The Pitbull Ear Cropping Debate: Yay or Nay for Your Pet?

🦴 Updated on July 20th, 2023


The Pitbull ear cropping process has been around for generations with this breed and others. 

Although it is still common for many dogs today, more veterinarians and pet owners are leaning away from this elective procedure. Individuals are deeming it unnecessary, contrasting to what they once thought. 

If you own a new Pitbull puppy or are considering cropping your dog’s ears, this comprehensive guide covers the specifics and the pros and cons of docking Pitbulls ears. This way, you can make the best choice for you and your pet. 

Pitbull Cropped Ears vs. Natural 

Pitbulls are not born with the short, erect ears that some individuals see in this breed during an average day. While some dog breeds naturally have small, upright ears, Pitbull breeds typically don’t. 

Consequently, there are several variations to a Pitbull’s ears, even in it’s natural state. 

A Pitbull With Uncropped Ears

Depending on the specific Pitbull breed, the dog’s ears can vary in appearance. For example, some Pitbulls will have a set of floppy, folded ears that resemble Labrador Retrievers, while others sport ears that bend to the side or curl at the tips. 

A puppy may be born with large floppy ears that remain that way its entire life. However, you cannot tell from a puppy how its natural ear will be until it begins to mature. 

It’s quite common to see Pitbulls with ears that will be half-erect and stand up slightly with the tips flopping or curling to the front or sides

A Pitbull With Clipped Ears 

A Pitbulls with cut ears will sport smaller ears that stand straight up from the head. Typically, a dog with clipped ears will have two-thirds of its outer ear section removed, also known as the pinna

Then, the remaining ear sections are secured with supporting materials until they heal while training them to stand up continuously. 

Pitbull ear cropping is not a one-size-fits-all procedure either. There are four choices a breeder or dog owner can choose for their pet. 

Pit Bull Ear Cropping Age 

Pitbulls who undergo clipping will experience a specific procedure during a targeted time of growth. Docking Pitbulls’ ears is not a procedure that is possible at any time, unfortunately, and requires a customized method to obtain the desired outcome. 

Pitbull ear cropping typically happens between 6 and 12 weeks of age. It is rare for a veterinarian to perform this procedure on an animal older than three months since it can be significantly painful once the dog is mature, and the healing can be more complex. 

Healing from ear cropping can take 4 to 8 weeks in young puppies. During this time, you should change the bandages regularly, and dog owners or breeders need to clean the ears and help prevent damage while they heal. 

Why Do People Cut Pitbulls Ears? 

So, why do people clip Pitbull ears? The reasons for this procedure differ, depending on who you ask. 

This practice began many centuries ago, and some can trace it back to Roman times. During that period, individuals believed that cropping the ears and docking the tails of dogs would help keep rabies away and ensure their dog is healthier. 

As time progressed, cropped ears were commonplace to protect a dog from ear damage from wolves and dog fights. Eventually, Pitbulls became known as fighting dogs, and the clipped ears showed an intense fighting dog

However, there are several other reasons why people started cutting their dog’s ears and continue to do so today. These motives include: 

  • Better functionality 
  • Cosmetic appearance 
  • Maintaining breed standards 

Better Functionality 

Years ago, dog owners would have their pet’s ears cropped for functional purposes. Some dog owners believe that a Pitbull with clipped ears could hear better, be safer from predator attacks, minimize ear damage from hunting in low brush, and reduce ear infections. 

Cosmetic Appearance 

Many dog breeders and owners choose to cut their Pitbull’s ears strictly for cosmetic purposes. The small, erect ears compliment the dog’s square, angular head structure, making it more aesthetically pleasing. 

Although it’s a personal preference, some dog owners think cropped ears give their pets the more aggressive look they want for a Pitbull.

Maintaining Breed Standards 

Depending on where you live, if you want to own a purebred dog, some kennel clubs require Pitbull ear cropping to maintain the breed standard. Therefore, they may need cut ears if you plan to attend competitions and show your pet. 

However, some kennel clubs, like the UKC and the NKC, recognize natural ears more than ever and allow both styles for show dogs. 

Pitbull Ear Cropping Prices

Of course, any elective procedures like docking a Pitbull’s ears will come with a cost. A veterinarian will need to use an anesthetic during the process and cover the supplies’ price and the vet’s time. 

Depending on where you live, the veterinarian you choose, and the animal’s age, this process can cost anywhere from $150 to $600. 

Naturally, if you have a puppy at the vet to receive this procedure, it will cost less than if your adult Pitbull needs cropping due to medical reasons later. Older dogs will need more anesthetic and a longer recovery time than young puppies, which can inflate the final price. 

Pitbull Ear Cropping Styles

There are several styles of Pitbull ear cropping, providing a unique choice for dog owners and their pets. If you are new to ear cropping, exploring which type will work best for your pet is best. 

The four types available include: 

  • Battle Crop: The smallest and shortest crop available 
  • Short Crop: Slightly more than the Battle crop, leaving two-thirds of the original pinna
  • Show Crop: A longer length than the Short crop, necessary for show dogs to give off an alert look
  • Long Crop: The longest available option, leaving three-quarters of the original pinna

If you aren’t sure which style a breeder chooses for their litters, it’s best to ask. Depending on their needs or reasons, some dog owners may request a specific cropping style for their new puppy before they bring it home. 

The Pros and Cons of Pitbull Ear Cropping 

We outline the pros and cons here for easy reference if you want to explore the benefits and disadvantages of this controversial procedure for your Pitbull. 


  • Maintains a breed standard 
  • Prevents ear injuries in guarding or hunting dogs 
  • May improve hearing 
  • Some dogs may experience fewer ear infections after 


  • It is unnecessary for many household pets 
  • It is a costly elective procedure 
  • Can cause pain or long-lasting ear and nerve damage
  • Can hinder communication with other animals or humans 

The Legalities of Docking Pitbull Ears 

Another critical element of the Pitbull ear cropping debate is its legality. Many regions have banned this process, making it illegal to surgically alter your pet’s ears unless it’s for strictly medical reasons. 

Even dog owners or breeders who believe this process benefits the animal must ensure that their state or municipality allows it to be done. There can be severe consequences to cropping a dog’s ears in an area where it’s illegal. 

Some US states allow this procedure or do not regulate it at all. However, the UK has a ban on this procedure, making it illegal for all residents to have animals with cropped ears. If you need clarification on the regulations in your region, talk to your local veterinarian or reputable breeder for more guidance on this process. 

Pitbull Ear Health

Whether you crop your dog’s ears or leave them naturally, responsible dog owners must clean them regularly to avoid infections. 

Pitbull Ear Cropping Aftercare

Some owners will have their dog’s ears bandaged while they heal, while others avoid bandages and only apply antiseptic healing cream. Although both methods are acceptable, a Pitbull without bandages on newly cropped ears will heal faster. 

You should ensure your pet takes it easy while the ears heal and avoid water while there are still scabs present. Allow the scabs to fall off naturally, and avoid picking them, or you risk causing a scar or uneven healing. 

Pitbull Ear Cleaning

If your Pitbull is normally healthy, it should only require ear cleaning once or twice a month

Use a pet-safe ear-cleaning solution and squeeze a small amount into the base of the ear. Massage the solution for 30 to 45 seconds to help dislodge any debris and buildup. 

Then, your dog will instinctively shake its head. Have a towel handy and a soft cloth or gauze to wipe out the inside of the ear gently. Be sure not to go inside the ear canal, or you could reintroduce debris and cause an infection. 


If you have additional concerns about cropping your Pitbull’s ears, check out these frequently asked questions. 

Can you learn how to crop Pitbull ears yourself?

Cropping your dog’s ears is a medical procedure that requires anesthetic, sterile tools, precision, and training. Therefore, this process is best left to a professional veterinarian or a breeder with extensive training and experience. 

Is it cruel to crop a Pitbull’s ears?

The ear-cropping debate has been gaining momentum for years. Some claim cutting a dog’s ears is cruel and unnecessary, causing pain. This body modification process requires time to heal and can result in scar tissue and nerve damage, giving the ear an unattractive look that isn’t desired. 

Does the dog remember pain?

Alternatively, many reputable breeders and professional veterinarians state that the dog doesn’t remember the task or pain. This reasoning is if the process is done as a young puppy and uses the correct tools and steps for proper healing. 

The Takeaway: Pitbull With Cut Ears – Yay or Nay? 

Responsible pet owners should recognize how to care for their animals from the moment they bring them home. Therefore, when considering Pitbull ear cropping or tail docking, you must research the benefits and the steps of this procedure to make the best choice for your pet. 

If you are a typical dog owner who isn’t looking for a Pitbull to compete in dog shows or as a serious hunting companion, cutting their ears is likely unnecessary. 

Therefore, if you don’t have to crop your pet’s ears, you can save yourself some money and stress by leaving their ears in their natural state. 

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Picture of Michael Wulff | Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Michael Wulff | Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Our fearless leader Michael provides the heart of He’s loved caring for dogs since childhood, and today, he is proud to connect with other dog owners worldwide. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his dog, Harry, and working on his plans to open a dog rescue center.