Pitbull Ear Cropping: Should You Crop Your Pitbull’s Ears?

Pitbull ear cropping should you crop your Pitbull’s ears

Ear cropping is a type of cosmetic surgery performed on Pitbull puppies where a part of the ears are cut and shaped so they stand erect.  

This is a popular procedure, performed not just on a Pitbull but also on other dog breeds. But despite being a common practice, ear cropping generates a lot of controversies.

Some Pitbull owners believe cropped ears are necessary for the animal’s health while other owners think it’s a cruel practice that shouldn’t be done at all. 

If you’re contemplating ear clipping for your Pitbull, make sure to check this article. I talk about the procedure in-depth, how much it costs, and the pros and cons of this common but unique practice.

What Is Pitbull Ear Cropping?

Pitbull ear cropping involves cutting the floppy part of the ears, called the pinna, with the goal of having the ears stand erect once it heals. This surgical procedure is often done by a veterinarian on Pitbull puppies between 8 and 12 weeks old.

The practice of ear cropping has been around since Roman times. Back then, the Romans would cut off a portion of the dog’s ears to prevent it from being ripped apart during hunting, fighting, or battle.

Why Do People Crop Pitbull Ears?

There are a lot of reasons why owners or even breeders would choose to crop their Pitbulls ears. Some will say it’s a personal preference, others might cite health reasons or some people would say because it’s considered a breed standard.

But, the majority of those who go for ear cropping do so because it is aesthetically pleasing. For many, a Pitbull with erect ears enhances the dog’s angular, boxy face.

There are also owners who like the shape of the ears when it’s level with the top of the head instead of flopping on the sides because it makes the dog look more aggressive and ferocious.

Healthwise, there are claims that clipping Pitbull ears will prevent ear infections and even allow the animal to hear better.

Is Pitbull Ear Cropping Legal?

In the United States, yes, Pitbull ear cropping is legal. However, there are a handful of states that have strict guidelines against the procedure.

Connecticut, Maine, Illinois, Maryland, and New Hampshire all have strict regulations or completely ban the practice. Both Pennsylvania and Massachusetts require only licensed veterinarians to perform the procedure.

Plus, the dog must be under general anesthesia. In Washington state, ear cropping is legal provided it is done with “accepted husbandry practices.” 

Across the world, several countries have an outright ban against ear cropping. These include Australia, most Scandinavian countries, the UK, as well as New Zealand. Some parts of Canada, like British Columbia, also deem the practice as illegal.

Are There Health Benefits to Pitbull Clipped Ears?

Pitbull with clipped ears running on thick snow

The answer to this is tricky because some believe ear cropping has health benefits, while others say it’s purely a cosmetic procedure with no health benefits to the animal at all.

According to those that believe in the practice, having Pitbull ears cropped will prevent ear infections.

Normally, Pitbull’s ears are loose and floppy which prevents proper air ventilation. This lack of ventilation traps a lot of moisture, resulting in ear infections. Thus, the argument is that by having the ears clipped, proper ventilation to the ears is provided which then keeps bacteria away.

It’s a sound argument, but this reasoning doesn’t sit well with some people, including the American Veterinary Medical Association.

According to them, a predisposition to ear infection is determined by breed, not by erect ears. As proof, they cite that the German Shepherd is one of those breeds prone to ear infections, and they naturally have erect ears. 

Aside from possibly preventing ear infections, another health benefit cited by those who believe in ear cropping is that it helps improve hearing.

Because there’s no flap of skin covering the ears, sound travels directly to the eardrums, allowing the animal to hear better. However, as of now, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

Those against the ear cropping practice counter that some of the best guard dogs, like the Rottweiler, have floppy ears and can hear just fine without an ear crop. 

As you can see, the health benefits of ear clipping is a touchy subject where there’s always two sides to the story. I would suggest doing your own research about the health benefits to determine whether the procedure will be worth it, healthwise, for your animal.

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Why Is Pitbull Ear Cropping Controversial? 

Pitbull ear cropping is controversial because many see it as nothing but a cosmetic procedure with no valid benefits to the animal at all. For many animal rights activists and certain dog owners, getting clipped ears for your Pitbull is equal to animal cruelty. 

Pitbull ear clipping is a painful surgery. Even if the puppy is placed under anesthesia, the healing process will place a lot of stress on the animal as well as put them at risk for infections.

Instead of helping, many of those against the practice see the procedure as a danger to the animal’s health instead.

Another layer that adds to the controversy is that prominent kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC) stand by the practice saying it is a part of the tradition. According to them, it is “integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health”  of the animal. 

The Process – How Are Pitbull Ears Cropped?

Ear cropping is normally done on puppies between 8 and 12 weeks old. The surgery starts with the puppy being placed under anesthesia. Then the ears are cleaned to make sure it’s sterile. Afterward, measurements are taken based on the chosen crop style and the parts to be cut off are marked.

There are four types of Pitbull ear crop styles that owners can choose from. These are the show crop, long crop, battle crop, or short crop. Owners usually pick a style they like ahead of time.

The veterinarian will make the cuts needed, double-check it is exact, and once done, the wounds are stitched up to heal. The area is disinfected then wrapped up in bandages. 

The ears need to be wrapped correctly to help the ears stand erect as it heals. Some vets may recommend the bandages be placed only after the wounds have healed. Throughout the healing process, antibiotics and pain medication is given to the puppy to keep away infection. 

Owners can opt to have their puppy stay in the hospital for the duration of the healing or bring them home right after the procedure. The surgery takes only 30 to 45 minutes but the healing process will take about 10 to 14 days if there are no complications.

If the owners choose to bring the puppy home after surgery, the veterinarian will usually give detailed instructions on what they need to do to care for the surgery site.

They would also provide any medication the animal might need. Scheduled follow-ups are also arranged to make sure the ear is healing according to the desired shape or crop style chosen by the owner.

Choosing an Ear Crop Style (With Photos) 

There are four general ear crop styles: the long crop, the battle crop, the show crop, and the short crop. Here’s a video explaining all the different ear cropping styles for Pitbulls.

Ear cropping styles for Pitbulls!

The Battle Crop

The shortest out of all the styles, this type of crop lets the ear sit super close to the head. It’s a favorite for American Bully and Pitbull fans because it creates an aggressive look to the already tough breed.

The problem with opting for this ear cut style though is it makes the dog more prone to infections. What’s more, there’s a chance the ear will lay flat instead of standing erect on top of the head. 

Below are two examples of battle crops. This first one is done on an adult Pitbull. From the front, you can barely see the ears.

Here’s the second one on a puppy. This cut looks similar to the short crop but even shorter.  

The Short Crop

This type of cut is the middle-version of the battle crop and show crop. It allows a tiny amount of ear to poke out on the dog’s head.

The short crop is the chosen cut for most American Bully owners because the ear cut style goes well with the wide head of the breed.

The Show Crop

This type of Pitbull ear crop is considered a favorite among Pitbull owners because this ear cut style has one of the best chances of producing erect ears. If the ears are cut too short or too long, there’s a strong possibility it won’t remain upright after it heals.

This gorgeous Pittie sports the show crop style. This type of cut leaves the ears still pointed but it’s not as long as the long crop.

Here’s another Pitbull showcasing the show crop. The cut enhances the blocky head shape of the breed while giving them a more ferocious look.

The Long Crop

The long crop is a type of ear cut that leaves a huge portion of the ears intact. However, it is shaped to create an elongated design. When done right, the long crop provides a good balance between the dog’s face and the ears. 

Here’s an example of a brown Pitbull with long cropped ears. From the front, you can see that the ears create a pointed triangle shape. 

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Pros and Cons of Pitbull Ear Cropping 

Like anything, there are pros and cons to every decision. It’s no different when you’re deciding to get your Pitbull ears cropped.

If you’re trying to make a decision, I’ve created quick pros and cons comparison to help you assess whether ear cropping is right for you and your animal.

Pros

  • It looks great on a Pitbull. While floppy and natural ears are beautiful on their own, the cropped ear look goes well with the breed’s angular and blocky face.  
  • Cropped or cut ears are often considered the breed standard, not just in Pitbulls but also in other breeds. If the animal competes in a show, it gives them a good chance of winning where traditional looks and form are favored.  
  • It’s been a tradition for many dog owners. Controversial as it might be, ear cropping is so ingrained in the tradition that Pitbulls and other breeds often look unrecognizable without clipped ears.
  • While some would question this as an advantage, many would argue that getting an ear clip is good for your animal’s health.

Cons

  • It’s extremely painful and stressful for the animal. It’s not just the actual procedure but the healing time that causes pain and stress. Throughout the healing period, the puppy would be required to wear an Elizabethan collar which is uncomfortable. Plus, their ears need to be taped a certain way to ensure the surgery results in erect ears.
  • There’s no definitive scientific proof that cropped ears have any health benefits at all.
  • When people see a dog with cropped ears, the immediate stigma is that they’re fighting dogs.
  • Because cropping is usually done on puppies, there’s a possibility the puppy could have adverse reactions to the anesthesia. Some dog owners have lost their animals as a result of this complication.
  • A good cropped ear from a great veterinarian can cost a lot of money, going upwards of $800. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

White Pitbull with cropped ears sitting in a car

What Age Should Pitbull Ears Be Cropped? 

There’s no age limit to when Pitbull ears should be cropped. Truth is, the procedure can be done on the animal at any age. The only reason why the surgery is recommended to be performed on a puppy is to prevent trauma and excessive pain. 

The older the Pitbull, the thicker their ear cartilage gets, so they will experience more pain from the surgery than a puppy. If you intend to get your dog’s ears cropped, it’s best to get it while they are between 8 and 12 weeks old.  

How Much Does it Cost to Crop Pitbull Ears?

Prices for Pitbull ear cropping runs between $150 to $800. It can go higher depending on the veterinarian. The average price though is around $250. This amount should include anesthesia, the procedure itself, aftercare medication, and any follow-up visit.

It’s important to understand that just because you’re paying a higher price for the surgery doesn’t mean it will turn out better. It’s always important to do your research and go with a veterinarian with the most experience.

Can I Crop My Pitbull’s Ears Myself?

Depending on where you live and what the laws are in your area against ear cropping, it is possible to crop Pitbull’s ears yourself. However, I would strongly advise against it.

For one, anesthesia is required to ensure your dog doesn’t endure extreme pain during the process. It’s simply safer and more humane to take the animal to a registered veterinarian if you are dedicated to getting its ears cropped. 

If you do it yourself, there’s a possibility the procedure could result in unnecessary pain or worse, the wound could develop infections that might put the dog’s life in danger.

How Long Does Ear Cropping Take to Heal?

It takes between 10 and 14 days for the cut ears to heal. Sometimes, it will take longer. During this time, the Pitbull will need to wear an ear rack or tape to help keep the ears upright and erect in place.  

It’s important for owners to be vigilant about changing the tape or bandages and keeping the wounds free from infection. Taking the dog back to see the veterinarian is always recommended as well.

If you’re curious about how to clean freshly clipped ears, here’s a quick video showing you how to do it: 

American Bully Dog Puppies Ear Crop After Care

Is Pitbull Ear Cropping Needed to Compete in Shows? 

No, it isn’t necessary. Even though the AKC says ear cropping is an “acceptable practice” and considers it a breed standard in certain breeds, they also say dogs with natural ears have an equal chance of winning a show against dogs with cropped ears.

So, no, you are not required to have cropped ears on your animal when competing. 

Are Pitbulls with Cropped Ears Considered More Aggressive? 

Unfortunately, yes. It’s a psychological reaction for most of us. A dog with pointed cut ears and angular lines conjure a tougher, more ferocious appearance compared to a dog with floppy ears, which are often seen as friendlier, even cute.

For Pitbulls, this aggressive look is one of the reasons why a lot of owners choose to have their ears clipped.

Should You Crop Your Pitbull’s Ears?

The only person that can answer this is you, the dog owner. It’s up to you to decide whether you should crop your dog’s ears or not.

I would recommend that you take your time researching the procedure and decide whether the pain of the surgery and meticulous healing process is something you would be willing to put your puppy through. 

If you do decide to push through with the ear cropping, it’s your responsibility to look for a reliable and qualified veterinary surgeon that can perform the procedure safely as well as offer good support throughout the healing process.

Final Thoughts 

In the end, the ball is in your court. It’s your decision whether cropping your Pitbull’s ears are worth it. It might help if you talk about the pros and cons with a reliable breeder or with a trusted veterinarian so you understand what is involved. 

Like anything, I always advise that you do what is best for your dog. If you are determined to push through with the ear clipping, make sure you are aware of what’s at stake as well as the commitment required from you during your animal’s healing process. 

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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