When I first brought home my Doberman Pinscher puppy, I was absolutely in love with him. I knew I wanted him to reach his full potential both physically and aesthetically. Like any proud Dad, I was convinced I had the best looking dog of them all. So I made the decision to get his ears cropped
As the weeks ticked by I remember wondering at what age I should be getting his ears cropped. I made some calls, talked to very reputable veterinarians who have worked with some world famous show Dobermans, and eventually got my answer. Along with some other very useful information for someone considering cropping their Dobermans ears.
At What Age Can You Crop a Doberman’s Ears? A Doberman’s ears are generally cropped when the dog is between 7 and 9 weeks old. However, some veterinarians will perform the procedure as late as 12 weeks. Any later than 12 weeks of age and it isn’t likely that the dog’s ears will stand because the cartilage in the ear has hardened.
A veterinarian who is experienced with Doberman ear cropping can look at your dog’s ears and make a determination on how late cropping can be done. Since every dog is different, there are other things the veterinarian will look for, other than just age, to determine if ear cropping is possible.
Why The Short Window of Time?
While dog owners of other breeds might tell you that you can get your dog’s ears cropped at any time, this is not the case for Doberman Pinschers. There is only a small window of time when you should get your Doberman’s ears cropped. There are a few reasons for this.
- If the ears are cropped when the dog is too young it will be very difficult for the veterinarian to tell what the future proportions of the ear will be. This can lead to unusual looking ears when the dog is older. The youngest a Doberman can be at the time of ear cropping is 6 weeks of age.
- If the ears are cropped when the dog is too old the cartilage in the ear has already hardened into a flat shape. This means the cartilage in the ear will never harden in a more rounded, vertical standing manner. The oldest a Doberman can be at the time of ear cropping is generally considered to be about 12 weeks of age.
- The ideal age for a Doberman to get their ears cropped is generally 7-9 weeks of age.
The cartilage in a Doberman’s ears gets thicker and harder with time. A cropping procedure when the dog is too old will also mean increased discomfort since the cartilage being cut is much thicker than in a younger dog.
The good news here is that every dog is different. So although these numbers are a good baseline to go off of, a good veterinarian will want to see your dog in person before deciding if ear cropping is an option.
When they examine your dog in person, they are checking the ear to see if it is growing in an expected manner. They are also checking the thickness and flexibility of the cartilage in the ear.
Even if your dog is slightly outside the age ranges listed above for ear cropping, it may still be a possibility for you.
Ear Cropping Older Doberman’s
Cropping a Doberman’s ears after about the age of 12 weeks old is generally not successful and most veterinarians won’t perform the procedure. However, as I mentioned above, no two dogs are the same and after a physical examination, the vet should be able to tell you if it is possible to crop your dog’s ears.
Older Doberman’s have had their ears successfully cropped because their ear cartilage was unusually thin, or still unusually flexible at an older age. Also, if the owner desires a shorter ear crop, that also makes it more likely to be successful at an older age. That is because the longer the ears are, the more difficult it is to get them to stand.
Some people will suggest that you can get any dog’s ear’s cropped at any age. This is not the case at all with Doberman’s. If you crop your dog’s ears outside the recommended age range given to you by your veterinarian after a physical exam, your dog’s ears will likely never stand.
Some Veterinarians will agree to crop older Doberman’s even after their ear cartilage has hardened. They compensate for the hardened ear cartilage usually by inserting an implant into the ears to make them stand up. This is a relatively new procedure that sometimes involves inserting a small wire into the ear after cropping.
It is unclear at this time how much discomfort is experienced by the dog with this implant so I personally wouldn’t want to do it. Don’t let your dog be your vet’s experiment! Besides, floppy-eared Dobermans are insanely cute, according to my wife.
Why Ear Cropping is Done
Cropping a dog’s ears is becoming a more controversial topic as the years go by. Personally, I don’t completely understand why, I mean we regularly dock a dog’s tail, remove their dewclaws, and spay or neuter them without much thought. However, the ear procedure seems to strike a different chord with some people.
I am not here to tell you that you should or shouldn’t get your Doberman’s ears cropped. I think it’s a very personal decision and whether cropped or uncropped, a Doberman is still a great family dog. What I will tell you are the reasons why some people choose to get their Doberman’s ears cropped.
- It’s their traditional look. Cropped ears are the traditional look for a Doberman. This was originally done because they were bred to be guard dogs. Docking the tail and cropping the ears made the dog harder to hold onto (no handholds).
- It improves hearing. Cropping the ears removes a large flap a skin that directly covers their ears from the outside world. This was another way to help them be better guard dogs.
- It can help to reduce ear infections. The increased airflow into the ear can help to keep the ears drier. A dry ear is less likely to develop ear infections. However, Doberman’s are not more prone to ear infections than other breeds.
- For dog shows. If you plan to have your dog compete in dog shows, you will generally want your Doberman’s ears to be cropped.
There are many reasons someone might want to crop their dog’s ears, but in the end, it’s up to you to decide. Luckily, modern cropping techniques involve numbing medication and full anesthesia to minimalize the discomfort to the dog.
Finding a Good Veterinarian to Do the Ear Cropping
Make sure you take your time and put in the effort to choosing a good veterinarian to do the procedure. Please don’t just go to the first one you find. This is a big procedure and you want your new family friend to be as comfortable as possible.
There are a few things you’ll want to look for when trying to choose a veterinarian to crop your pup’s ears:
- Try asking reputable Doberman breeders what veterinarian they use to crop their dog’s ears. If a long time Doberman breeder uses them, they probably have plenty of experience and do good work.
- When you talk to the veterinarian for the first time, ask how long they’ve been cropping Doberman’s ears and if they have photos of past dog’s they’ve done. Any reputable vet who crops ears should have a portfolio of pictures showing past dogs they’ve done the procedure on.
- Ask about how they do the cropping and ensure they use modern, humane techniques. Ensure they use numbing medication and put your dog under anesthesia for the procedure.
- Make sure they have experience cropping Doberman ears specifically. All breeds of dogs have slightly different ears. You want a veterinarian familiar and experienced with Dobermans.
Take your time and find a vet who answers all your questions and makes you feel at ease. If you don’t have a good feeling about them, keep looking.
See the Veterinarian in person. It will give you a better idea of how they run their business. I was very happy when I found my vet, her office was clean, I ran into multiple other Doberman’s in the waiting room (their owners all had great things to say about the vet), and she was great at making me feel at ease.
Ear Cropping Styles
It’s important to clarify with your veterinarian what style of ear crop they will give your Doberman. You want to make sure you two are on the same page. There are three basic types of ear crops for Doberman Pinschers.
- Show Crop: This is the longest crop and your Doberman will have very tall ears as you see at dog shows. If you are going to show your dog someday, obviously this is what you will want to get. This is also the most difficult type of crop to make stand up and generally requires that the dog’s ears are “posted” for a longer period of time after the surgery (held in the upright position by a post and bandages).
- Medium Crop: This results in a shorter ear than the show crop and is a good mid-range choice. The sweeping curve of the show crop is still present although the ear is not as tall. This is what my dog has, and it looks great!
- Working Crop: This is the shortest of all ear crops. A veterinarian might recommend this if they are not confident they will be able to get the ears to stand up (if the cropping was done at an older age for example). These ears are very short but stand up quickly and reliably after surgery. Very little posting time is required after surgery.
Your vet should be able to show you photographs of all three styles so you can pick which is best for your dog.
For an idea of what you should expect to pay for ear cropping, have a look at the article I wrote all about Doberman prices and expenses.
At what age should a Doberman’s tail be docked? Tail docking is usually done on Doberman Pinscher puppies when they are between 2 and 5 days of age. Their tails can be docked as late as 13 weeks of age, although this is considered to be a more significant surgery with longer recovery times the older the dog gets.
How long does it take for a dog to heal from ear cropping? Generally, it takes 6 to 8 weeks for a dog’s ears to heal after an ear cropping procedure. Although this can vary based on the individual dog and the length of the crop as longer length ear crops take longer to heal and stand on their own.
Can you tape a Doberman’s ears without cropping them? Although it is possible to tape (or “post”) a Doberman’s ears and train them to stand without cropping them, this practice is rarely done and very often not successful. Fully erect, uncropped ears on a Doberman will look similar in shape and size to that of a German Shepherd.