EAR CROP & TAIL DOCK
Dobermans are born with floppy ears and long tails, similar to a labrador or hound dog. The ears are cropped and tails docked so that they achieve the upright standing ear and the short tail. There can be a lot of controversy surrounding this topic so we want to be as educational and sensitive as we can.
It is prudent for all Doberman owners and prospective owners to be fully educated on this topic so they can make the best choice for their dog and so that they can educate others that inquire (people always ask questions when they see a natural eared dobe or a puppy with tape on its ears). We are in favor of maintaining our right of choice on this elective surgery and respect that others may choose differently than us. Extreme activists are lobbying to take away our choices and ban all cropping and docking. Please read and research for yourself. Don't just assume it is cruel or assume it looks better so it must be better. Find out why or why not.
Some countries do not legally allow these practices but that does not mean they are unethical. Many of those same countries have exceptions to allow cropping and docking on dogs meant to do working sport/competition such as Schutzhund.
The Doberman is the ONLY breed bred for personal protection. This is their true nature at heart - to always be protecting and "working" anyways whether they are active in competition for it or not. For this reason and the following explained reasons, we fully endorse cropping and docking when done ethically by a skilled professional with proper after care and follow up.
1. Aesthetics or Looks
First reason, let's talk aesthetics or looks... The look between the cropped and the un-cropped Doberman is very different. The cropped Doberman has a more alert and impressively striking look. A Doberman with floppy un-cropped ears is more the look of a hound dog with Doberman markings - cute or goofy. If we compare the responses of cropped Dobermans to un-cropped, we usually hear "gorgeous, beautiful" versus "cute, silly." In a dog that is meant to be a protector, the first impression counts.
Puppies can look pretty cute with those floppy ears of theirs. But as they grow up it is likely the ear set will change. Some ear settings can result in complimentary style, but there is no way to predict or promise what type of ear setting may result as an adult dog.
Often, the ear set will result in long hanging ears that droop, which detracts from the look of the chiseled, wedge shaped head. Or they may mature into what is known as "rose ears." They stick out from the side or oddly perk up from the front. The first thing that comes to mind may be "what a cute and goofy dog," which may fit the personality, but is not what we desire for the impression of the breed.
Regardless... the Doberman breed is meant to protect. One of the greatest security measures is JUST the appearance of the Doberman. Many can hardly recognize a Doberman with un-cropped ears. The look for the breed is meant to be regal, also described as "the look of eagles." This look is hardly achieved with un-cropped ears.
2. Protection/Functional Consideration
Second, let's consider a more practical and functional side of things. When dogs play with each other, they go for the ears. When a human or opponent goes after a dog, the ears make great "handles." The ears can be grabbed, bitten, or torn and if they are it is very painful and they bleed a lot. This is why, in a protection bred dog, the ears can be a huge liability.
If the ears are caught or torn or pulled hard enough, they are likely to bleed very heavily and really hurt. The amount of blood alone could be a danger, but usually the wounds to an ear are not fatal. The vet would need to repair them in surgery and give antibiotics to prevent infection. They are likely to scar and the healing may result in unsightly abnormality of shape. It could cost a lot to repair if the damage was serious enough.
This is the exact reason why tails are docked as well. The Doberman tail is particularly thinner and susceptible to painful breaking or damage just from every day wear/use. Docking the tail prevents later on serious injury or damage.
Before you think, "well I'm just getting my dog as a pet, we don't plan on protection sport or unruly play with other dogs and I live in a safe neighborhood..." The Doberman is always on watch. A friend of ours had a Doberman as a pet, she had a completely unexpected domestic dispute with someone she knew and trusted for many years - her Doberman turned on to the attacker. The point is, protection is instinct in these dogs. Whether you are anticipating protection opportunities for your dog or not, they are and they are on the look out. It is a liability and disservice to leave them un-cropped when it is their nature to act for you. In this day, we can never be too careful.
3. Health Concerns
Third, we are concerned about ear infection. Dobermans are notorious to have constant reoccurring inner ear infection with un-cropped floppy ears due to restricted air flow. With daily care of cleaning the ears thoroughly this risk can be reduced. Areas with a lot of humidity or moisture are more prone. Bacteria, mites, and ticks seek after dark, moist, and warm environments. The perfect home for these undesirables would be the inner canal of an ear covered by a flopping ear. These infections are painful and could cause hearing loss, even a ruptured inner ear. The cropped ear helps to allow more airflow and light which not only reduces or eliminates ear infection, but some studies show it intensifies their hearing as well.
4. Nature vs "Natural"
There is a lot of debate whether un-cropped ears are considered "natural" or not, because in nature there is no canine or animal that has naturally occurring floppy ears that close off the ear canal. The definition of natural is, "existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind." Look at the wolf, hyena, fox, coyote, etc and you will consistently see that mother nature has adapted these animals in the wild to have upright ears, or if the ears do come downward they are not closing off the canal in such a way that the man bred breeds of dogs of today do.
Un-cropped ears are often referred to as "natural" but that does not mean it is actually natural. Look at the English bulldog for example, not being able to mate or birth without human assistance. If we used the "natural" logic, this breed would be eliminated because it would not be "natural" for us humans to alter or assist the way they are.
5. Future of the Dog
Finally, this last consideration of why or why not to crop/dock is one that not many think about at all: the longterm future of your dog if he/she had to be rehomed. Good breeders screen prospective owners carefully to evaluate their commitment and responsibility before placing the dog. Good owners weigh carefully their own commitment and responsibility before getting a dog. We don't like to think about it but emergencies can happen, certain events or circumstances in our lives may absolutely require us to rehome our dog. A good breeder will always, and insist on, taking the dog back. But it is a harsh reality and it is confirmed by shelters/rescues/breeders everywhere - a (properly) cropped and docked Doberman will have more interest and prospective new homes and get adopted faster, simply because they look better and are more appealing.
The ethical method of cropping is an art done by a licensed, skilled, and experienced veterinarian. The ideal age for a Doberman is 7-9 weeks of age, before the ear cartilage begins hardening. We have observed the cropping ourselves, it is very simple. The vet will have a pre-surgery consultation where they discuss the style of cropping desired and verify the VWD status. They are sedated (anesthetized), cropped, and the edges are stitched up. The surgery itself is very brief, they wake up quickly, and when they do they are hungry and playing like usual. They will have a cup on their head and need a little cream applied on the edges while it heals. During this time they play just as rough if not more because the cone/cup on the head looks like a very fun chew toy! The stitches are removed at about a week and the cup comes off at about two weeks. Not any part of this process is cruel or painful, in fact it is in their best interest!
After the cup comes off, they will need to be "posted" for several weeks or months depending on the dog and the style of crop for how long it may take. They don't automatically stand straight up but the "posting" is the necessary after care where the ears are gently taped into position and in time the cartilage hardens upright. The cropped ear still has mobility and you will see them flattening them or perking them to the right or left etc. The posting process is critical to ensure the crop is successful.
FINDING A CROPPING VET
Reputable Doberman breeders will arrange the cropping of all their puppies. They don't want to risk the cropping being done unethically or poor quality. If you find yourself in the position to find a good cropping vet though, my best advice is to look up your state on the DPCA breeder referral and find breeders that are near you. Ask them who they use and recommend. ...If you call around asking your local vet offices, they will probably offer a cropping service and say they have some experience, but verify it is the proper style by looking at pictures of past work. If they will not provide photos don't take the risk. We personally travel approximately 1400 miles round trip for our puppies to see the very best vet we can. This is the look your dog will have for the rest of your life!
Q: How much does cropping cost? A: This will vary significantly from vet to vet. Some cropping vets near us that claim to have experience since the 70's charge $825 and $725 per puppy. That is the steepest cost I have seen. On average I hear about $500. Usually it is a red flag if the vet charges significantly lower or higher, but some vets in the midwest are exceptionally skilled at cropping and only charge around $250. It can vary a lot by the area. Also consider the additional fees for medicine if the vet charges extra, for travel if it is required, and for after care supplies/tapes.
We believe in the crop and dock for the Doberman Pinscher.
Since the age for docking (and dewclaw removal) is between 3-5 days old and puppies are not picked out until 8 weeks old, all our puppies will have tails docked and dewclaws removed.
We will arrange the ear cropping for all our puppies as well, at approximately 8 weeks of age, only by a licensed vet whose quality we trust. The buyer is responsible for the cost. If you have absolute necessity for un-cropped ears, we are willing to discuss with you and consider, but no promise we will agree.
We have a strict standard for beautiful, complimentary crops that enhance the look of the dog. We have a thorough yet simple to follow guide for after care and are happy to coach you through it. This includes a step by step video, picture guide, and phone/email/Skype sessions as needed. For those that do not have a puppy of ours and are in need of posting help, we offer a kit and consultation service for purchase. Please inquire.