Let’s Break A Tradition

When I visited kennels and attended dog shows within the last few years in Australia, where ear cropping is illegal, as it is the United Kingdom, I met some Miniature Pinscher breeders. I saw the fine quality of the dogs they were producing, the champions they already had, and became more familiar with this breed, as well as seeing for the first time other breeds that had natural ears. This, of course, is all the result of careful breeding, to genetically produce ears that will stand erect and to also have animals that most nearly possess all the other requirements of their breed standards. It is not easy. Those without erect ears must either be sold or placed in homes as pets, or sometimes humanely discarded.

It occurred to me at that time, that , unless some of us were willing to stop cropping ears in the U.S., this traditional rather than required aspect of breeding and showing dogs would continue “ad infinitum,” and we would continue taking our three to six month old puppies to the veterinarians for ear surgery. Thankfully, some of the veterinarians now refuse to crop ears.

If you have ever had the experience of standing beside a surgical table, watching a dog having his ears cropped, I guarantee that your attitude toward the necessity of having this done would change. No none can say that the animals do not suffer, to say nothing about all the taping, bracing, and follow-up procedures that usually must take place.

I do not mean to imply that the breeders who are now cropping ears, either for show or because of tradition, are to be chastised or criticized. They have worked far too hard and are too dedicated. I am merely asking that those of us who feel we can take another approach be willing to take a deeper breath, feel more free, and try to make a break with tradition.

Recently, Miniature Schnauzers and Great Danes finished their American Championships with natural ears. But, until we can get laws passed that are strong enough to completely outlaw ear cropping, or have breed clubs within the American Kennel Club jurisdiction that are willing to consider rewriting the standards pertaining to ears, and help judges become more aware of what an animal can look like with natural ears in the show rings throughout the country, we will probably continue to crop ears of those breeds that could most probably be bred to produce ears that would either stand on their own naturally or droop down attractively, without taping or other assistance.

At Hawaii’s all-breed shows in 1982, we have been presenting Miniature Pinschers with natural ears to the judges. We just finished one bitch, undefeated for six Best of Breeds, and there was at least one entry in each of those shows with cropped ears. “Happy” also finished with four majors! Most of the judges made comments to the owner-handler, such as, “These must all be very young dogs?” “In all the years I have been judging dogs, this is the first time I have ever seen a Miniature Pinscher with natural ears in my ring. I must say, I rather think I like it!” “You are to be congratulated for presenting such fine animals without cropping their ears. As long as you can continue to breed for ears that will stand on their own, why not?”

No judge familiar with breed standards would deny a dog a ribbon because of ear cropping. In fact, there are no disqualifications for not cropping ears in any AKC breed standards.

What we must try to do is to educate and enlighten the novice, to present our breeds in ideal condition while adhering as closely as possible to the total picture most desired to represent that breed, work with our genetics – on paper, through proper line breeding, and in the whelping box – so we can be sure that all facets of our finished product represent the best that is humanly possible to achieve for that breed. For certain, no one can any longer tell us that it is not possible to show dogs without cropped ears.

The next time you are privileged to witness any breed being shown with natural ears, regardless of the breeder, exhibitor, handler or owner, perhaps you might clap a bit louder or take an extra minute to comment to the handler – and to the judge who has shown the determination to follow through with courage to adhere to principles of overall quality, regardless of ears. We have proved that it can be done.

*The F.C.I. revised standard for Miniature Pinschers shows folded ears as preferred ear placement for this breed (August 2000).