Every once in a while I see the conversation turn to cropping & docking, some are for it and of course, there are some against it. Over in Europe, it is actually outlawed, even when done by a licensed veterinarian. Some consider it mutilation while others don’t see it that way. I saw most recently cropping & docking compared to infant circumcision & ear piercing. Neither participant is able to voice their decision of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, someone else makes that decision for them.
Believe it or not, there are some health benefits to these procedures. Erect ears are less prone to infection since there is more airflow and light able to penetrate towards the ear canal. Floppy-eared dogs, especially breeds like Golden Retrievers that have extra ear hair even, are more prone to stinky ears because it makes a great breeding ground for mites and other nasties. By opening up the ear area the canal becomes less hospital for these painful infections.
Also, think about wild canines, I cannot think of a single floppy eared, wild canine (if you can please post in comments to correct me). They’re ears stand up (unless broken cartilage from altercations with others) for better hearing and because this adaptation has allowed less illness to deal with while dealing with all other parts of the inhospitable wild yonder. We’ve created breeds in which ears can be a lifelong problem, I had a Golden Retriever with a chronic ear infection, it wasn’t pretty.
Now I’m not saying that every breed needs to be cropped (or docked) but leave those alone that are, for the most part, the ears are being forced erect to preserve heritage, and apart from the minimal recovery time it can only help a dog’s health. Some dogs were cropped for health reasons, being proactive to prevent painful injuries in the hunting field etc. These people who choose to still exercise their right to do with their own property (yes, dogs -animals- are property) are truly not hurting their companions. I had considered gluing my Golden’s ears together to force them to stand just to get air flow after it didn’t help when I shaved them down, I felt so bad for him.
As far as tales go, there are some dogs that have to have their tails docked later in life due to a condition known as ‘happy tale’. While I wouldn’t consider it overly common, it does happen. If you’ve ever been hit by a happy Great Dane tail, OUCH!
I’m also a breeder and exhibitor of the Rat Terrier, their tails are docked at 2days old. I choose to do this because it preserves the breed’s heritage, they were originally docked to show they were a working dog for taxation purposes. While they aren’t exactly taxed anymore I feel it my duty to present the breed as it should be.
Some will argue that by altering or removing these vital extremities it can take away a dog’s way of communication. I can see this being a valid argument seeing that a dog uses its tail to show many feelings such as alertness, shyness, warnings etc. However, tails and ears are not the only way a dog communicates. Did you know that a flick of the tongue actually speaks volumes to other dogs, or when a dog looks the opposite direction? Tiny signals that we sometimes don’t always catch are being exchanged between canines to communicate. I don’t fully believe that ears & tails are 100% necessary seeing as the dog has quite a language all their own with many different ‘words’ for the same meaning.
Keep a look out for our future article “Calming Signals in Dogs” as it will cover a few of these movements that a lot of pet owners didn’t realize their dog was talking to them.