The ear crop is a cosmetic procedure where the thin outside membrane of the ear is skillfully trimmed away allowing the remaining thick ear trainable to stand. Dobermans are born with a long floppy ear. Cropping it allows it to function like a natural dog ear, able to perk-up, position toward sounds, and lay flat. Unlike other common veterinary procedures, the ear crop requires an artist’s hand. An attractive ear crop is created only when the ear structure, head shape and size, and crop style are all evaluated; and the crop performed by a talented surgeon. If cropper ears are intended for a Doberman, a veterinarian possessing these skills should be chosen prior to bringing home a Doberman puppy, if that puppy’s breeder does not handle the cropping process. For that successful ear crop to stand upright, the Doberman owner must take the meticulous responsibility of caring for the ears after the procedure. This post-crop care mainly includes posting the ears - also referred to as wrapping or taping the ear - in order to stiffen the cartilage, which will allow the Doberman to hold up the ears. Equally, the Doberman owner must keeping the ears clean, dry, and free from injury. Depending on the dog, and the type of crop, the ear training process can take as little as a couple weeks, but can take as long as several months.
The Art of a Correct Ear Crop
Like sculptors, veterinarians that perform the ear crop must be gifted in the art of ear cropping, and their individual skills and abilities vary. They also vary in techniques and preference of cropping age. Some prefer a younger puppy, between eight and nine weeks, when the ear is less developed and not yet accustomed to laying flat. Others prefer a slightly older dog, as old as 12 weeks, when there is a more developed ear allowing more material to work with and a more developed head with which to match the ear. Finding a talented veterinarian is the critical path to a beautiful ear crop. If you intend to own a Doberman puppy, and the breeder you have decided upon does not crop the puppies’ ears, it is wise to find this veterinarian well before a puppy is scheduled for birth. These vets will have pictures of their past work and will help you decide what style of crop to perform. Often quality breeders will crop the ears of the entire litter. This is done because it is difficult to tell exactly how a dog will turn out. The perfect puppy may grow up to reveal a flaw in confirmation while a so-so puppy may mature into the perfect specimen. Also, regardless of the growing popularity of unaltered ears, most Doberman lovers purchasing Doberman puppies from quality breeders desire the cropped ear. There are three general types of Doberman ear crop that should be discussed with your breeder or veterinarian. The show crop is the longest of the crops and the most difficult to train. This type is popular in the show ring for its beautiful long curved shape, often described as “eagle’s wings”. Ears show cropped often take months of training to achieve a tall sturdy stance and are most likely of the three not to stand or to require an additional operation. The working crop, also referred to as the military or pet crop, is performed with utility in mind more than beauty. It is short, shaped like rounded triangles, and is simple to train. The medium crop falls somewhere in between the show and working crop in both length and difficulty training. It has a long curved shape like the show crop and is most popular for its beauty and reasonable training commitment.
Ear Cropping Styles
Military or Working Crop - This ear is relatively short in length and has a wider base (bell). It does not typically take very long to stand.
Medium Crop - This ear is a little longer and has a little less bell.
Show Crop - This ear is the longest and a little narrower than the other two crops.
The Ear Cropping Process
Here at Von Madoc Dobermans we have the puppies' ears cropped at 7 weeks of age. Ear cropping is a three step process. In the first step, the veterinarian after carefully studying both the Doberman’s head and ears, will cut away the thin membranous part of each ear from the base, around the outside, and up to the eventual tip. He will then stitch and dress the seam. The procedure takes less than 30 minutes and is done under anesthesia. Some veterinarians believe in posting and taping the ears up immediately while others prefer to let them hang until the wounds heal. If your veterinarian sends your puppy home without wrappings, keep the stitches clean and dry. We have the entire litter of Doberman puppies cropped, thus saving the new owner the hassle of trying to find a veterinarian to crop their puppy's ears. We keep the puppies until they are 8 weeks old in order to deal with the initial aftercare of the ears. After the cropping process the ears are glued to plastic cups to hold them up until the ear edges heal. we spray the ears daily with Dr. Naylors Blu Kote. It is available for order online or at your local Tractor Supply and at many Hardware stores. We have found this to help with the healing process and it also helps to protect the ear edges against bacterial and fungal infections. The second step continues after 7 to 10 days, once the ear edges have healed the cup is removed. If the cup falls off before this allow the ears to hang until they are fully healed. Once the ear edges are fully healed we are ready for the third step of posting and wrapping (taping) the ears. It is important that the Doberman puppy's owner learn this process. It would become expensive to bring the puppy to the vet every time a re-posting is needed and consistent removal and re-posting is essential for producing a strong standing crop. We lead our new puppy owners through the process of posting and taping and we also provide ear taping and posting supplies for our new puppy owners. After the initial posting and taping the ears should be taken down after 3 days. They should be cleaned and allowed time to dry and then they should be re-taped for one week. They should be untaped once a week, allowed time to dry and be re-taped until they stand. . Take advantage of this time to teach the puppy not to fear the posting and wrapping process. Throughout the day, have the puppy allow you to examine the wrapping. Approach any handling of his ears calmly and confidently, this will transfer into the puppy. Also, if the puppy does become hurt or frightened, you must resist the temptation to coddle him, this will only reinforce any fears he may have. If the wrapping gets wet or begins to emit an unhealthy odor, the wrapping should be removed. Thoroughly clean the ears using an ear cleaning solution, peroxide, or a solution suggested by your vet. Re-wrap as soon as the ears are dry never allowing the ears to lay folded down.
A puppy that scratches at his wrappings will eventually remove them and possibly injure himself in the process. The key to preventing this is training; the key to training is to avoid allow the puppy to experience successful removal of the wrapping. Dobermans are smart. If something proves unsuccessful, they will learn and not try it the same way twice. If the puppy has just had the cropping procedure, the ears are likely sore. There are mild chewable pain piles available with your veterinarian that will help relieve this. Be sure that the puppy does not have any infection. If part of the ear is red, puffy, extra warm, or oozing white or green; this may be the case. If an infection is suspected, see the vet as soon a possible. He will administer antibiotics and possible a topical treatment. Preventing infection is essential. Keep the ear clean and dry. Always replace wrappings and postings if they become loose, wet, soiled, or smelly. If neither of the above cases applies, the puppy is more than likely just annoyed by the wrapping, just as he would with dog clothes. Bones and toys are a good way to keep him distracted. Also effective is playing with him until he is tired enough to go to sleep. If you see him scratching, give a sharp, “NO!” When he stops scratching, praise him. Remember, physical correction at this age, less than six months, is inappropriate and harmful. A sure way to eventually resolve the scratching urge is an effective wrapping. If the wrapping is snug, without areas for the puppy to catch his nails on, he will lean he is in a no-win situation and will accept the wrappings. One way to sure up the postings and wrappings is to add a wrapping under the head. In the Posting and Wrapping Lesson, this step would be performed after the figure ‘8’ wrapping and before the bridge. Simply continue the figure ‘8’ wrapping around the head, creating something like a chin strap. Be careful not to make it too tight. Then build the bridge, standing the ears properly. Another trick is to use different kinds of tape. After you have wrapped everything as usual with strong not-very-sticky tap; use a stick tap over the areas that tend to come unraveled. Duct tap works well, just be sure not to stick it directly to the poor puppy. Dobermans are especially good about wearing their postings and wrappings. If you are having significant trouble, an E-collar may be in order. This is a plastic round sheet which fits as a collar around the puppy’s neck forming a cone. This cone makes it impossible for the puppy to reach his head with his paws but it looks goofy and is also an annoyance to the puppy.
Dobermans puppies are ‘stubborn.’ They tend to protest being held still for any amount of time. But this is just one of the many things they must learn. The hard fighting is only in the beginning. With newly cropped puppies, we always double team them. One person is in charge of holding the puppy with both arms and legs, and steadies the puppy’s head by firmly holding the puppy’s muzzle against his shoulder; usually with the additional assistance of an edge of the sofa. The other person can then dedicate all of his appendages to making a quick and snug wrapping. The key is to meet the puppy’s resistance with an equal amount of force. The more the puppy fights, the tighter you hang on. If you feel him relaxing, still hold on, but not as tight. He will quickly learn. With our puppies, this wrestling match is only necessary the first or second time. Within a week they lean to sit nicely while we fool with their ears. Then they get a treat! One warning: never let the little wiggle worn get away. He will remember this. If he learns escape is possible he will try it again but with a whole new level of energy.
Training a puppy not to scratch is less difficult than it may at first seem. Like any training, the key is consistency, not intensity. When you see the puppy scratching, give a sharp ‘NO!’ When he stops, praise him. A very young puppy may not understand ‘No' so you will need to help him. Give the ‘No’ command and pull the puppy’s paw away, then redirect it to chewing on a toy or a bone, then praise. During the ear cropping age, puppies are also teething, so there should be no shortage of fun things to chew on. What can also help is the use of a mild topical pain reliever, like Bactine spray or Neosporin Plus Pain Relief, or an anti-inflammatory like Cortisone cream.
There are some ways, in addition to wrapping and posting, that will promote standing of the ears. A daily calcium supplement will help build the cartilage as will vitamin C and E. Before administering supplements, a consistent plan should be made with consultation from your veterinarian, and then introduced slowly to avoid an upset tummy. Studies have shown that large breed dogs who are given calcium supplements as puppies are more likely to develop skeletal problems, so Doberman owners should not start a puppy on calcium without consulting their veterinarian. Also beneficial once the ears have healed and are no longer sensitive, is a nice daily ear massage. The stroking and rubbing will promote blood flow and help to train the cartilage. The best promoter of standing ears is a happy stress free puppy. Happy stress free puppies are puppies with owners that start training them in proper behavior early and consistently. Obedience training should not be put on hold in an effort to avoid stressing the puppy. In fact, obedience training is the key to a stress free Doberman puppy and Doberman puppy owner. The training it's self is stimulating and the lessons enable the puppy to properly and effectively communicate his needs and wants, both of which will reduce stress. After wrapping and posting for weeks, the ears stand but then fall down
If you have been wrapping and posting the cropped ears for several weeks or months, they should be showing signs that they intend to stand. If, after removing the wrapping, they stand, you may be finished. However, if within an hour or so they flop down, or especially if they fold over, immediately re-wrap them. During this period in the puppy’s life, they are teething; and Dobermans teeth fast and hard. The pain from teething causes stress, which cycles up and down. The stress can cause the ears to droop when the pain is bad. Once the pain reduces, so will stress and the ears usually come back up. This can happen many times until teething is over. To be safe, keep the ears wrapped until you are sure they are trained. And remember, cropped ears are not supposed to stand all the time, just when the dog wants them to, but they should never fold down with a crease. Cropping returns the natural abilities of the ear that the long and floppiness takes away.