Archie the pitbull terrier enjoying his armchair

Ear cropping in dogs

What is ear cropping?

A dog with cropped (or docked) ears has gone through an unnecessary surgery to change or remove their ears. It’s very painful and involves a dog’s outer ears being cut off or removed completely. It usually takes place when a puppy is between six and 12 weeks old.

Ear cropping or ear docking serves no purpose for the dog and is purely about looks! It’s particularly popular in breeds such as dobermans, cane corsos and the American bully. 

Archie the pitbull playing with a kong on sofa
Archie, who has cropped ears, eating from a toy

Is ear cropping illegal in the UK?

Ear cropping, in whole or in part, is illegal in England and Wales under section five of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Because it’s illegal, it’s impossible to guarantee if dogs who have had it done had basic vet care or pain relief to minimise suffering.

More on the laws all dog owners should know.

Is cropping a dog’s ears illegal in other countries?

Sadly, ear cropping is not illegal in many overseas countries. If you see a dog with cropped ears, it may have had its ears cropped abroad or been imported. But this makes it no less cruel. These pets will still have had to undergo very painful surgery and an uncomfortable recovery, all for aesthetic reasons.

Why do people crop their dog's ears?

People who crop their dog’s ears do it for because they think it looks more ‘fierce’ or ‘cool’. There’s no evidence of any benefits following the surgery. In fact, we’ve listed some of the long-term effects below.

Why is ear cropping cruel and are there long-term effects?


Dogs communicate and express emotion with their ears. By having their ears cropped they are no longer able to do this effectively. Other dogs can also find it hard to understand how the dog might be feeling. In some cases, this could lead to problematic behaviour developing.

Risks of surgery

Like any surgery, there are risks. Ear cropping can lead to infections and blood loss.

Pain and discomfort

Any dog with cropped ears will have experienced pain and distress, as well as a potentially uncomfortable recovery.

Trauma at a young age

Ear cropping usually takes place when a puppy is around six to 12 weeks old. At this young age, a puppy’s brain is still developing, and they are getting used to new experiences in the world. This means that a puppy can be permanently affected by a traumatic event, such as an unnecessary and painful surgery. 

Is ear cropping ever OK?

No. Ear cropping is never OK and there are no health benefits to dogs.

It’s sometimes necessary for vets to perform surgery to remove part or all of an ear flap as a result of trauma or a tumour, but this is always done under general anaesthesia and with full pain relief. 

Help end suffering from ear cropping

A petition to stop the rising number of ear-cropped dogs in the UK (which is open until 21 August 2021) has now reached over one hundred thousand signatures.

We support the government’s stated intention, in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare, to “prioritise the health and welfare of dogs by prohibiting the importation and non-commercial movement of dogs into Great Britain that have been subject to low welfare practices, such as ear cropping” and we’ll be urging them to bring forward proposals as soon as possible.

More on our campaigns.

— Page last updated 30/01/2023