Getting a doberman: Understanding what is dog ear cropping, why do dogs get their ears cropped and their tails docked?

Doberman pinschers are beautiful, highly intelligent dogs.

The Doberman pinscher traits and characteristics mean that this medium-sized dog breed makes a good family dog that can bond well with young children, especially if the dogs are socialized from an early age. Furthermore, Dobermans make a very good family protector that has, for a large part, been portrayed in an overly aggressive negative light.

doberman relaxing with a tennis ball

Dobermans have a distinctive aggressive-cliched appearance that presents the Doberman with pointed ears (cropped ears) and no tail (docked tail). This is not the Doberman’s natural appearance. The suggested reasons for this appearance, according to various sources, is as a result of a combination of aesthetic cosmetic preference by the dog’s owner and functionality requirements in the performance of the Doberman’s role as a security dog.

With regard to the Doberman’s ear cropping and tail docking, there is an on-going argument with two camps holding two different opinions to the argument. The anti-ear cropping camp believes that dog-ear cropping and tail docking are inhumane and unethical, and the pro-ear cropping camp believes that it is freedom of expression and functionality requirements.

On the side of ear cropping and tail docking, they argue that in nature, no dogs have naturally flapping ears, and human breeding has caused genetics to morph dog ears into unnecessarily long, floppy ears.

The natural traits and intelligence of the Doberman pinscher

Dobermans are athletic, and, most importantly, their natural instinct is to be protective of their humans. These are just some of the attributes of the breed that I have personally begun to appreciate.

Doberman jumping over the waterway

Not only do they take well to training, but Dobermans are also in the top five of intelligent dog breeds. Furthermore, they are fearless and fierce, making them have the perfect attributes to serve as guard dogs and military dogs.

I remember watching a film when I was a teenager about how a human couple trained a pack of Dobermans to rob a bank. The movie is called the Doberman Gang, and the full movie can be seen below.

I know training a dog to rob a bank does not serve as the perfect way to portray a dog in a good light; however, what I think the film tries to do is emphasize the intelligent capabilities of the Doberman breed.

Strange? Yes, the movie depicts a pack of Dobermans that are trained from an early age, which is also another key requirement in keeping a Doberman. All Dobermans should be trained from an early age.

The storyline of the film sees the pack of Dobermans able to carry out the operation smoothly. I know it is only fiction, but what you should bear in mind is that these dogs were actually acting. Not just one, but a pack of Dobermans.

I urge you to try and consider how the dogs will have had to be trained to an extent where they can convincingly fulfill the requirements of the movie. In my opinion, I think the 1972 movie Doberman Gang aims to illustrate how smart and capable Dobermans are.

My decision to get a Doberman pinscher, and what I didn’t know about what is dog ear cropping

That being said, I told my older brother about my desire to get a dog. My older brother, like my younger brother, has had a dog before. A Staff breed, Shystie. Yea. Really sweet dog, very protective and loving, but ready to switch into a protector when he sensed a threat.

I told my brother that I was considering getting a Doberman. He said it wasn’t a bad idea, and questioned if I was sure I was ready for a Doberman.  He then informed me that cropping the ears and docking the tail is illegal in the UK. My response?– Is it? I was baffled. I didn’t know this. I actually thought that the cropped ears were a natural standard look for Dobermans. I never for one second thought that it was a cosmetic treatment.

doberman with pointed ears

Nope, you’re not allowed to do that anymore in the UK, my brother stated. It’s inhumane, and it’s seen as cruelty to animals. My jaw dropped, and my mouth opened wide. This was news to me. I was under the impression that it was normal for the Doberman to look the way they did and soon realized that the typical, unnatural look of a cropped ear Doberman is the way we’ve become accustomed to seeing Dobermans. Ears, pointing upwards, and a short tail.

On hearing this news, I thought that pointy ears and short tail are the characteristics that I’ve always associated with Dobermans, and anything else would not be the authoritative-looking Doberman that I know and admire. This news that my brother presented me with began to bug my curiosity and geared me into taking action to learn about the facts of the matter.

The first thing I learned was that the correct terminology for the tail shortening is docked, and the ear cutting is cropped,  Therefore I will recognize the use of these terms going forward.

The pro-dog-ear cropping side of the argument

The opinion of the pro-cropping side of the argument camp goes on to add that Dobermans are essentially protector dogs and were bred for the purpose of protecting their original breeder Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, who was a tax collector and manager of the local dog pound. Hmmm, ok, so this guy Mr. Doberman thought, how can I protect my cash stash and make sure I get paid on time? I know, Mr. Doberman thought to himself, I’ll create a breed of dogs to help me. Smart thinking. The dog breed is named after Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, so his legacy gets to live on through the Doberman breed. Thanks. I digress; back to the topic.

doberman after ear cropping

So, the pro cropping camp argues that the Dobermans are protector dogs by nature, and the Doberman ear cropping and tail docking gives them the intimidating look that acts as a deterrent to a would-be trespasser, invader, and trouble makers. Dobermans can look extremely intimidating; firstly because of their size, secondly, they just have a very aggressive look when their ears are cropped.

The argument presented for ear cropping and tail docking on the UK Dobermans website, says that the Dobermann shouldn’t look pretty and cute. My opinion and response to this is, I think they’re inferring to save that pretty and cute look for the poodle or the Yorkshire terrier, right?

Well, if I’m totally honest, and this is just an idea, let’s imagine the Dobie appeared too soft, mushy, and cute, but you know when it’s time to get to action the Dobie will switch on like a lightbulb when the protector instinct within it kicks in. I’m just saying; it may be a good thing to be understated and unassuming. With that being said, the uncropped and undocked Dobermans look nothing like their docked tail and cropped ear counterparts. It’s like two totally different breeds.

natural looking doberman

The for ear cropping point of view found on believes that cropped ears and docked tails give the dog an advantage when confronted with an attacker as there’s less for the perpetrator to grab hold of.  They also state that when the ears are erect, they’re able to locate the source of sound more accurately than a dog with a dropped ear. My response is, “let’s see science.”

From the Doberman Pinscher Club of America site, they also present what seems like valid reasons for Doberman to have their tails docked. The reasons seem to be sensible and reasonable.

A docked tail was an important characteristic of the Doberman because the tail represents a “body part” that can be easily and readily injured.Injury can happen by accident, such as knocking it against hard surfaces or getting it caught between surfaces (doors, windows, car doors) which can cause bruising, hematomas (pockets of blood), sloughing off of hair and tissue, gangrene and terrible fractures of the vertebra requiring major reparative surgery to treat and even save the tail.


 The legal status of tail docking by European countries

 The legal status of tail docking by European countries


Security and guard dogs should have their ears cropped and tails docked. See video below

The video below depicts working Doberman dogs, and the trainer mentions the reasons for docking the ears and cropping the tails. The trainer goes on to advise that ear cropping and tail docking are not things that he will do for show purposes, and the docking and cropping are performed simply for the guard work that the Doberman performs.

He states that when uncropped working Dobermas work, their ears hit their face, causing the end of the ears to blister and become infected, which eventually becomes a problem. The trainer also goes on to state that a Doberman’s tail never recovers once it’s blistered. This then means that the dog has to have on-going antibiotic treatment. The trainer goes as far as saying that he will never work with a Doberman that hasn’t had its tail and ears cropped because of the amount of pain that the dog is forced to endure from the blisters and infection.


The against dog-ear cropping and dog-tail docking side of the argument

The anti-ear cropping and tail docking camp argue that tail docking and ear cropping are inhumane and cruel. Dogs Best Life claims that these acts are usually performed for cosmetic purposes alone. The against tail docking camp believe that a dog’s tail is a part of the body of a dog that allows communication signals, like excitement, fear, playfulness, etc., and argue that a lack of a tail can cause mixed communication signals. Furthermore, scientific studies prove that dogs do need their tails for balance and support. The ear cropping process is a pretty gruesome process, especially if performed by unskilled hands or by a back street breeder.  Now, imagine being a puppy, between the ages of even to fourteen weeks old, going through the process of having its ears snipped.

a veterinarian, starts cutting away, starting at the base of your ear, working his or her way to the tip.

Ouch, that does sound painful. There are a lot more steps to the process, but that is just the start, and that was enough to make me wince. The manner in which the against dog-ear cropping argument presents their case makes me consider whether ear cropping and tail docking are essential, as it works out that tail docking was started during a time when dogs were work animals, or when dogs were used for fighting.

It would have been done so that a dog’s tail wouldn’t get caught in machinery or wouldn’t be latched onto by other dogs when in a fight. Tails were also docked to reduce the possibility of rabies. I don’t know how docking a tail could prevent rabies. Nevertheless, that was in a period when we didn’t have as much information to make informed decisions as we do today.

Why do dogs get their ears cropped and tails docked: Weighing up both sides of the argument.

So I guess both sides of the for and against ear cropping make points to the argument that should be considered. However, wannabe Doberman owners should note that tail docking was banned in Europe in 1998.

woman playfully holding up the ears of a doberman

This fact is presented in a review that explores the laws and welfare aspects of Tail docking and ear cropping in dogs in Europe and Turkey. the report goes on to add that:

In Europe, the cropping of ears is prohibited in all countries that have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. Some countries that ratified the convention made exceptions for tail docking. Tail docking has been banned completely in a number of countries including the Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Cyprus, Scotland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Finland, Italy, Germany, Poland and Slovenia etc. . In France, Hungary, Portugal and Serbia, it is still permitted.


Surgical operations that change the physical appearance of dogs along with other non-therapeutic procedures of tail-docking and ear cropping are banned. However, the procedure is only permitted to be performed by a professional on the grounds of health benefit to the Doberman. The procedure will also have had to be approved by a veterinarian.

In this day and age, we have pet health insurance that will protect a dog in the eventuality that the dog had an accident that affected its tail. For this reason, I am personally against the need to have a dog’s tail docked for no valid reason, although I do appreciate that a guard dog or protection dog could serve its role better by not having body parts that an intruder or trespasser can easily grab hold of.

The actual state of dog ear cropping and dog tail docking

According to a telegraph article in 2018, in the UK, there was a reported 157 percent increase in reports of dogs having their ears cropped despite the practice being illegal in the united kingdom.

Doberman with tapped cropped ears

In my opinion, I think that getting the ears of a Doberman cropped is not that important.  Dobermans have a look that I’ve grown accustomed to; however, I also think that Dobermans are naturally beautiful dogs. The unnecessary pain and trauma that cropping and docking can have on a puppy make me less inclined to want to follow this route with my Doberman.

There is also the possibility of fatality from the anesthesia from surgery. I do like the look of a cropped and cropped Doberman, but I wouldn’t be fussed by owning a Doberman that hadn’t had its ears cropped or tails docked.

Short-coated Black and Brown Dog on Brown Grass Field

The more I learn about the Doberman breed, the more I seem keen I am to get one. Yes certainly undocked and uncropped Dobies look completely different from their docked and cropped counterparts, but I’m certain that the spirit of the Doberman lives in all Dobermans, no matter how pretty or intimidating, cute or mushy they look.

Dobermans dogs are very intelligent, energetic protectors, and surgery doesn’t take away from this. In the case of injury and the need for the cropped ears or tail docking, I hope the need will never arise, but if the need for surgical docking or cropping was required, then pet health insurance will serve its purpose. I also wrote about the cost of owning a dog where I talked about having a stash of cash put away for a rainy day, because you may never know when it will be required.

Final Thoughts

So to round up, have I changed my mind about the breed of dog that I want? Nope, I think that I’m even more swayed toward the Doberman because it doesn’t have to have an overly aggressive look. It will always maintain its innate characteristics.

Secondly, will I be cropping or docking? Nope. Firstly because it’s illegal in the UK, secondly I don’t mind getting a dog that looks mushy and cute while still possessing the necessary qualities to protect me and mine. A Doberman will be a Doberman, no matter whether it has cosmetic modifications or not.


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