When it comes to taking care of pets, people have different customs as to what they feel are right or wrong. One of the more controversial methods regarding dog breeding are the subjects of tail docking and ear cropping. Are these practices necessary, or just downright cruel? Before tone can go into the pros and cons of the subject, what exactly are we talking about?
Tail docking is a surgical procedure where the removal of the puppy’s tail is done for cosmetic purposes, generally, within the first week after birth. The procedure is performed by placing a tight rubber band around the tail, which then cuts of the blood supply and the remainder of the unwanted tail, can be snipped off using a scissors. The major reason that veterinarians or breeders would perform such a custom is strictly for aesthetic purposes. These are the standards set for the breed. Many of those who are opposed to this practice claim that not only is it totally unnecessary, but it can compromise a dog. For example, dogs use their tails to communicate with other dogs and humans.
With that being said, is a tail the most effective form of a communication of your pets? The positioning of the tail can tell everybody when the animal is anxious or happy for example. Depending upon the direction that the tail is wagging, it can indicate whether it is showing happiness of anger or trepidation. For those who did not realize, but the tail is actually an extension of the dog’s backbone. So while there are many different sizes and lengths, they are all made up of bones and muscles that work in unison while the tail wags. Lastly, the tendons allow the dog to move its tail in any direction and even control the tip separately from the rest. That being said, if the tail is an extension of the dog’s backbone, it would indicate to us that it is really an actually important body part that shouldn’t just be cut off.
For those of you who would assume that the dog doesn’t feel any pain when the tail is removed, that seems a little far-fetched. We are talking about removing a body part. Would it hurt if we removed any of your appendages? Many supporters of the practice argue that the pain is sometimes short-lived. However, the opposition argues that not only is it not so short lived, but it can continue well after the tail has healed. To explain this more simply, there are various sets of nerves in the tail, and breeders don’t even anesthetize the dog before doing the operation. This seems a little rough.
Going back to the topic of what a dog uses his tail for, because it is an extension of its backbone, it also provides balance when running and swimming and, when he wags it, the tail releases his scent so other animals can know he’s there! The more dominant the dog, the higher he will raise his tail to spread his scent. If that’s the case, then cutting the tail off is a major part of the dog’s identity. Perhaps, the caveat to this, is if you are domesticating the animal, and he won’t be doing any sort of hunting, then why would he need to be dominant?
Long story short, the removal of a dog’s tail is not only physically painful, but the breeder is inflicting the animal’s personality and potential connection with its owner. Some argue tail docking was once necessary due to dogs working in areas where the tail could get caught, but most dogs are companion animals today and are not used for hunting or any other on the job tasks. Therefore, it is purely a cosmetic change even for breeds, which traditionally have had their tails docked more than most.
Ear cropping is the removal of the external visible or the floppy flap of the animal’s ears. With dogs it is usually done under anesthesia up to the age of three months after birth. The breeder or veterinarian will tape the ears to a hard surface for several weeks while they heal so they stay upright. Like anything in life, different breeds have different shapes and sizes for their ears. Some owners think it is a good idea to ear crop their pet to obtain a more aesthetic or desirable appearance. Many others also contend that this could either help the animal hear better or prevent it from being bitten. Some of the more common breeds that this tends to occur with are Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Great Danes, and Schnauzers.
One of the main arguments by those opposed to the tradition is that they consider ear cropping to
be nothing more than forced mutilation so that poorly informed owners can make their dog what they deem to be prettier or fiercer. Who wouldn’t want to have the prettiest dog at the dog park? Is it true though that floppy, natural ears are prone to infection? It seems hard to believe that dogs wouldn’t be designed in such a way that they are automatically going to have health issues. In fact, research suggests that ear shape has little effect on the risk of a dog getting an infection. A great majority of dogs never contract one at all. The ones who do get the most infections are poodles and spaniels, breeds whose ears typically aren’t cropped anyway.
After reviewing all of this, it seems that those who side with the cutters think that there is a major aesthetic advantage to performing the procedures on the young pups. To counter that, many animal rights activists and others see this as pure animal cruelty. Some say that it is short and some say that it has much more long-term effects on the animal. Often times, these procedures are done long before an owner even gets to see a potential pup by the dog’s breeder. All in all, it appears that it may actually be more cruel than necessary, but it doesn’t appear that the custom will be ending anytime soon.