For hundreds of years dogs were subject to surgical procedures to alter their ear shape and shorten their tails. The fact that it still goes on today is an unfortunate truth. Not only is it cruel and unnecessary, but it also affects the dog’s ability to communicate with other dogs.
Historically, ear cropping (the removal of part or all of the dog’s pinnae) and tail docking (the removal of portions of an animal’s tail) was performed on working dogs in order to decrease health complications, such as ear infections (although this is not medically proven). It was also performed on dogs that may need to fight, while either hunting or protecting livestock, and fighting dogs. Ears are typically an easy target for the opposing animal to grab and tear, so this minimized injuries.
Tail docking was also thought to be beneficial to the animal. It was thought to prevent rabies, strengthen the back, and increase the animal’s speed. It was also used to prevent injury such as when the dog was ratting, fighting and baiting. In 17th century England, there was even a tax levied on any working dog whose tail was not docked.
In modern times, these practices still exist sometimes for sport and work, but mostly for aesthetic reasons.
Today, the process of cropping and docking is usually done with a veterinarian, with the puppy merely 7 to 12 weeks. Ear cropping uses a scalpel that removes approximately 70% of the ear pinnae (or the exterior ear). Although it is done under general anesthetic, the procedure is extremely painful after the dog wakes up, as the ear contains many nerve endings.
Docking is can be done many ways. Sometimes a breeder will use a rubber elastic or ring, and tie it tightly to the tail of a puppy, only days old. The tight band cuts off the blood circulation of the tail, causing the remaining tail to atrophy and fall off. The procedure can also be done by a veterinarian with a scalpel. Other times the tail is simply cut off with a knife or trimmers with no anesthesia, and with great pain to the dog.
Both surgeries are unnecessary and are often driven by the need to follow a breed standard and aesthetic.
Although the American Kennel Club say they have no breed standards that require tail docking or ear cropping, in their breed standard description of the Boxer, they note that ‘an undocked tail should be severely penalized.”
With pressure from breeders, most owners agree to have their dogs subject to this, or don’t even have a choice in the matter, without any knowledge of the how it may affect their dogs future interactions with other dogs.
Unlike people, our canine companions cannot communicate with just their voices. Body language also plays a pivotal role in communication.
When meeting new dogs, body language is the key to a great friendship or a dog fight. A dog approaching with erect ears are shown to seem alert, which could also come off as aggressive.
Dog tails have even more communicative responsibility, especially with humans. With a dog tail alone, we can determine whether a dog is happy, afraid, aggressive, curious and tense, based completely off the movement and position of the tail.
The tail also acts for balance, and certain breeds use their tail to their advantage for swimming, running and other activities.
The practice of tail docking and ear cropping is illegal across most countries in Europe, but is still widely practiced in the United States and parts of Canada, with approximately 130,000 puppies in the United States thought to have their ears cropped each year.
So why subject our dogs to such painful and unneeded surgeries? Tradition? Fashion? A breed standard?
Next time you are given the choice, choose natural ears and tails – your future pup will thank you for it.
VIA Wikipedia: Docking (Dog) | Wikipedia: Cropping (animal) | The Record | American Kennel Club | Mercola Healthy Pets | Vet Info | Secrets of a Vet Tech | io9 | Smartliving Network | Dog Law Reporter