Ear cropping and taping cropped ears on Great Danes is a lengthy, involved process. If you have found this article, you are either on this journey or about to be, and we’re here to help!
If you want your Great Dane to have erect ears that stand up, you may want to consider this procedure for your puppy!
All about ear cropping and taping cropped ears on Great Danes
- What happens during ear cropping?
- Is Ear cropping painful for dogs?
- Do I have to crop ears on my Great Dane Puppy?
- Ear cropping phases
- Why are dogs taping their ears?
- How long does ear taping last?
- Is it too late to tape my dog's ears?
- What is the best kind of tape for Great Dane crops?
- Phase One Ear Cropping Care Kit
- Backer Rod Method
- Zip Tie Method
- How do I train my puppy to let me tape the ears?
What happens during ear cropping?
Ear cropping is a surgical procedure done on Great Dane puppies when they are 6-12 weeks of age. It requires anesthesia, so puppies must be in good health if they are a candidate for having their ears done.
It may be a bad idea for puppies who come from a pedigree where blood clotting disorders (including Von Willebrand’s disease) are common, or for puppies from backyard breeding, pet store/puppy mill, and rescue type situations.
Make sure you choose a highly experienced cropping veterinarian; you can find the best people for this by reaching out to your local Great Dane affiliate breed club.
Many good cropping veterinarians book weeks in advance and have a preference for working with breeders who bring entire litters to be cropped on the same day, so talk to your breeder as well!
Once sedated, the ear flap is shaved and a portion of the puppy’s ear flaps are trimmed and removed. This is a cosmetic procedure that requires veterinary skill AND an artistic eye!
The trimmed edge of the dogs ears is sutured up and the puppy is often given long-lasting pain medication and an injectable antibiotic. Some veterinarians may also prescribe additional post-op medication.
Following the procedure, your puppy will come home either the same day or the next day with its ears taped upright onto a cone or wrapped over the top of the head.
This depends on your veterinarian; many are now choosing the head-wrap version as it’s more comfortable for the puppy, facilitates healing, and still results in positive outcomes.
The ear canal will be open and exposed from this point forward. The cut and sutured edge maybe a little crusty or bloody OR neat and clean, depending on your veterinarian and your puppy.
You will need to follow your veterinarian’s advice for keeping this area clean and dry while it heals. The newly trimmed ears may or may not bother your puppy, so it’s important to supervise and monitor behavior.
The final outcome of the crop and the look of your dog then rests in your hands and your ability to maintain posting and taping while your puppy is growing.
With the use of surgical tape, a popsicle stick, zip ties, bandages, foam, and a routine of cleaning and posting, the ears can be made to stand permanently in an upright position. We’ve outlined different methods for taping dog ears below!
This process of having the ears taped and re-taped will be ongoing while your puppy is teething and until the cartilage sets hard to keep the ears in the upright position without support. Read below for our ear cropping and taping tips!
For comparison, here is an image of a Great Dane with uncropped ears.
Is Ear cropping painful for dogs?
When performed by an experienced and licensed veterinarian on a healthy and robust puppy, ear cropping is not painful and should not cause distress or discomfort for your Great Dane puppy.
The surgery itself takes 30 minutes or less, assuming that your veterinarian is skilled and experienced!
During the healing process, the ears will have sutures of some kind. These can become itchy and some pups will fuss about them.
In general, however, most young Danes are up, moving, playing, and eating within hours of the procedure and do not care about the cone or sticky bandage on their head!
While it shouldn’t be painful, your puppy or other dogs in the house may be fussed about the sutures. They can be itchy to your puppy or ‘smell funny’ and your other pets may wish to sniff or lick.
It’s important that your puppy be kept safe from that and may need to wear a cone to prevent scratching, too.
We recommend a soft cone, like this one from Amazon. Measure your dog’s neck before ordering!
Do I have to crop ears on my Great Dane Puppy?
No, you don’t. Ear cropping is a personal decision.
The written breed standard for Great Danes indicates that both natural floppy ears and cropped ears are acceptable. Ear cropping is common with show dogs, but it’s not just a ‘show dog’ thing! Many pet parents choose to crop for different reasons, and that’s ok!
For more information on ear cropping for Great Danes that can help you make a decision, read our blog post below! While ear cropping is primarily cosmetic, some working dogs and even pet dogs may benefit from the procedure as prophylactic against future ear problems.
That said, many people will tell you that ear cropping prevents ear infections, however, this is a claim that as of yet doesn’t have much merit outside of anecdotal evidence. The AVMA states that it is a cosmetic procedure.
Other breeds that are traditionally cropped include Schnauzers, Dobermans, Boxers, Miniature Pinschers, and Boston Terriers among others.
Are upright ears prone to infection?
Many dogs with upright ears experience ear infections just the same. German shepherd ears are a great example of this. Their ears stand naturally and don’t require cosmetic alterations, surgery, or posting.
A German Shepherd puppy is born with floppy ears, and the ears stand up on their own as the puppy is finished teething. They still may get ear infections!
Floppy ears are, however more prone to damage overall. Hematomas are a somewhat common and frustrating problem for dogs with floppy ears. Even a minor injury to the ear flap can result in bloody scabs and lesions that refuse to heal; this can be extremely difficult for dog owners to deal with.
Because a dog’s ears are so vascular, hematomas can be especially bloody and messy.
For those dogs with intact ears that are experiencing scabbing and hematomas, we recommend the NO FLAP EAR WRAP to facilitate healing and avoid surgical intervention.
Many owners choose ear cropping to avoid hematomas in the future, and that’s a very legitimate reason to make this choice!
We maintain that ear cropping is a personal preference and one that receives far too many misguided and uneducated opinions. You should never feel guilty for choosing ear cropping for your puppy.
Ear cropping phases
There are three main phases to ear cropping for Great Danes. Each dog will move through these stages at its own pace: it largely depends on its individual anatomy, the skill of your veterinarian, and your dedication to the process.
Phase 1: Surgery and post-op healing, where your puppy’s ears will have sutures and tape. Your veterinarian will advise you of the aftercare requirements for this stage; anticipate gentle cleaning and the application of a topical antibiotic ointment.
Phase 2: Posting. This stage begins once the ears are healed up and the sutures have been removed. This is where you will use posts and bandages to train the ears to stand upright. Breaks from the posts and bandages at this stage should be minimal; as long as the cartilage is still soft, your pup’s ears will need support.
(We are HUGE fans of Vandelft Danes! She is an advocate for ethical breeding, rescue, and training practices, is an incredible preservation breeder, and actively works to educate people about cropping).
Phase 3: In this stage, once the cartilage is harder and the ears are showing that they are beginning to reliably stand upright. Encourage your dog to hold its ears perked up on the head by whistling, clapping, and playing fun games.
When do I start taping my Great Dane’s ears?
Your veterinarian will advise you on this process, but you will typically begin posting and taping your dog’s ears upright once the sutures have been removed. Sutures are typically removed by your veterinarian 10-14 days post-op.
It can take up to two weeks for your dogs’ ears to be healed enough to begin the posting process, but it’s important to not rush this step! Your veterinarian will be an excellent resource here.
The surgical tape used during the procedure may be sticky and your vet may need to use a gentle medical grade adhesive remover to clean up the previously taped ear.
When you begin to tape the ears yourself, you will also find that you run into this sticky bandage problem!
Uni-solve is commonly used when you are working with your pups ears at home. You can find that on Amazon HERE. It will help remove sticky residue from bandages, once you are in the posting phase.
The exact timing of suture removal and beginning the posting phase may depend on how well your puppy has healed, and if you’ve prevented licking and scratching. If your puppy has played in the mud or gotten wet, the ears may not be ready yet.
Keeping the post-op ears clean is key to getting started with posting as soon as possible!
Your veterinarian will show you how to tape ears so that you can become an expert at it yourself.
Most dogs learn to tolerate having their ears taped and consider the process of it as part of their daily or weekly routine.
A little cottage cheese can go a long way towards ensuring that it’s always a good experience!
How long will I have to tape my dog’s ears?
For a Great Dane puppy that has received a long show crop, you can anticipate needing to use tape or supports of some kind for several months, possibly as long as two years. Taping dog ears also requires skill, and it’s something you will become very good at!
The bandages will start unraveling after a few days, so you will need to make a routine of changing the bandages and tape, and cleaning the ears on a regular basis.
The skill of your veterinarian goes a long way here, too. If a crop was not done carefully so as to leave enough support and balance for the height and natural anatomy of the ears, the ears may fail to stand reliably, even when you tape the ears for months and months.
In that case, you can continue to try or leave the ears floppy (but smaller) and consider it a ‘failed crop’. Some breeders recommend giving dogs gelatin, chicken paws or raw bones with marrow to chew on, which may help them strengthen their ear cartilage!
Additionally, corrective procedures (including further shortening of the ear) may be advised.
A thoughtful hand during the cropping procedure can ensure that the ears are functional and will remain stabilized properly once they are upright, so as above, make sure you are choosing a highly experienced and knowledgable cropping veterinarian!
Shorter crops may stand more reliably than longer crops, but a longer crop is stunning if you are willing to put in the time that it takes to make the ears stand. Every dog is different!
How do I know cropping is a good choice for my puppy’s ears?
It’s not a bad idea to speak with your primary care veterinarian, with your breeder and with your local Great Dane breed club. Depending on your dogs ears and individual conformation, cropping may or may not be a good choice to begin with.
Because all dog’s ears are different, the results will not always be the same. Some dogs ears have more leather, hang lower or sit differently on the head. Choosing a skilled veterinarian and the right ear crop style is key to success.
Is cropping illegal?
It is illegal in most places to crop ears at home. You should never attempt to DIY ear cropping!
Tail docking and ear cropping are actually illegal in some countries, even when done by a licensed veterinarian. Some breed clubs will not allow dogs with docked tails or cropped ears to be shown!
In the U.S. and Canada, tail docking and ear cropping are still legal and seen often as part of the written breed standards for certain dogs.
Why are dogs taping their ears?
Taping dog ears is necessary after cropping because the tape helps train the ears to stand upright. This is not a natural position for floppy ears, so it’s a necessary step if you want your Great Dane to have erect ears.
Did you know that collie ears are often taped, too, but for a different reason! They are supposed to have a folded ear; if the puppy is born with ears that don’t sit correctly, the ears are taped until cartilage forms so that they sit in the right direction.
The taping and bandaging process can be a positive experience for your dog and is not abuse.
How long does ear taping last?
Depending on the crop style and length, you can expect to continue taping and posting until your Great Dane puppy dog is 6 months or older. Smaller ears will stand upright faster, but until teething is done and the cartilage is hard it’s important to continue using tape and posting!
A good tape and bandage job can hold up for 4-7 days, at which point you will want to change the tape and posts for cleanliness and form. It’s important that the ear canal, skin, and fur on your puppy are kept healthy and clean.
Some dogs will develop irritation and redness on their skin with the use of certain tape or bandages. We recommend visiting the group Great Dane Lovers of Cropped Ears for advice. Share your photos and see what support they have for you.
For dogs that are sensitive, they recommend 3M Medipore H bandaging.
Be careful with using any glue, tape, or otherwise that were not directly recommended to you by your veterinarian, in this article, or mentioned by other experienced Great Dane puppy owners. There are many types of bandages, tape, and adhesives out there and some are not healthy for your dog’s ears.
All dog ears are different; some dogs will require more ear taping and more time than others. If you aren’t sure if your dog’s ears are ready to stand on their own yet, give them a day break from the tapes. If you see anything start to fall, the time hasn’t come yet.
Resume taping your puppies ears until they are more mature, and test them again later.
Ears stand only with diligent attention to this process. Taping dog ears can feel tedious OR it can be an opportunity for you to bond with your pup each time you do it. Make it a positive thing and the results will pay off!
Is it too late to tape my dog’s ears?
If your puppy is older than 10-12 weeks of age, it is very likely too late to crop them and expect a reliable result. Most vets will not crop a Great Dane puppy once they’ve reached this age, and in general, the preference is to do the procedure between 7-9 weeks.
If you did not start taping and posting ears at that same age (12 weeks or younger), it’s likely too late. Some veterinarians may offer to crop your pup before 16 weeks of age but they are very rare, and the results may not be as reliable. In our opinion, a 4-5 month-old puppy is too old to have its ears cropped.
What is the best kind of tape for Great Dane crops?
We’ve put together our recommendations from Amazon that includes everything you need after your puppy is home from its cropping procedure!
When it comes to taping your puppy’s ears, there is a learning curve. Your vet should give you plenty of advice, but we also recommend visiting the Great Dane Lovers of Cropped Ears group on Facebook.
You can find many of these things at your local pharmacy, too.
Phase One Ear Cropping Care Kit
This is what is recommended for your puppy post-op.
Bacitracin Ointment (or similar, based on your vets’ advice)
We recommend feeding a highly tested and professionally formulated diet, such as Eukanuba or Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy for Great Dane puppies.
When you get to Phase Two, there are TWO common ways to post and support cropped ears on your dog.
Backer Rod Method
This method makes your dog look like it has antennas!
Some dogs will find a way to pull these off their ears no matter what, so get to know your dog and make sure you choose the method that works best for everybody.
With the backer rod ear taping method, your puppy will have foam rods placed in the ears that you will wrap with a bandage.
To keep the ears more upright on the head overall, you can connect the ears on the top of the head with a piece of duct-tape wrapped foam pipe insulation.
With the backer rod method, it’s extremely important that you keep the ears and bandages clean and dry; wet and dirty bandages can cause irritation and infections.
The sticky side of the bandage can also cause irritation, so if you are seeing any redness or sores it will be a bad idea to continue using that particular product.
The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives and with a little trial and error, you will be able to find the right taping method and bandages for your dog.
Click on any link or image below to purchase from Amazon:
Soft 3M Bandage for wrapping
Coach tape and veterinary tape for securing
Foam pipe insulation (for the bridge)
Decorative duct Tape (to make the bridge more sturdy)
Zip Tie Method
The other common method is called the Zip Tie method, which uses heavy-duty zip ties or a popsicle stick and adhesives such as Torbot Skin Tac and tape to hold the dog’s ears up without bandages.
Another benefit of the Zip Tie method for taping dog ears is that it holds the erect ears up in a natural way, unobstructed by thick foam and bandages, and you can really start to see what the final look is. Some people who use this method do so only once the ears have matured a little more.
This method is much less chunky looking and makes it safer for your puppy to play in the water, mud, or snow! However, with this method, you will have to work to get the adhesive off of the ear each time you re post your dog’s ears.
It’s important to train your puppy dog from a young age to be calm and indifferent about this process; make it a positive experience!
Zip Tie Ear Posting Method:
Heavy-Duty Zip Ties
Medical grade Torbot adhesive – this must be applied BEFORE the duct tape
How do I train my puppy to let me tape the ears?
We recommend staying calm, working slowly, and using a lot of positive reinforcement.
Your dog will appreciate your calm, thoughtful and friendly indifference to this process; as far as your pup is aware, making the ears stand is an everyday thing and part of the deal!
You can enlist the help of a friend or family member to work with your pup and help hold ears, supplies, and treats. A little break between removing the tape, foam, glue, or adhesives and re-posting the puppy’s ears is always a good choice.
Early on the ears won’t be standing yet, and may flop over when you remove the glue and supports. This is normal and ok, don’t panic and just keep at it.
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