Ear Cropping & Tail Docking - Cutting Through the Controversy
[Authored by Meredith Halfpenny]
How often have you heard the expression, “The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog”? Probably more times than you can count. While it seems like nothing more than a funny quip, it does highlight a current trend; people attaching human emotions and qualities to their dogs. This humanizing of dogs has created a hostile environment toward “cosmetic procedures” on dogs, mainly ear cropping and docking. The irony in this is that cosmetic procedures for us humans are more popular than ever before.
Referring to ear crops and tail docking as a “cosmetic procedure” suggests that it has no true function other than enhancing beauty. For many working breeds, this is simply not correct. The Central Asian Shepherd is a livestock guardian / working dog, who's ears are cropped close to the head and who's tails are docked in a bob. Livestock guardian breeds are at risk for attack by the likes of coyotes, wolves, fox, badgers or other vermin dependent on locality. Ears and tails are easy targets for predators as they try to neutralize a livestock guardian dog and feast on the flock.
A close friend had two dogs involved in a scrum with a coyote. One dog ended up with a shredded ear and half their tail gone; the other dog was more fortunate and only suffered scarring to the face and body. In this scenario, it's easy to see the benefits of cropped ears and a docked tail would go far beyond “beauty enhancement”. The procedures would actually prevent serious, painful injury to the dog. For a working dog, cropping and docking improves their chances to fight off a predator and offers them protection from injury while doing the job.
Humanizing our guardian dogs depreciates their value as true working animals and trusted companions. Our desire to coddle them and protect them from harm or discomfort goes against the very purpose of their breeding. These are rough dogs, bred to do a job which entails the possibility of danger and attack by predators. Wishing to save your dog from the pain of an ear crop, done at such an early age they will quickly forget it, seems virtuous and noble. However, when your dog comes walking up to you with bloody shreds of what wasit's ear hanging from their head, that decision not to crop may seem far less virtuous.
Some readers of this article may be thinking, wait a minute – I don't plan to use my dog for livestock guarding or as a working dog! They will just be a family and property guardian, why would they need to be cropped and docked? While your dog may not be out with a flock, they will consider you, their family, as their flock. If you are out for a walk and an aggressive off-leash dog charges you, your dog will react and protect you. Cropped ears will be advantageous in this situation for your dog. Also consider the fact that vermin like coyotes are now prevalent in many urban areas as well, making an encounter with your dog a real possibility.
Working breeds who have traditionally been cropped and docked throughout history deserve to have that tradition respected. While we as humans seem to be trending toward 'softness', shying away from discomfort or controversy, we must not let that softness infect the working breeds. If you have a strong aversion to cropping or docking, choose a breed which is left “all natural”. Please respect the forefathers of the guardian breeds like the Central Asian Shepherd; Men who decided that cropped ears and a docked tail protected their dogs and enhanced their ability to do their job.
There is nothing wrong with loving your dog and wanting the best life for your beloved companion. The problems arise when we decide to listen to the echo chamber that is social media, where baseless opinions and virtue signaling abound. This is where you will undoubtedly be subjected to scathing remarks from the “My dog is my fur child” keyboard warrior gang if you own a dog with cropped ears or a docked tail. These folks believe raw feeding is barbaric and prong collars (“spike collars”) are even more abhorrent than medieval torture devices.
Amid this increasing social media static, it's important to stay grounded in reality. The Central Asian Shepherd is cropped and docked for a functional purpose, as are many other livestock guardian / working breeds of dog. Stop placing human emotions and qualities on these dogs; It is only a detriment to these breeds as a whole. Drown out the noise and focus on respecting these breeds as they were envisioned by their forefathers.