Breed Information and More

Altering the Look of a Doberman


Dobermans are not born as the fierce, sharp-eared, short-tailed beauties you know them as. In fact, Doberman puppies are born with long tails and floppy ears. Elective surgeries, more specifically ear cropping and tail docking, have been successfully used in altering the look of a Doberman for decades.

Depending who you ask you will get mixed reactions to elective surgeries for dogs. Some people think Dobermans should always be cropped and docked, some care more about the tail, some care more about ears, some are indifferent, and others are strongly opposed to both procedures. If you are unsure, perhaps the following information will help you draw your own conclusion. I’d love to hear if you agree with altering the look of a Doberman, or not. And why?

Ear Cropping 

What is it and how is it done?

Altering the look of a Doberman taped ears
Doberman puppy with ears taped

Ear cropping, or cosmetic otoplasty, is a procedure in which all, or part of the auricles (the external ear flap that is visible), is removed from a dog’s ear. This procedure creates the pointy ear look in the Doberman and other breeds, including the Boxer, Pit bull, Schnauzer, Miniature Pinscher, and Great Dane.

Throughout history the procedure has been used for many reasons including practical, cosmetic, and even health. Today ear cropping is banned in a lot of nations.

Modern Veterinary science proves that there are no physical or medical advantages for a dog to undergo cosmetic otoplasty, and this leads many animal activists to view it as animal cruelty.

Ear cropping came into existence before ancient times. It has been primarily performed on certain working dog breeds to decrease the risk of health concerns such as hematomas and ear infections. Certain breeds that were developed to fight or defend, either during hunt, bear-baiting, guarding livestock, or even dog fighting have also been subject to ear cropping. The reason for this is simple – the ear is an easy target for the opponent to grab and tear.

The Procedure and your Doberman

The procedure is completed anywhere from 7 to 12 weeks of age in Dobermans. After 16 weeks of age the dog’s ear cartilage begins to strengthen, making it much more painful for the puppy. The puppy should be placed under general anesthesia before the surgery begins. During the operation roughly 2/3 of the dog’s ear flap is removed. The edges of the wound are then stitched back together.

Post-Op Care

Since Dobermans have rather long ears you will need to bandage or tape the ears so they will heal and remain erect. If you stop taping too soon one or both of the ears could end up falling. Many people use tennis balls or cups to assist this process.

Crop Length Options

With Dobermans there are 3 lengths that are popular – short (sport crop), medium, and long (show crop); this will depend on the look the owner is trying to achieve with their Dobie.

Tail Docking – An Age Old Practice

To remove the tail or not, that is the question.

What is Tail Docking?

altering the look of a doberman docked tail
Doberman with a docked tail and natural ears

Docking is when part, or all, of a dog’s tail is removed. In Doberman’s it’s common to cut the tail at the 2nd vertebrae, but some prefer longer stubs. The procedure is usually completed with surgical scissors or rubber bands a few days after a dog is born. At this stage the tail is still “soft”, and while it causes pain for the puppy, the dog is not fully alert and will not remember going through it.

The Legalities of Tail Docking

Docking a dog’s tail is illegal in some parts of the world such as the U.K. and Australia. In the United States, the procedure is not regulated, so there is no banning or control in place. Thus, leaving the procedure highly controversial.

Learning the Skill of Cropping and Docking

Veterinary schools in America do not usually teach how to crop ears or dock tails. Hence, most Vets who learn the skill generally pick it up on the job. Puppy mills have also known to have issues with amateurs attempting to do it.

Opposing Expert Viewpoints

As I mentioned before, there are many opposing viewpoints when it comes to altering the look of a Doberman. The AKC, or American Kennel Club, stands beside the practice claiming that in some breeds the practice is important in “defining and preserving breed character”. On the other hand, the American Veterinary Medical Association is against the practice citing that it is only used for cosmetic purposes to give certain breeds a “certain look”, and can cause risks that are unnecessary.

Risks of Tail Docking

Once such risk is the puppy can develop a nerve tumor. If this happens it will cause pain and can lead to the dog snapping if the tail is bothered. Additionally, there are studies that show dogs communicate excitement and anger through their tails, and docking can interfere with their natural ability to interact with other canines.

Is All This Necessary or Not?

Today most tails are docked simply for appearance. However, there are some owners who insist it is necessary to remove the tails of dogs that regularly hunt or herd livestock because injuries can occur during chases. Others advocate that more hyper breeds like Dobermans and Boxers can hurt, or even break, their tails by thumping them too hard against a wall or other hard surface. Thus, the absence of a tail prevents this from happening.

Some Veterinarians consider the act of tail docking an injury in itself. Research has shown that tail injuries are actually very uncommon, and when they do occur the healing process is usually quick and minimal.

altering the look of a doberman natural
Natural Doberman Pinscher with ears and tail

The good news for those opposed to both practices is Vets say both procedures are becoming less common. For this reason it is no longer uncommon to see Dobermans that have floppy ears and/or long tails. According to the AKC, docking and cropping are not so important in the show ring that unaltered Dobermans cannot win. They can and they do.

If you are considering a Doberman puppy the only question you will have to answer is – will you crop the ears? You will not have an option on the tail; at this age it’s either there or not. On the other hand, as long as you obtain your puppy before he or she turns 12 weeks old you will still have the option to crop the ears.

In the end, just ask yourself if the pain and healing process will be worth it to you. The operation will cause your puppy some pain, and the healing process will be quite a commitment for you. So, when altering the look of a Doberman make sure you are ready for the challenge.


1 Comment
  1. Rhonda J says

    I prefer the tail docked and ears cropped. After all, isn’t that how Dobermans are supposed to look?

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