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Ear bracing... normal or no?

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Once upon a time I had a Collie. An AKC Collie. Show-bred, by a woman who I respected, and a dog healthy of mind and body. (This was harder to bring about that the uninitiated might imagine. I had to wait 3 years for him – and even then I had to settle for a “him”, instead of a “her”, which is what I prefer.)

I named him Sensei. He was a wonderful dog.

Back then, in 1992, I had very specific ideas about what a Collie should look like. One of those things was the way its ears looked. I didn’t like prick ears on a Collie. Ears that stand straight up - think German Shepherd Dog – just don’t work for me on a Collie. But a great many Collies do not sport the perfect “tulip ear” naturally. One must intervene in many cases. So many cases in fact, that the average show Collie has his ears braced long before they indicate what their final posture will be.

Bracing is done in many different ways, with varying degrees of success. Some are uncomfortable. Some are not. A lot depends on the temperament of the dog. Some treatments produce an ear with a sharp crease at the “break”, or place where the ear folds. These dogs tend to look as if their ear had been slammed in a door. It has a right-angle instead of a smooth curve. It looks artificial. It is artificial. All ear-bracing is artificial. But if one is going to do it, one should strive for a natural-looking ear.

As you can see in the pictures of various Lassies below, one dog has the slammed-in-a-door look, and the others have the more wobbly, up-one-minute, down-the-next look. And the one dog has very clearly prick ears (at that moment.)
Car%2BDoor%2Bears.jpg
Slammed-in-a-door ears. But not the worst I've seen.

Lassie-2005-01-1.jpg Wibbly-wobbly Lassie ears. 0040063.jpg

Lassie, looking into a stiff breeze.

Nowadays, I am less fussy about the ear-carriage of Collies. But - and this is where you need to brace for impact - I have a partiality for a lovely tulip ear – a natural tulip ear. I am no longer dotty about Lassie-type Collies. I much prefer the Border Collie. But I still love a beautifully-turned tulip ear.

Brcaed%2Bvs%2BNatural.jpg

Sensei & Sugarfoot. Sensei's ears were the product of early and careful bracing. Sugarfoot's are natural. It is remarkable how similar their ears are.


But… My dog has naturally-tipped ears. I would not have braced them if they had started going prick. I would have been temporarily disappointed, but not devastated. Sometimes one of her ears goes prick for a few moments. It usually happens when she’s excited. I will admit that I sometimes feel a twinge of worry. What if it stays that way? But it never does. And if it does, I’ll cope. Does that make me shallow? Maybe?
The%2BSupper%2BEar%2B2.jpg

But I would never condemn someone for wanting to brace their Collie’s, or even their Border Collie’s ears. (As long as they sought a qualified, experienced person who put the dog’s comfort first, and who would avoid creating a slammed-in-a-door appearance.)

But.

I am absolutely against breeding Border Collies – or most any dog – simply for the way they look. Border Collies should be bred for one thing and one thing only… Stock working ability. If it doesn’t have a very high degree of stock working ability, it should not be bred. Cute ears are not a factor.

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Another, another brother from another mother....

 

1ba110f8-2363-41dd-bad4-4ebfeb92673f.jpg

 

I love the wonky ear stage and waiting to see how they finally end up :)

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Ear setting, apart from all the obvious objections, means conformation breeders are cheating their own rules

I mean aren´t they supposed to breed for certain looks/colors...?

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Did someone say odd ears?

 

3mrpLOwM6rj6UgvKmWgfER.jpg

 

I wanted full prick. NOPE. I'm okay with that. I can't imagine her with any other ears, now.

 

Our first dog had ears like that. We called her The Flying Nun.

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Ear setting, apart from all the obvious objections, means conformation breeders are cheating their own rules

I mean aren´t they supposed to breed for certain looks/colors...?

 

Yes they are. Especially if the changes are made surgically. You would be amazed at how many show-winners there are with implants in their ears forcing them to the correct carriage, and how many have had an offendingly-pale nose-area tattooed to hide their "defect."

 

But think about this. Ear-set in the Collie, the Border Collie and other breeds is affected by a great many factors - size and shape of the ear, thickness and placement on the skull, etc. I would rather see ears braced than used as a breeding consideration. Of course this is not an issue for working dogs, which have more important things to be concerned about. There are so many things that are more important. (Like everything! :P)

 

But for show dogs or pets, owner preference for appearance is more likely to be an issue. Of course, I would just as soon there were no show dogs - as in conformation shows.

 

Breeding for an erect ear is easier, and most breeds that have them have a fairly high rate of "correct" ear carriage. It's mostly when you start talking about dogs that have that long, narrow, cropped ear like the Great Dane or the Doberman Pinscher that it becomes "necessary" to brace with those space-alien-looking contraptions. This is a whole different thing than bracing a Collie's ears. It is painful, has a surprisingly high failure-rate, and it's very expensive.

 

I'm not a fan of ear-cropping or tail-docking in general. However, I think that tail-docking is not so clear-cut (pardon the pun.)

 

There are breeds that are prone to tail injuries. I've seen a number that required amputation of all or part of the tail in Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers. It is a big deal to amputate a dog's tail as an adult, not so much as a 3-day-old puppy.

 

For me, a well managed ear bracing for a tulip ear is not that big a deal in a pet dog. A non-working dog. And I think that the argument about docking and cropping that "you should leave a dog with the equipment it comes with" is a tough one to support when people routinely take a dogs testicles/ovaries. Careful management of an intact dog or bitch will prevent unwanted litters. But of course, people are lazy and/or irresponsible. So in the big picture the neutering of dogs and cats seems the best and safest route to preventing pet overpopulation. (However, there are several countries that do not spay and neuter routinely, and they often have far less problem with pet overpopulation than we do here.)

 

There is also the fact that livestock is routinely castrated, docked and punch-tagged. Chicken's beaks are burned short. There are reasons these things are done. Some of them are "good" reasons, from the point of view of a stock-keeper. But I think people are a bit too apt to shrug this off, when they would be deeply offended by the same treatment if it were a dog or a cat or even a horse involved. It's about convenience and profit for the human keepers. A sheep with a long tail is subject to health/hygiene issues. A chicken with a natural beak may mutilate itself or it's cage-mates. Steers, wethers and gilts are easier to control than bulls, rams and boars. They also tend to get big and fat on less feed.

 

Yes, I think that overall, we should accept animals they way they are. In dogs, ears, tails and dewclaws should largely be left like they come. Their generative organs should probably be left alone, too. But Americans are a culture of appearance-obsessed people. A few weeks for a puppy with its ears in moleskin and string seems pretty innocuous to me. But it does speak to larger issues, many of which should be considered.

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...And I think that the argument about docking and cropping that "you should leave a dog with the equipment it comes with" is a tough one to support when people routinely take a dogs testicles/ovaries. Careful management of an intact dog or bitch will prevent unwanted litters. But of course, people are lazy and/or irresponsible....

 

So by this logic, the only reason to spay or neuter your pet is because you are lazy and/or irresponsible? But hey, that Dobie's cropped ears looks soooo badass :rolleyes:

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So in the big picture the neutering of dogs and cats seems the best and safest route to preventing pet overpopulation. (However, there are several countries that do not spay and neuter routinely, and they often have far less problem with pet overpopulation than we do here.)

Yep, that statement does apply to Iceland. Not a lot of people castrate their dogs here, no overpopulation.

Mind you, people are a lot less squeamish about putting down healthy pups/dogs here, than for instance in my country of birth the Netherlands, and I imagine from reading these boards, the US.

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So by this logic, the only reason to spay or neuter your pet is because you are lazy and/or irresponsible? But hey, that Dobie's cropped ears looks soooo badass :rolleyes:

 

Uhhh, no, but it does mean that the only reason spaying and neutering seems to be necessary in general is because so many people are lazy and irresponsible.

 

And as far as "Dobie's" ears looking badass...

 

post-10533-0-56893000-1455144297_thumb.jpg

 

This was my "badass Dobie" and her extremely prick-eared smooth Collie roomie. My Doberman was docked when I got her at 16 weeks. I left her ears natural because I liked them that way. The Collie was a long-term rescue. He was a little tough to place because of his coat, his ears, and his coloring. He didn't look enough like Lassie to attract a home quickly. He was a blue-eyed, white-factored sable-merle. He was so unusual, in fact, that I was able to trace his breeder - who refused to take him back, even though she admitted he was of her breeding.

 

post-10533-0-21691600-1455144759_thumb.jpg

 

Sensei, (in the background) I could have placed 20 times while Sean was waiting. Stupid, I know. But it is how the world wags...

 

You might want to read my post again. It clearly states that I am not a fan of ear-cropping. But in my twelve years of Collie rescue I talked with a number of people in Doberman rescue who said Doberman Pinschers with natural ears were more difficult to place than those with cropped ears. This was a long time ago - the 1980's & early '90's. There is much more acceptance of natural ears in the breed - and in general - nowadays. It's become PC. And that's just fine with me.

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^ ^ ^

 

We can agree to disagree on the reasons to spay and neuter. But please don't take offense to my otherwise meaningless Doberman comment as I didn't know you actually had one some time ago, lol!

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^ ^ ^

 

We can agree to disagree on the reasons to spay and neuter. But please don't take offense to my otherwise meaningless Doberman comment as I didn't know you actually had one some time ago, lol!

 

No problem. My remarks on Doberman Pinscher's ears, and prick-eared Collies were meant to illustrate the rather lamentable fact that the AKC's influence on the two breeds is such that if a dog doesn't look just like the AKC version of its breed, it may have a harder time finding a home as a rescue. If a Collie looks like Lassie, it is scooped up in a minute. If it doesn't, "It's a mix." It's no different with Doberman Pinschers. If it has natural ears, it might be a mix... And if it has a tail...

 

This is well-known by Collie breeders, and so many will brace all their pups ears, or at least all that are still with them at that age. A majority of people who come looking for a Collie will expect to see that ear-set. If they don't, they may well look elsewhere. Sad, but true.

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No problem. My remarks on Doberman Pinscher's ears, and prick-eared Collies were meant to illustrate the rather lamentable fact that the AKC's influence on the two breeds is such that if a dog doesn't look just like the AKC version of its breed, it may have a harder time finding a home as a rescue. If a Collie looks like Lassie, it is scooped up in a minute. If it doesn't, "It's a mix." It's no different with Doberman Pinschers. If it has natural ears, it might be a mix... And if it has a tail...

 

This is well-known by Collie breeders, and so many will brace all their pups ears, or at least all that are still with them at that age. A majority of people who come looking for a Collie will expect to see that ear-set. If they don't, they may well look elsewhere. Sad, but true.

Online there was a conversation with a Doberman Pinscher owner in the UK. They said they had met many people from the US that said they would leave the breed if the US went to the no tail docking and ear cropping like the UK. I just can't understand that mindset.

 

I wish I could have met your unusual Collie. I find his look intriguing.

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I wish I could have met your unusual Collie. I find his look intriguing.

 

Sean was a GREAT dog. One of the sweetest, most sensible dogs I ever knew. He was a big boy. Nearly 80 lbs. And not an oz. of fat on him.

 

Once, I was walking to the 7-11 with him and we went past a couple of guys having a playful fist fight on the sidewalk. They were pretending to be angry at each other, but they were laughing too, and not landing any really serious punches. But they were boisterous and jumping around.

 

They didn't worry me, as I knew they were playing, but as we passed them one of them threw a punch that went past my head at a distance of about 6 inches. I didn't flinch away, because I could see it wasn't aimed at me, and wouldn't connect with me.

 

But Seanie was unconvinced. He didn't bark or growl. He simply rose up on his hind legs, and ever-so-gently closed his long, toothy Collie muzzle around the guy's forearm. He remained like that, exerting little or no pressure, but balancing on his hind feet, and staring straight into the guy's eyes. The guy froze - sensibly. And I said in a conversational tone of voice, "It's OK, Seanie. He didn't mean any harm. You can let him go."

 

Seanie opened his mouth, returned to all fours and gave a smile and a lazy wag of his tail. I said, "Sorry. He just thought you might hit me by accident." The guy said, "No problem," and we went on our way to the store.

 

Seanie did finally meet with an animal hospital co-worker of mine who was able to see what a fine dog he was. They were very happy together.

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Huh. I don't know how that pic^^^ became attached to the previous post. I had chosen another one.

 

Let me try again. If it doesn't work this time, I give up.

Wow, they do look alike!

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Sean was a GREAT dog. One of the sweetest, most sensible dogs I ever knew. He was a big boy. Nearly 80 lbs. And not an oz. of fat on him.

 

Once, I was walking to the 7-11 with him and we went past a couple of guys having a playful fist fight on the sidewalk. They were pretending to be angry at each other, but they were laughing too, and not landing any really serious punches. But they were boisterous and jumping around.

 

They didn't worry me, as I knew they were playing, but as we passed them one of them threw a punch that went past my head at a distance of about 6 inches. I didn't flinch away, because I could see it wasn't aimed at me, and wouldn't connect with me.

 

But Seanie was unconvinced. He didn't bark or growl. He simply rose up on his hind legs, and ever-so-gently closed his long, toothy Collie muzzle around the guy's forearm. He remained like that, exerting little or no pressure, but balancing on his hind feet, and staring straight into the guy's eyes. The guy froze - sensibly. And I said in a conversational tone of voice, "It's OK, Seanie. He didn't mean any harm. You can let him go."

 

Seanie opened his mouth, returned to all fours and gave a smile and a lazy wag of his tail. I said, "Sorry. He just thought you might hit me by accident." The guy said, "No problem," and we went on our way to the store.

 

Seanie did finally meet with an animal hospital co-worker of mine who was able to see what a fine dog he was. They were very happy together.

What a great story. I'm glad you were able to find him a happy home.

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Complaints about show people doing a "bent,folded, spindles or mutilated" ears? I've know trial people who 'fixed' ears for over 30 years (some gladly went with the AKC, others are no longer trialing).

I've worked with dogs whose ears have been 'fixed' I HATE IT!!. you don't realize how much it affects the dog's overall 'language' when working it on stock. so ften this sort of ear doesn't move, which makes it difficult to tell what the dog is about to do next or it's attitude'.

 

For the person who posted the Lassie photos, my collie had really nice 'natural' ears but in the show ring they looked abnormal against all the dogs whose ears had been 'fixed'

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This is so weird. Finding myself as an apologist (sort of) for bracing a Collie's ears. :blink: As I've said, I wouldn't think of bracing a Border Collie's ears, but I don't necessarily think it's the work of the Devil.

 

I have only the experience with the one dog, and his ears were very mobile, expressive of what he was thinking, and busily swiveling in all directions to catch sounds. If he put his nose in the air or faced into the wind, up would go his ears.

 

But it sounds like we had very different experiences. Sensei seemed un-worried about having his ears braced. He was totally fine with people handling his ears all his life, but I have heard of dogs that were head shy and didn't want their ears fooled with after bracing.

 

I attribute this to how the bracing was done. I have heard people say that their dogs shook their heads all the time while their ears were braced. Sensei didn't, and if he had, his moleskin would have gone flying off. I replaced the bracing about one a week. He had his ears braced for 6 to 8 weeks. I can't remember clearly, it was a long time ago.

 

Anyway, as you can see from these pictures, he had the normal range of ear movement and posture. I am sad to hear that overzealous and perhaps improperly braced ears were a source of problems for other dogs. :(

 

post-10533-0-10416000-1455567011_thumb.jpg When the nose went up, so did the ears!

 

post-10533-0-58770000-1455567044_thumb.jpg

 

post-10533-0-45441900-1455567073_thumb.jpg With the bracing in. Business as usual.

 

post-10533-0-26346100-1455567111_thumb.jpg

 

post-10533-0-16101500-1455567128_thumb.jpg

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Megan's were set before we adopted her, and they are perfectly, naturally, mobile. Apparently only the tips were manipulated.

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I don't know why anyone would bother, my collies all have heavy ears and it doesn't affect their abilities one bit. I just find the concept very bizarre. Still I suppose we live in a very looks driven society. When I go to the city people ask if my AWBC registered dogs are crossbreds lol. They don't understand the short coat and the heavy ears. I tell them they are working dogs and it doesn't seem to convince some of them.

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I guess I don't quite understand how one compartmentalizes to the point of arguing it's okay to brace the ears in one breed but not another. It's antithetical to the whole KC culture of supposedly breeding the best to the best to produce the best. Apparently despite all that lip service they still need to physically alter them....

 

 

J.

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Julie: (et al)

 

I wouldn't say it's OK in one breed, but not another in general. But then again, my experience with ear-bracing involved no negative fallout for the dog in question. Others have had different experience.

 

I agree that if you are breeding with looks as your main criteria, it makes sense to breed a dog that has the characteristics that you are looking for. Look at the difference between a Manchester Terrier and a Miniature Pinscher. The Manchester - most of the time - will "come with" erect ears. It's bred that way. The Miniature Pinscher doesn't usually have naturally erect ears. And what's more, fanciers of the breed want not only an erect ear, they want a sharply pointed ear - a cropped ear. That is their aesthetic.

 

Neither breed, as I understand it, has a working history, let alone a working present. They have always been pets/companion dogs. This is not true of the Border Collie. The one most important characteristic of the Border Collie is working ability. That is its history, and the only acceptable criterion for breeding. (For me at least, and I'm sure for you as well.) That is the reason that I personally wouldn't monkey with a Border Collies ears.

 

But at the same time, I would not condemn anyone else for bracing a pet dog's ears - a pet dog of any breed or mix. As long as it was done in a way that did not hurt or bother the dog. Cropping hurts. And not just for a few minutes. No way around it. So I'm not in favor of it.

 

Another reason I'm not in favor of it is the history of why it was done in the first place. Dogs bred for the fighting pit (as well as guard dogs) were at a disadvantage with a full ear. Ears are easily injured and bleed profusely. So fighting dogs were cropped close, (and often docked for the same reason). The attenuated crop of the Great Dane or Doberman Pinscher is a comparatively recent development, and is all about fashion. But you will still see Pit Bulls with that close-to-the-head crop that suggests that it's owner sees his dog as a pit-fighting dog or wanna-be pit fighter.

 

On the other hand, I have seen many 3-day old puppies "docked and dewclawed," and my impression was that there was little or no pain, no blood to speak of, and so I have no problem with that, either. But only in that time window. Wait any longer and it gets painful. In an adult of sub-adult dog it is very painful, can be dangerous and involves a rather lengthy recovery, and possible serious complications.

 

Dogs that are bred to have stump tails often have a fairly high incidence of spinal abnormalities. I don't know how true this is of Australian Shepherds, but I do know it's true of Bulldogs and Manx cats. In fact, among Manx cats, the kitten that inherits the tailless gene from both parents is usually re-absorbed before birth, or dies at birth or shortly after. Only those with only one copy of the gene grow up and thrive. But the point is: if a person is dedicated to stump tails in a particular breed, they would be well-advised to dock, rather than to breed for the trait.

 

I have heard people here claim a partiality for a certain ear-carriage, color, or set of markings. Some are partial to one type of coat or another. But most of the people here - especially those with dogs that actually do stock work - will not choose a pup based on those things. And that's as it should be. The Border Collie is an actual, gainfully employed, stock working breed.

 

But for those dogs with no hereditary work, and for many, like the Lassie collie, that have no talent, as a breed, for the work of their ancestors, then one is fairly free to choose (after general health and temperament issues have been satisfied) on the basis of appearance. And I maintain that if the owner of say, a Lassie collie has a horror of erect ears, then I have no problem with them humanely bracing that dog's ears.

 

I personally bought my last AKC dog over twenty years ago. I like Collies, but Collies are an AKC breed. I could easily find a dog that appealed to me visually from among, Farm Collies, American Shepherds or Scotch Collies. And if that dog showed signs of "going prick" I might decide to brace it's ears. Then again, I might not. ^_^

 

If my next dog is a Border Collie, I wouldn't fuss with its ears. It just wouldn't feel right. It would feel like putting chrome wheels on a seed drill. What would be the point? And besides - I'd miss out on all those great conversations with people who thought my prick-eared Border Collie was a mix. Think of all the missed opportunities to widen people's perceptions. ;)

 

Bottom line: I wouldn't mess with a Border Collie's ears, because I wouldn't mess with a working breed's purpose. Fiddling with a Border Collie's ears might suggest that fiddling with its genetics was OK too. That's what the AKC does. That's what the sports-breeder does. That's what the color-breeder for the pet market does.

 

But the "working definition" of the Border Collie says that looks don't matter. Coat, color, ears, size, you name it. What you see is what you get, because what you see in the "standing dog" is of no importance. What you see in the dog moving stock does, and it's the only thing that does.

 

In a weird way, that's why I worked so hard to get Maid into a working home. She deserved it. She earned it. Because she could do the work.

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I certainly have a preference for prick ears but none of my Border collies have ever had them, I watch their ears go up and down when they are young with much amusement, but they will settle where they settle.

 

As to show dogs to be honest I really don't understand the obsession with what are sometimes quite bizarre features that become fashionable. I guess if people want to do cosmetic stuff to their dogs that doesn't hurt the dog but pleases them aesthetically there isn't much wrong with that, but I still don't really understand it. With show dogs however I would have thought that would be undesirable as it kind of masks the phenotype of the dog and could be considered cheating I would have thought.

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It is cheating! But so is nearly every other aspect of conformation showing - artful grooming meant to enhance some traits and de-emphasize others, "stacking" the dog for the same reason, crowding another competitor to make his dog stand on uneven ground, inserting chalk and other substances to alter a coat's texture or color. The list is endless... :blink:

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It is cheating! But so is nearly every other aspect of conformation showing - artful grooming meant to enhance some traits and de-emphasize others, "stacking" the dog for the same reason, crowding another competitor to make his dog stand on uneven ground, inserting chalk and other substances to alter a coat's texture or color. The list is endless... :blink:

Yeah well showing dogs is bizarre full stop. Some of the things you see are decidedly weird.

 

I do know some breeders and I have friends who show dogs who are very genuine but it still doesn't sit entirely comfortably for some breeds in particular.

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