Docking or bobbing refers to the cutting of a dog's tail. Cropping refers to the cutting of a dogs ears to give them a pointed appearance. Some argue that this practice is outdated and causes the animal needless pain. There are those that argue the opposite side, as they always do, they say that it serves more that just a cosmetic appearance.
There are also dogs that look like they have had their tails docked and ears cropped. A prime example is the corgi. The small corgi dog is born with a bobbed tail and pointed ear making it look as though it has both procedures done, even though the have not.
History of Tail Docking and Ear Cropping
Tail docking was thought to prevent rabies originally. This, of course, is one of those crazy superstitions. They also believed cutting off the tail would strengthen the back and increase the dog's run speed. In the United Kingdom they once had a tax on dogs that had long tails. This encouraged many people to dock the tails of their dogs just to avoid this silly tax. The tax was repealed in 1796, but the practice was still common place.
A huge part of tail docking was done throughout history and sadly still today because of dog fighting. Tails were prime targets for other dogs when fighting, so it became common practice to dog the tails of their fighting dog to give them an edge.
Ear cropping has a similar history. Dog owners have been cropping dog ears since ancient times. This was done for dogs who guarded livestock or were used as hunting dogs. The ears were a primary target for an animal that could fight back, so they cut them short for the dogs' own safety.
Ear cropping was also done for dogs who were involved in dog fighting. This was done for the same reason as hunting and herding dogs. The cropping of a dog's ears was also thought to improve their hearing because it removed the flap people thought to obstruct hearing. There is no scientific proof to support this, however.
Tail Docking and Ear Cropping in Modern Times
Today both tail docking and ear cropping are done for mostly cosmetic purposes.
Tail docking is still seen to have some useful purposes. Dogs with long, furry tails often have their tails cropped. This primarily happens in dogs that are used for herding or hunting. Thier long fluffy tails are known to collect burrs and other prickly nettles when the dogs are romping around in the bushes. These prickly things are thought to cause the dog injury and can lead to infection. However, dogs are often sensitive about their tails, so when they get burrs in their tails they take the time to pick them out themselves.
Ear cropping still serves no useful purpose other than cosmetics. People who raise show dogs often crop the dogs ears to make them look better. This, however, is only done to show dogs who have a long tradition of having their ears cropped like pitbulls.
Tail Docking and Ear Cropping Disadvantages
Ear cropping has no real disadvantage other than causing unnecessary pain to puppies and the possibility of infection.
Tail docking, however has been theorized to have many more disadvantages than it does advantages. Like ear cropping a disadvantage of this is also causing puppies and adult dogs unnecessary pain as well. However, it has been theorized that certain dogs use their tail as a rudder when they swim. So by cutting a dogs tail off, you put them as a disadvantage when swimming. A dogs tail is also seen to provide balance for a dog when running. This means they are at an disadvantage when racing with other dogs.
It is also believed that dogs use their tail to convey feelings such as happiness, anger, and fear. When they lack thier tail they have a social handicap when dealing with humans or other dogs. A University of Victoria study states that dogs with shorter tails are approached with more caution than dogs with longer tails. This makes dogs with docked tails sort of like social outcasts which can lead to aggression.
How It Is Done
Tail docking can be done two ways. The tail can be removed as a puppy by tying a rubber band like wrap around the tail and shutting off the blood flow. The tail will die and fall off on its own. The other way is for both puppies and adult dogs. The tail is removed surgically with anesthesia. If the puppy is younger than 14 days old, the tail is often remover surgically without anesthesia.
Ear cropping is perform when the puppy is about 7 to 12 weeks old. If this operation is preformed when the puppy is older, the pain will be much more intense and the dog will actually remember the pain. When the ear is cropped, two thirds of the ear is removed so that it comes to a point. The ear is then stitched up on the sides. This practice is not taught in veterinary school, so vets have to learn by doing. So every time you take your dog in to have its ears cropped there s a small chance you are having it done by someone who has never done it before.
Tail Docking and Ear Cropping Legality
Many places consider both ear cropping and tail docking to be animal cruelty as it is only done for cosmetic purposes.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) states that ear cropping is legal when done to promote good health or to preserve the appearance of the the breed. This makes ear cropping legal in most of the United States. However, it is illegal in most parts of Europe and some Canadian provinces.
Tail docking is also illegal in most countries in Europe. Both tail docking and ear cropping are made illegal in Europe under the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. However, some countries that have signed this charter edited it to allow tail docking. While this practice is banned throughout most of the world, it continues to be unrestricted in the United States.