals of Saskatchewan. I know it is a strong subject and I do understand that you can show uncropped dogs, but do you know of any literature that agrees with what this trainer is telling me? I would like to have something on paper to back up her statements so I can make a better judgment on whether or not to stop cropping my dogs. My dad thought she was just trying to push her strong beliefs about her disgust of the whole crop issue on me to try to sway me by using clicker training as a method of stopping it. Please help!!!

A: I think your dad is probably right. Clicker training is one thing, and the cropping issue is another. They don't have anything to do with each other. Conformation Danes are normally cropped in this country. You have to do what you think is right for your situation, vis-à-vis cropping.

Sounds to me as if your friend might not be a clicker trainer, either. We clicker trainers do not go around laying down the law to other people. Become a clicker trainer. Your Danes will LOVE it. And so will the pit bull.

Karen Pryor

Follow-up: Thank you, Karen for answering my question. I feel very relieved as a trainee in clicker training and just recently having my new Dane puppy cropped that I can still become a clicker trainer and not feel awful about it. I was concerned about doing the right thing ethically if I was indeed going to go this route with clicker training and I certainly was not going to stop clicking and treating my dogs just because I crop Danes! I also was not going to turn down clients either just because of the fact that I do crop and they are opposed to it. I will not be promoting it to anyone as it is a personal choice and will not be brought up at all in clicker training. Only if a client asks me about it will I tell them. I thank you again, as I trust your judgment being one of the founders of clicker training! Happy clicker training!!!

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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

Cropping /Docking

Personally I believe you are doing the dog more harm than good when clipping ears and docking tails. Since dogs use ears and tails as part of their communication with each other. So what you're doing,or could be doing, is making your dog a target for other dogs since they cannot read or interpret your dog's body language, i.e calming signals,greeting, etc. Pitbull ear-clipping started for exactly this reason, to make them fight easier, since the dogs are both confused as to what the other is saying the likelyhood of them fighting increases.

From a breed promotion point of view, you could also be putting many people of the breed, since they look mean and viscious, and that is so true in the case of the pitbull, who went from "the nanny dog", quite literally, to the "killer" breed.


My 2 cents.


Ear Cropping & Docking

I'm English and firmly against ear cropping and docking. I quite agree with Jude's comment that it is barbaric and selfish. All the dogs that have cropped ears in the States look so much nicer when you seen them with ears as do undocked tails. Currently in England there is a big issue over dangerous dogs and ear docking makes dogs look more aggressive and therefore this can also lead to someone inappropriately getting a dog for the look of aggression. The whole argument for tail docking is very weak - that it is essential for working breeds so that they don't sustain damage to their tails. For example gun dogs are used to flush out and retrieve game and yet spaniels are cropped and labradors are not. I think the natural form looks best and it is cruel to change a dog in this fashion.

Ear cropping and tail docking

Ear cropping and tail docking is a personal choice and as long as it is done right i see nothing wrong with it.It does not influence your dogs training at all.I personally am for cropping the ears and docked tails.

I don't think clicker

I don't think clicker training and ear cropping go together either but I do think that ear cropping is a selfish, barbaric thing to do to a dog just as is tail docking! What right have we to shape an animal's physical being just to please ourselves. In the U.K. ear cropping is against the law(it's cruel) and soon tail docking will be. You cannot show a dog in the U.K. if the ear's have been cropped. America should wake up and stop sculpting their dogs!

trainer@caninesinaction.com's picture


I really don't want KPCT to turn into a c/d debate arena, but I think I can offer some relevant comments....

I have an all-natural Doberman -- ears, tails, dewclaws. Some people love her look, some hate it, I couldn't care less what people think about her looks, I love her self. :-)

She's all-natural because she was bred in a country where c/d is illegal (Denmark). I care far more about how my dog behaves than how it looks, so it wasn't worth it to do the surgery when she arrived here. EXCEPT, if she'd had a thin tail, I would have docked it, even late.

For most pet dogs, cropping and docking is purely cosmetic, certainly. While I'm not actively opposed to c/d, I see little argument for it in pet dogs. But for many working dogs, it serves a purpose, just as it did in the beginning. Why did cropping and docking start originally? Would anyone have gone to so much effort if it didn't serve a purpose -- if it were not (in the language of OC) somehow reinforcing?

For working Dobermans, as for many hunting breeds, cropping and docking protected the dog. As my Laev is not doing active street work, it doesn't matter if she has long ears which could be used as handles (modern show crops would be worse than natural ears for a working dog!). But even in sport work she could easily break a tail, as some do, and I feel it's far kinder to dock early and relatively painlessly than to allow a break later. Anyone who's nursed an injured tail can testify that it's hard on the dog and often ends in amputation.

Now, I certainly enjoy Laev's tail, and I'll admit that I see nuances with it that I don't see in my docked Doberman. But she has a thick, sturdy tail. I still feel that docking a thin tail in a dog at risk of breaking it may be the right thing to do.

Before making a decision, look at the structure of the dog (thin tail versus thick tail, tail set, tail activity) and its intended purpose (household pet or working dog). There may be room for responsible husbandry among the barbarism. :-)

Laura &

  • Ascomannis Laevatein YTT RL1 CD-H (www.clickertraining.com/blog/179)
  • Inky (couch dog!)

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