Tail docking and ear cropping dogs: public awareness and perceptions

2017-12-23T21:12:53Z (GMT) by Katelyn Mills
<p>Tail docking and ear cropping are two surgical procedures commonly performed on many dog breeds. These procedures are classified as medically unnecessary surgeries whose purpose is primarily cosmetic. Available attitude research surrounding these controversial practices has been limited to surveys of veterinarians and dog breeders familiar with both practices. The aim of this project was to: 1) assess public awareness of tail docking and ear cropping, 2) determine whether physical alteration of a dog effects how the dog, and 3) owner are perceived. In Experiment 1 awareness was measured using a combination of both explicit and implicit measures. We found that 42% of participants (n=810) were unable to correctly explain the reason why tail docked and ear cropped dogs had short ears and tails. Similarly, an implicit measure of awareness (‘nature vs nurture task’), found that the majority of participants believed short tails and erect ears were a consequence of genetics rather than something the owner or breeder had done. The results obtained in Experiment 2 (n=392) provide evidence that ear cropped and tail docked dogs are perceived differently than an identical dog in its ‘natural’ state. Modified dogs were perceived as being more aggressive, more dominant, less playful and less attractive than natural dogs. Experiment 3 (n=410) is the first evidence that owners of modified dogs are perceived as being more aggressive, more narcissistic, less playful, less talkative and less warm compared to owners of natural dogs. Taken together, these results suggest that although a significant proportion of subjects appear unaware of the practices of tail docking and ear cropping in dogs, these procedures have significant impacts on how modified dogs and their owners are perceived by others.</p>