Written by: Samary Birkline © 2020.
For decades the Doberman’s sleek, muscular body has captivated audiences and owners alike. Its characteristic erect ears draw a sharp image in the mind: a mild bell sloping gracefully up to a point, then dropping straight to the skull; the vision of laser-focus and concentration. Veteran Doberman owners will attest to the need for owner/trainer perseverance during the youth of a Doberman pup, from the breed’s famous high energy level to the length of time ear posting must continue for the desired result.
It’s important to note that some Dobermans come with the ears already cropped. Many breeders ensure the crop is complete and the stitches are removed on a litter of pups before the pups are allowed to go home. Other breeders keep the pups until the ears are completely standing. Yet another grouping does not perform the crop at all. Practices vary wildly from breeder to breeder. But chances are if you have a new Doberman puppy in the United States and some other countries, you’re posting his or her ears for several weeks on your own.
There are multiple methods, each with its own pros and cons. The Kennel Birkline utilizes a method with relatively little taping, a stiff, yet small posting material, and a harmless skin glue. This method can be used regardless of the length of the puppy’s ears, and can replace any standard method used by a veterinarian.
- 150-175 lb Cable Wraps/Zip-Ties
- Breathable Medical Tape
- Tin Snips/Industrial Cutting Tool
- Kitchen Scissors
- Skin Glue
- 2×2 Medical Gauze
Measure out two segments of tape approximately 175% of the length of the dog’s upper ear (measured from top of skull to tip of ear), usually about 5″ to 6″ for Dobermans, depending on age.
Six more segments of tape should be cut, approximately one inch shorter than the former set. For Dobermans, this tends to be 5″, 4″, and 3″ sets (one set for each ear). The longest strips can be cut longer than needed to be certain they reach all the way around the bell of the ear.
Use tin snips to cut two segments of thick zip-tie half an in longer than the entire ear (measured from the bottom of the dog’s jaw to the tip of the ear).
Fold a 2×2 gauze pad in half around the end of a post, then roll the fabric into a padding surrounding the plastic zip-tie. Tape the gauze pad around the zip-tie, to protect the dog’s ears. Repeat for second post.
Place the tip of the post onto the ear-length segments of tape, about half-way up, so that half the tape is free, and the other half is held straight by the post. Additionally, position the posts each hugging opposite sides of the strip of tape. *Tip: The “flag” side of each post and tape should wrap around the front of the dog’s ear, leaving the surgical edge open. I position them in front on me with the flags up and the tips inside to remind me which post to use for which side.
Apply glue to the full length of tape and the post, but only the parts of the post that are on tape should be smeared with glue.
Allow the glue to dry until tacky, much like eyelash glue for false eyelashes.
When the glue is nearly dry, insert the gauzed end of the post into the ear socket, ensuring it reaches the bottom of the ear’s landing. Do NOT attempt to shove the post forward down the ear canal. The cotton gauze should rest at the floor of the ear socket at a 90 degree angle to the skull.
Gently press the flag side of the tape to the inside skin of the ear, adhering it to the ear itself. The free-floating segment of tape is folded over the tip of the ear and gently adhered to the back of the ear. Hold in place for 10-20 seconds before moving onto the next step.
Take the longest segment of tape, and at a 45 degree angle to the skull, attach it to the post, so that the tape easily and loosely slopes around the front of the ear. (A small folding is expected at the front of the ear. Ensure it is not tight around this area, as it can cause lacerations and scars if allowed to damage the ear.) Loosely wrap the length of tape around the ear until it returns back over itself. Snip to size, if needed.
The medium length of tape is applied at the same 45 degree angle, but perches approximately 50% higher, again gently wrapping around the ear until lapsing back onto itself. The shortest length of tape will be applied the same as before, with a 45 degree angle, placed 50% above the medium length of tape. (Some smaller breeds, or even large breeds later in the process, may not require the third segment of tape, as the ear will be too short.)
The second ear is simply a mirror image of the first, again, with the flag side of the posting facing the non-surgical side of the ear: the front side. Use fingertips to gently pinch the tape strips into place around the ear, ensuring contact is made with the skin.
A cone should be worn until stitches are removed. Each morning, the cone should be removed for a meal and for cleaning with isopropyl alcohol. Especially in the early days, the cone will need cleaned several times daily to keep the wound from becoming infected.
Another option some kennels employ is the use of fish Cephalexin. It is available over the counter, can be ordered on the internet, and can be used to combat the risk of infection for 7-10 days after the cropping. Do not use in combination with any other antibiotic without the approval of a veterinarian. Do not exceed 10 days without consulting a veterinarian. The dosage for canines is 10-15 mg per pound of body weight. Fish Cephalexin can be purchased in 250 mg and 500 mg tablets.
Posts should be changed every 5-7 days, or when wet. Ear should always be clean and dry before reapplication of posts.
This method discourages any connection between the posts themselves, requiring the dog to develop the muscles required to lift the posts into the erect position. Though, I have used segments of tape towards the end, encouraging the ears to stay together for those who are rather stubborn.
The length of time a dog’s ears will be posted will vary based on several factors.
- The longer the ear, the longer the posting will be required. A dog’s ears cropped short (sometimes called “house” or “military” cut) may only require a few days or weeks of posting. A “magazine” or medium length cut usually takes between 6 and 8 weeks of posting. The show cut, the very longest of them all can take up to six months of posting to produce the desired result.
- The cleanliness and health of the ear plays a factor also. Infected ears stand up, for example, but this is usually due to the swelling of the infected tissue, which causes the ears to appear to stand. Keep ears clean and dry to minimize the amount of posting time needed.
- The method of posting can also produce variance in the posting length of time.
- The amount of cartilage the individual dog has and the quality of the cartilage also plays a factor.
The finished product of expert surgical cropping and care is a majestic appearance. Expressive and clean, the erect Doberman ear has been inspiring to both artist and writer for years. If proper care is taken of the cropped ears and posting continues until completion, the result can be striking elegance and a sharp, intelligent appearance.