To Crop or Not My Schnauzer’s Ears?
One of the really difficult decisions for many Schnauzer owners relates to ear cropping. I see many discussions online about ear cropping, and many times these discussions can get quite heated. People seem to have very strong opinions on the topic, and so I have written my thoughts in an effort to help owners and future puppy owners make this decision. Originally, ear cropping was done on “working” dogs such as terriers or hunting dogs, to save their ears from being injured while they were working. The practice of cropping ears has continued, because many dog fanciers feel that the cropped ears complete the look of the dog. Today, cropped ears are no longer a requirement by the Schnauzer Club or by AKC in the show ring, and so many people are questioning the need for ear cropping; The aspect of animal cruelty comes into play, and many argue that there is no medical, physical, environmental or cosmetic advantage for the dog to have the pinnas (ear flaps) surgically altered. They claim to subject any dog to “disfiguring” and an unnecessary surgical procedure, subsequent taping, and bandaging after the surgery, amounts to animal cruelty and is indefensible. Others will argue that for some breeds, the cropped ear will help prevent ear canal infections, and make the opportunity for ear trauma and infection much less likely. They will state that the ear cropping is no different philosophically or ethically than any elective surgery such as spaying, neutering, or removing protruding dew claws.
Miniature Schnauzers have cute little ears, and my personal preference is the natural or “Floppy Ears”. If the ears are left un-cropped, they are v-shaped and will fold close to the skull. Many Schnauzer owners like this look on the dog, and feel it gives them a cute natural appearance. However, oftentimes pups ears will start to rise when they cut their adult teeth at 6 months of age. Sometimes you wind up with a pup whose ears stand straight up in the air. Such was the case with our 6 pound Teacup male, Max, whose ears were 4 inches long. Because his ears were so long, it took away from his appearance. Those 4 inch ears on our little 6 pound dog made our Max look like a South Texas Jack Rabbit. So, we made the decision to have his ears cropped. If you prefer the natural ear, and your pups ears do start to rise up when they are cutting teeth, there are many good articles on “ear taping”. My personal favorite ear taping article can be found on the Cymro Kennel Internet site at:
http://www.cymro-welsh.com/ears.html Once all the adult teeth are in, (about 6 months of age), the cartilage in the ears hardens to the point that they really can’t be changed. If the ears are going to be cropped, they should look identical in length and shape with pointed tips that stand straight up. Many breeders will have their Mini Schnauzer’s ears cropped before they sell them to make sure the procedure is done, and done correctly. It is important to understand, that ear cropping is surgery, and all surgeries should be done by a licensed veterinarian. Some breeders will attempt to crop a pup’s ears when they are newly born. They are not anesthetizing the pup, but only applying a local (Lidocaine) to the outside of the ear. This is not a painless procedure, and can lead to an unflattering and sometimes lop-sided result. The breeder may tell you they are trying to save you, the new owner, money; however, if the result is less than flattering there is little that can be done to fix the problem. Many make the argument that ear cropping is a cruel surgery. It is however, a COSMETIC surgery performed while the pup is asleep. I highly recommended you search out a referral from other Schnauzer and Doberman owners to find a veterinarian with experience in cropping ears. Ear cropping is an art, and not all vets do a great job. Like sculptors, veterinarians that perform the ear crop must be gifted in the “art”, and their individual skills and abilities vary. Even though it is a surgical skill, some do them more as an artistic masterpiece than just routine surgery. They also vary in techniques, and preference of cropping age. So finding a talented veterinarian is the critical path to a beautiful ear crop. If you look at the many different ear crops from different Vets, you will notice that the less experienced vet will leave too much ”bell” on the ear. The “Bell” is the bottom part of the ear which basically bells out if too much is left. Many more experienced Vets will actually fold the bell over at the bottom and stitch it down. This makes for a much tighter, tapered, & cleaner ear. The ears should taper nicely, and should also match the head and size of the Schnauzer. There are three general types of Schnauzer ear crops that should be discussed with your vet; the Utility Crop, Triangular Crop, and Show Crop. Which ever crop is chosen, the ears should be symmetrical, stand evenly on the head, and be easy for the dog to control. The shortest crop is referred to as the “Working Crop, “Military Crop”, or “Utility Crop”. This crop is used for dogs that will be in the working fields, and do not need the extra ear to become torn, injured, or in the way. This is the most common ear cut used by breeders who cut a pup’s ears in the first 8 weeks of life. These crops take nearly nothing to train to stand on their own, unlike the longer crops. The ear fold is not stitched at the bottom, and so when looking at the dog head on, you see a LOT of the inside of the dog’s ear. The Standard Ear, Medium Crop, or Triangular Crop, is used for the companion and pet quality pups. It is also easier than the longer show crop to train to stand normally. This crop is in-between the utility and show crops. The medium crop is more versatile, and is used when a more elegant look is desired by leaving a little more length, yet not compromising the swifter ability to stand without repeated tapings for the companion owner.
The Show Crop is the longest and daintier crop. This type is popular in the show ring for its beautiful long curved shape, which is often described as “eagle’s wings”. The Show Crop is the most popular choice. It leaves most ear intact and is a long, nearly tear-drop shaped crop that tapers to a point at the top of the ear. Although it is the hardest crop to make stand, the Show Crop is the style most owner’s select. We have been very blessed to have the same Veterinarian for many years. Our vet does the ear crops “Freehand” (not using an ear mold) and is thereby able to custom match the crop with the size, placement, and the structure of the pup’s head.Ultimately, it is up to each owner to make the decision to have his puppies ears cropped or left natural. No matter where you stand, it is important to consider both sides of the issue before making a decision. In my opinion, neither argument is “right” or “wrong”. If you do decide to crop, and are prepared for the aftercare, then by all means find an experienced vet. If like us, you choose to keep those adorable floppy ears, ENJOY them as well. But, whichever you choose, just be sure to practice regular ear maintenance and cleaning.