One of the difficult decisions for many Schnauzer owners relates to ear cropping. I see many discussions online about ear cropping, and many times these discussions can get quite heated. People seem to have very strong opinions on the topic, and so I have written my own thoughts to help owners and future puppy owners make this decision.
Historically, Schnauzers’ tails were docked, and ears were cropped to protect them from injury while hunting vermin and protecting German farms. The rats would grab onto the tails and ears of the dog, which was quite painful. While the look has become a breed standard, the practices are debated and are currently illegal in Canada, parts of Europe, New Zealand, some U.S. states, and more. Ear cropping has continued because many dog fanciers feel that the cropped ears complete the look of the dog. However, cropped ears are no longer a requirement by the Schnauzer Club or by the AKC (American Kennel Club) in the show ring.
Many people are questioning the need for ear cropping: The aspect of animal cruelty comes into play, and many argue that there is no medical, physical, environmental, or cosmetic advantage for the dog to have the pinna’s (ear flaps) surgically altered. They claim to subject any dog to “disfiguring” and an unnecessary surgical procedure, subsequent taping, and bandaging after the surgery, amounts to animal cruelty and is indefensible. Others will argue that for some breeds, the cropped ear will help prevent ear canal infections, and make the opportunity for ear infections much less likely. Although the prevention of ear infections is often cited as a benefit of ear cropping, there is no research data that supports that claim. On the contrary, the AMVA states that hanging ears on a dog does not increase the likelihood of ear infections. Also, there are no breeds that have shown a propensity for ear infections over other breeds. I agree that cropping the ears is a cosmetic procedure.
Schnauzers have cute ears, and my personal preference is the natural or “floppy ears”. If the ears are left uncropped, they are V-shaped and will fold close to the skull. Many Schnauzer owners like this look on the dog, and feel it gives them a softer, cuter, and more natural appearance. However, some pups’ ears will start to rise when they cut their adult teeth at 6 months of age. Often you wind up with a pup whose ears stand straight up in the air. Such was the case with our 5-pound Teacup male, Maximus, whose ears were 4 inches long. Because his ears were so long, it took away from his appearance. Those 4-inch ears on our little 5-pound dog, made our Max look like a South Texas Jack Rabbit. So, we made the decision to have his ears cropped.
If you prefer the natural ear, and your pup’s ears do start to rise when they are cutting teeth, there are methods you can try to coax the ears to stay down. Over the years I have tried a LOT of different methods with respect to keeping ears down. And by far the best, and the easiest is using a product called tear mender. You can purchase both the tear mender and the benzoin tincture on Amazon. It’s very easy to remove and there are several good YouTube videos you can watch. Here is a link to one of many: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4e-LvWDROFE
Once all the adult teeth are in, the cartilage in the ears hardens to the point that it really can’t be changed. I have found that the best way to help the ears stay flopped, is leave the hair on the ears until they are 7 months old. The weight of the hair on the ears will help the ears to stay flopped until the cartilage hardens. However, no matter what you do with some dogs, the ears are just going to stand straight up.
If you choose to crop your schnauzer’s ears, there are three general types of Schnauzer ear crops that should be discussed with your vet: the Military Crop, the medium Show Crop, and the taller Show Crop. It is important to understand, that ear cropping is surgery. Consequently, a licensed veterinarian should do all surgeries.
The Military Crop: Some breeders will attempt to crop a pup’s ears when they are only a few weeks old. They are not anesthetizing the pup, but only applying a local anesthetic (Lidocaine) to the outside of the ear. This is not a painless procedure and can lead to an unflattering and sometimes lob-sided look. The puppy will also not forget the pain, and it will be difficult in the future to even touch or groom their ears. The breeder may tell you that they are trying to save you money, or they may even charge extra for the cropping. However, if the result is less than attractive, then little can be done to fix the problem. It’s very difficult to tell the size of a puppy at 8 weeks of age, so it’s hard to gauge how much to crop. The only type of crop you can get on an 8-week puppy is a military crop, which I consider to be the least attractive of the three ear crops.
The Show Crop: My preferred ear crop is the medium show crop. The AKC standard states, “When cropped, the ears are identical in shape and length, with pointed tips “. If you look at the many different ear crops, you will notice that the less-than-experienced vet will leave too much “bell” on the ear. The “Bell” is the bottom part of the ear that basically bells out if too much is left. Many more experienced vets will fold the bell over at the bottom and stitch it down. This makes for a much tighter, tapered, and cleaner ear. The ears should not only taper nicely but also match the head and size of the Schnauzer.
According to our vet, if you don’t crop a Doberman’s ears by the time, they are 3 months old, their ears will never stand up straight. However, this is not true for the Miniature Schnauzer. At six months of age, our Max's ears were standing straight up in the air. Obviously, “standing up straight” was not going to be a problem. Our vet opted to wait until he was 6 months old because there was very little aftercare needed as his ears were already standing. A good vet will evaluate when to crop your pup's ears on a case-by-case basis. Be aware that if the ears are not standing straight up, then you will need to have the ears cropped BEFORE the ear cartilage starts to harden. Also, the healing process will require time and attention on your part and multiple veterinary visits to ensure proper care of the cropped ears. The veterinarian that I used for my ear crops charged me $400. However, my brother’s vet charged $800.
Any surgical procedure is a risk. Spaying and neutering are not risk-free procedures. If you make the decision to crop your pup’s ears, I highly recommend you search out an ethical veterinarian with experience in cropping ears who is properly trained in shaping the ear to each puppy’s head measurements. Ear cropping is an art, and not all vets do a great job. Finding a talented veterinarian is the crucial path to a beautiful ear crop. Miniature show breeders usually know the better ear crop veterinarians as do the Doberman breeders.
In conclusion, I personally think that every schnauzer shown in this article is adorable. I will admit that I have “A Thing” about my own schnauzer’s ears. My preference is the floppy ear if it flops over properly. Most of my breeding stock all have floppy ears. However, when I do keep back a puppy whose ears go straight up in the air, I will have that pup’s ears cropped. In other words, I’m very non-judgmental when it comes to whether my owners choose to crop or not!
The Natural Flop:
The Not So Perfect flop!
The Military Crop!
The Show Crop!