All About Dog Shows
Why some AKC Breed Standards call for cropped ears and docked tails and reject the animal rights rhetoric.
HISTORY OF EAR CROPPING & TAIL DOCKING
Fred Lanting, International All-Breeds Judge
At one time, there were good reasons to crop ears and dock tails. That is, to do surgically what could not be done genetically without losing other, desirable features. To minimize injury to tail or ear, breeders of fighting dogs trimmed off as much as possible and as early as they could. Later, when some of these breeds became used for purposes other than fighting wild game or each other, ear and tail “trimming” (partial removal) was done to suit someone’s idea of beauty.
The modern dog is to a great extent a manufactured product. That is, most breeds were developed for specific purposes, or via selective breeding, to suit personal ideas of aesthetics (beauty). Utility has largely taken a back seat today but where certain job functions are the breeders’ primary concerns, physical characteristics such as docked tails or cropped ears are often a result of breeders wanting the extreme rather than overall balance. This has led, over the last couple of centuries, to more differences between breeds than Nature might have developed on its own.
Selection for these desired characteristics have given us such widely diverse body types as the ponderous avalanche dogs, the robust flock guardians, the no-fat coursing hounds, all-weather herding breeds, doggedly-determined rabbit chasers, pointer-setters, and other specialists. Had we continued to let geography, trade caravans, and climate be the determining factors, we would have fewer breeds and less distinction between most of them.
Since Rottweilers and Dobermans were destined from almost the beginning to have docked tails, it is no wonder that once people started letting the tails remain with the dogs, these breeds suddenly were seen to have a wide variety of tail-carriage styles. There are many other breed examples, of course.
In today’s show ring, there is a danger that judges and writers of breed standards will be too hasty in defining what is “proper” tail carriage for breeds that have been exhibited for over a century with very little attention paid to tail stumps. I suggest judges place minimal emphasis on how a natural tail looks until the dust clears years from now.
The same would hold for natural ears, although from what I’ve seen so far, there is less difference in natural ear carriage from one dog to the next within any breed. Perhaps it’s because I saw so many natural ears in Boxers, etc. back in the 1960s as a handler in Canada.
Ear Cropping, Tail Docking, and Animal Rights
As was included in a position paper by the Utah VMA (Resolution 4, reported in JAVMA News, June 15, 2009), “Cosmetic ear cropping and tail docking of dogs has little or no therapeutic basis.” The truth of that statement will sooner or later be universally accepted, whether reluctantly or not, but until it is, I will oppose forced adherence to someone else’s time schedule; compliance should be voluntary.
We should keep the HSUS and PeTa monsters out of our hobbies, homes, and kennels. That will not be easy, as opponents of breed-specific legislation have found: you stomp out one little fire someplace, and half a dozen are lit in other communities.
For another example of fires that will keep popping up, Ohio Senate Bill 95 introduced a few years ago, stated: “No person shall... dock a dog’s tail, crop a dog’s ear, remove a dog’s claws, or debark a dog. [These] shall only be conducted by a licensed veterinarian. No person shall... permit a dog to have more than one litter per calendar year…” You see that the “Buckeyes” (one definition being “a type of useless nut”) are attacking several things that take away liberty while not improving or assuring humane practices.
One common result of passing unjust laws is that the legislators make citizens into criminals (by definition, not by any change in dog folks’ morality or nature). I can almost picture one future scenario: Maybe people will do their own surgery, and say that the dog was born with a short tail, or it never had those rear dewclaws.
An unfortunate by-product of such laws is that some of them rile a certain segment of our dog fraternity, but do not arouse others. We really need to close ranks and help each other. It is depressing to see lack of unity among dog people when we face a common enemy, the denial of our basic rights. The same thing happens with conservatives in national politics, Baptist churches, etc…. they split, argue with each other, and become ineffective when attacked by the true “outsider.” I hope that all who want to preserve our liberties as dog fanciers can call a truce and unite against the common enemies.
Reasons to allow tail docking to continue:
Reasons to allow ear cropping to continue:
Reasons to encourage (not enforce) a voluntary cessation of ear trimming (cropping):
Click for Part Two of Cropping-Docking History which deals with Fact vs. Fancy, myths and comments from around the world.