TO CROP OR NOT TO CROP, THAT IS THE QUESTION
by Karen J. Brittan

First of all, you should decide which type of ear you prefer, cropped or uncropped, and then you should go out and BUY THE DOG WITH THOSE EARS. It is the breeder's responsibility to crop the ears and do the aftercare.....NOT YOURS! Will your breeder refund your purchase price if your puppy should die under anesthesia because you wanted cropped ears on the uncropped puppy you purchased?

A lovely ear crop on a very pretty head

"When cropped, the ears are identical in shape and length, with pointed tips. They are in balance with the head and not exaggerated in length. They are set high on the skull and carried perpendicularly at the inner edges, with as little bell as possible along the outer edges."



Ear cropping is an art form.....and not every ear cropper is an artist. Cropping ears simply to have them cropped is multilation if done by someone with no thought as to the finished product. Ears are generally cropped anywhere from the age of 8-16 weeks, depending on the ear cropper and his/her area of the country. Ears should be left a bit longer when cropped earlier as the puppy will grow into them, but if the puppy is cropped closer to teething time, a more "adult" length ear should be put on the puppy as there will not be much more ear growth after that time.

If an older uncropped puppy or dog has ears that are mostly upright, he can be cropped with no problem as the ears are already "up". If he has nice uncropped ears, they should be left natural, as one may have trouble getting those ears to stand later without a LOT of effort.

Puppy mills frequently "crop" their puppies' ears when tails are docked, shortly after birth. These are truly multilated ears.....they don't always stand properly.....and are a groomer's nightmare. It is impossible to put a proper base on an ear at this age as the baby's ears are still "closed", and a proper base dictates the quality of the rest of the ear crop.

A Miniature Schnauzer's ears generally stand immediately upon cropping, unlike their larger cousins the Standards and Giants, but even then they sometimes need to be "coned" after healing to get them to stand properly. It is very common for newly-cropped ears to invert and fold on top of the dog's skull, and then there are always those few ears that continue to hang as if they had never been cropped at all. There are many different ways to cone ears, but any coning that involves taping or wrapping the ears must always be done VERY carefully to avoid cutting off the ear's circulation. Make certain that the ear tips are always warm and never cold, as a cold ear tip may be indicative of an ear with no circulation, which could lead to gangrene and loss of the ear altogether. There should also never be any odor coming from the coned ear. Whenever ears are coned with tape, the tape CANNOT be left on any longer than one week before removal and allowing the ears to breathe again. The ears are evaluated during the time that the tape is off, and after three days, the tape may be reapplied if needed. This process of taping for one week and breathing for three days is continued until the ears are standing. It is also very important to cone both ears simultaneously, even if one of the ears is standing correctly. To only work with one of the ears could give you ears in the end which are not carried identically.

Whenever the ear is coned using tape (I like to use 3M 1/2" Plastic First Aid Tape, but Johnson & Johnson's version works well also), the hair must be shaved close, preferably with a #40 blade, so that the tape will adhere better to the ear. Some people like to insert something (soft) down into the ear, such as a small tampon, and then wrap the tape around the entire ear. The ears are then held upright while tape is applied around one ear and across to the other ear and then back again a couple times until the ears are braced perfectly straight.

My preferred method of taping is to cut my tape into several 1/2" strips, and, starting near the base of the ear, I place these strips along the outer ear edge, with each succeeding piece overlapping half of the previous piece, and I continue this up the ear until close to the ear tip. I then take a longer piece of tape, and starting near the base again, I wrap the ear (NOT TOO TIGHTLY!) in a circular fashion, gradually moving the tape upwards, but still overlapping as I wrap, until the entire ear has been "coned".

To glue ears, the best product is Jiffy Sew Fabric Glue, a product made in Canada. Many of us stock up on this latex glue when we travel up to Canada (K-Mart, Zellers), but the manufacturer's address is: Jiffy Products Inc., R R 4, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada K9J 6X5 (Phone 705-742-9901; Fax 705-742-4088).

Since Jiffy Sew is so hard to get here in the U.S., I have discovered another product that works nearly as well called Val-a Chicago Tear Mender, a fabric-leather cement. It is available in most sewing/fabric stores, or the company can be contacted at Val-A Chicago, 700 W. Root Street, Chicago, IL 60609; Phone 773-927-9442; Fax 773-927-6832.

If the ears are laying on top of the dog's head, I will usually glue the ears rather than tape them. (The ears MUST be hairy as ears are always glued hair to hair, rather than skin to skin.) Two small dabs of fabric glue are applied to the lower inside of the ear, one at the inner ear edge and the other at the outer ear edge, and allowed to set for a few seconds. The ear is pulled up and "rolled" in a coning fashion until the two glued areas meet. The two points are held together for a few seconds until the glue sets, and the ear is then released. I love coning the ears in this fashion because there is no worry about tape, and no need to be putting ears up and taking them down. The ears are just left until the hair has grown out long enough to shave the glue off or until the hair pulls out. If the hair does pull out and the ears are still not cooperating, the ears can then be shaved down and taped.

Uncropped ears should break close to the top of the skull and fall alongside the head

"When uncropped, the ears are small and
V-shaped, folding close to the skull."



Good ears in a puppyIf your preference is for natural ears, that is the first thing you should look at when evaluating a litter of puppies, not the puppies themselves, as not all uncropped ears are going to be correct. (In other words, don't pick the puppy and then hope the ears will be good.) The older the puppy the easier it will be to evaluate the ears. Any lift in puppy ears will only get worse with ageSince most breeders generally have ears cropped between 8-10 weeks of age, they don't have much time in which to evaluate ears, but if someone is hoping to get an uncropped puppy from one of their litters, it is best if they can delay ear cropping as long as possible. What I look for in a natural-earred candidate is a puppy whose ears aren't too terribly large (but remember they will grow into ears somewhat, as long as they aren't TOO big), and *ears that are hugging the puppy's cheek.*

Houndy ears break below the skull lineIf the ears are too large and "houndy", they will never be quite right, but then, they won't ever become those infamous "bat ears" either that so many owners find so endearing!  Bat earsIf there is ANY lift at all to those ears between 8-10 weeks of age, those ears ARE GOING TO GO UP! Schnauzer ears may stand straight up like jack rabbits, be perfect little sheltie ears, or even have one up and one down. If ears are going to go up, I don't think any amount of taping, gluing, etc. are going to keep those ears down. It is much better to just go ahead and crop those bad ears early on.

Several years ago I bred out for head improvement, and what I got along with my better heads were 5 of 6 sets of ears that were going to STAND. When the ear cropper was done doing her thing, she remarked that those ears were much different from my normal ears... the texture was more "crisp" as opposed to my more usual "rubbery" ears.

Sometimes an ear will fold backwards into a rose earI have only misjudged natural ears once and had to resort to gluing, but those ears did not go up, they turned sideways as they wanted to crease in the wrong place. This started to happen around teething time, a time when many ears become problems. (Those ears that should be up, come down, and those that should stay down want to go up....in several breeds!) Putting your puppy on a minimum amount of calcium and vitamin C during this time may help if a puppy is having ear problems. The vitamin C, in particular, helps to relieve the inflammation in the jaw from the teething, which in turn affects the ear carriage in the puppy.

Taping a rose ear to encourage it to break correctlyCloseup of taped ear I have been experimenting with a way to tape natural ears that need a bit of help. (Mind you, if those ears are going UP, nothing is going to save them!) Basically, the ear is folded in half lengthwise down the middle and the ear is taped somewhat loosely in a circular fashion.


If you want to attempt to glue natural ears, the ears must first be somewhat hairy as the ears are glued hair to hair, not skin to skin. (Pull all the hair out from inside the ear canal, because the ears should be left glued for several weeks.) Determine where the crease should be (close to the top of the skull), and run a bit of glue along the crease line on the inside of the ear and hold the area together for a few seconds. (Do I need to mention that you need to be careful that the ears have been creased in EXACTLY the same spot?) As you are facing the dog, next apply a dab of glue to the top inner corner on the backside each ear (in the "dimple"), pull the ears up, and glue them high up on the skull, hair to hair. (It takes just a few seconds for the glue to set.) The ear flaps are now sitting more on top of the dog's skull, rather than down by the dog's cheek. If you want some added insurance, apply a bit of glue to the underside of the ear tip and glue that down to the top of the dog's head. The ears will be totally immobilized and should be left this way until the hair has grown out enough to carefully snip or clip the ears free. I would certainly leave the ears this way for several weeks, especially through teething time. If the dog's hair is too short, the glue may pull free, often pulling out some of the hair with it. Not to worry; the hair will grow back, but the ear cannot be glued in that area again until the hair grow back in.



Return to Britmor Home Page

Copyright © 1996-2015 Karen Brittan and Britmor Miniature Schnauzers. All images and written material on this site are my property and may not be used without my express written permission.