There is a lot of information and apparently a lot of mis-information
out there about German Shepherds and their ears. I can't even begin
to tell you the amount of times that I have been out with one of my
dogs and people walk up to me and ask -- "Who did your dog's ears?"
Now, I admit, at first I was a little confused as to what exactly
that meant -- Did what to my dog's ears? It appears that there is a
common mis-conception about shepherd ears. Let me clear it
YOU DO NOT TRIM GERMAN SHEPHERD EARS TO MAKE THEM STAND!
Now, that being said, here is what else you need to know:
German Shepherds ARE born with their ears down
They should have their ears up before they each 4-5 months of age.
Some puppies have their ears up by 4 weeks of age.
If their ears are not up by 4-5 months of age, they need to be
If their ears are up before 4 months of age, they often will come
back down, temporarily, starting at 4 months. This happens to also
coincide with the time that they begin teething. This phenomenon is
thought to have something to do with the calcium levels and
re-distribution within the body. It is normal and nothing to worry
about AS LONG AS the ears WERE UP before 4 months.
DO NOT SUPPLEMENT CALCIUM DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME!!! IT IS
HARMFUL TO THEIR JOINTS!
If your Shepherd's ears have problems coming up and have to be
posted, this is a puppy with "soft ears". It is generally
considered a "flaw" and you must decide whether this is a puppy that
you want to breed. If you do decide to breed this puppy, make sure
that his attributes out-weigh his flaws, for often (but not always)
this trait is passed on to the next generation.
It is very common for GSD pups to have ears that tilt and flop this
way and that as they gain strength to stand on their own. The German
Shepherd ears may take all matter of shapes (1 up, 1 down; 1 this
way, 1 that way) until they come completely up. Do not panic when
this happens - It is completely normal.
Anatomy of the Ear
pinna, or ear flap, is covered by skin, and the outer or posterior
aspect is covered by fur. Numerous
are attached to the curved cartilage located between the inner and
outer layers of skin around the ear, and these muscles allow the
pinna to move and twitch.
The ear is made of a series of cartilages
The position of the ear flap is largely controlled by muscles
that attach onto the cartilages of the ear.
Trauma (pulling of the ear) when a dog is a pup (or even when it
is mature) may cause disruption of the muscles of the ear and
cause the ear flap to flop over. However, massaging the base of
the ear gently may help increase blood flow and improve it's
ability to stand
First of all, it is very important to make sure that your GSD puppy
is in good health. Make sure that the puppy is kept on the proper
schedule of de-wormings and vaccinations. It is also very important
to make sure that your GSD puppy is on a good quality food. If you
are unsure, check with your local vet or German Shepherd breeder for
suggestions on a diet that would be appropriate for your puppy.
Help stimulate your GSD puppy to use their ear muscles to help bring
their ears up faster naturally, by making interesting noises,
whistling, calling their name, etc. This will cause your puppy to
use those muscles on their ears to help stand them up on their own.
From my experience, if a Shepherd's ears are not trying very hard to
stand and the puppy's ears are taped after 7 or 8 months old it has
very little chance of working. At that point in life, the cartilage
has started to harden and it may very well harden with a "crease" in
it. I usually like to compare it to cardboard -- Cardboard can be
very tough but once it has a bend in it, it will never be as tough
as it was without the bend (similar to ears that harden while they
There are several techniques that can be used to help your German
Shepherd's ears get the little extra lift that they need.
pink spongy perm rollers (Goody's is one brand) from Wal-mart or
Mender fabric glue (Skin Bond may also work too)
surgical tape or other porous tape such 3M Micropore tape
un-sharpened pencil (optional but helpful)
the hard plastic clip out of the middle of each roller and discard.
You only need to keep the spongy pink foam roller part. (Grey foam
pipe insulation tubing works well too if you can't find the pink
foam rollers. You will have to cut this to length and I also tend
to thin them a little with a scalpel blade too.) I, personally,
like the tubing better with sedated dogs because I can fit it to the
ears exactly. But, for home use, I would recommend the rollers.
the pencil (unsharpened end) inside the pink foam roller about an
inch or so to make it easier to hold. Next, put the Skin Bond on the
pink foam roller about 3/4s of the way around the roller, so it is
well covered but not oozing or dripping off the roller in any way.
You do not want the glue to drip off the roller into your pup’s ear
canal during this process. You don't want to get the glue on your
hands either while in the middle of this process. That is where the
pencil comes in.
the roller inside the German Shepherd's ear flap itself fairly deep,
leaving about a finger space opening above the pup’s head and the
bottom of the roller inside the ear flap. While holding the pencil
end, wrap the GSD puppies ear around the glued foam roller and then
tape them into a fairly tight roll (but not too tight), in an
upright (vertical) position.
use any tape such as duct tape, electrical tape, or the like for ear
taping. If you don't have the right kind of tape and for some
reason you have to un-tape the ears, it will do more damage than
the pencil from the sponge roller.
Optional: Take a piece of tape long enough to wrap around both ears
and span the distance between the ears. Take one end of the tape
and wrap around one ear (roller and all) approximately 1/3 of the
way down the ear. Be careful not to wrap too tight. Take the other
end and wrap it around the opposite ear at about the same level.
The trick here is to pull the ears up into the proper position on
top of the head as you are taping. Leave enough of the tape that
you can bring it back across the exposed sticky end of the
horizontal piece tape (between the ears) and tape it back to
itself. This will help ensure that the tape will stay in place. The
German Shepherd puppy will shake his head and mess with the ears
several times but sooner or later he will forget about the tape all
together and leave it alone.
the puppy with food or by playing ball, etc. for about five minutes
until the glue stops itching and is well set. The roller will fall
out on its own in about a week or so if not taken out by you or your
puppy. Continue the re-taping process until the German Shepherd
puppy ears stand on their own.
need to say that many ears will be a little weak right after taping
but with time they will strengthen. So when an ear does not stand
perfectly after taping don't panic. Just have patience and see what
happens. You will really not have an idea exactly what you have
until the pup is 12 months old.
Glue on the Ear Method
simpler method is the Ear Glue method. It is simple, easy, and does
not bother or irritate the puppy to dig at his ears. With this
technique, you do not put tape on the ears but instead only glue the
ears together. (Tape can cause their ears to get sore.)
until the pup is at least 4 months of age. If puppy's ears are still
down like a lab or pointing out to the sides like the flying nun,
you can glue them at this point. If ears are at least half ways up,
leaning towards each other, or have been up and down, then give them
another month to make it on their own. Puppies’ ears can go up on
their own as late as age of 5-6mths. But DON'T wait too long. If
you go ahead and help them out, then there are no worries about them
not going up.
German Shepherd puppies ears naturally lean in towards each other or
even lay clean over on top of their head towards the other ear in
the process of going up on their own, this technique attempts to
GLUE: Use "Tear Mender", a fabric glue. Shake glue well. NEVER
pour the glue from the bottle directly on to puppy’s ears! We
recommend putting some of the glue on to a paper plate or piece of
note book paper, etc. The ears will be glued together over the
puppies head like an Indian tee-pee. Using your finger, put a small
amount of glue in a vertical line on the outside/back side of the
ear - edge of the ear from just slightly above the base to the tip
of his ear. (edge on the top of puppies head- over forehead only
(not the outside of the ear).
hold of the other ear and with both hands press the edges together
and hold for 30 seconds even though the glue will appear to hold
after about 3 seconds. They should only be glued about 2/3 's of the
a small amount of glue, it doesn't take much. In a few seconds it is
dry and holds well.
puppy should not be irritated by it at all. The ears still get air -
might have to keep your puppy away from others dogs to keep them
from rough-housing with him. Other dogs can easily pull the ears
apart making it difficult to keep the ears glued.
people say that using this technique, you can get ears to stand as
late as 10 months. It is probably worth a try but don't be too
disappointed if they don't stand.
Once you have the ears glued correctly do not take them apart, they
will come undone on their own with time. The longer they stay glued
the better. If they come undone on their own and are still floppy,
glue them again. We have had ears that stayed glued for 4wks at
times. Once the ears come undone they will not look perfect, but as
long as they are "up" then leave them alone, they will straighten
out on their own in the months to come.
After 1-2 months puppies ears should be up but we have heard of one
person that had to glue for 3 1/2 months to get a tip up. I'm sure
there could be the stubborn case where it could take even longer,
but I would not quit - till you talked with your pup's Breeder or
call me if you can not reach your breeder.
By the way, there
is also a glue remover for Tear Mender if you feel you will need
Quick Brace System
Another great way of posting ears is the
Since posting this article, I have been asked several times
if rubbing, petting, or if other people touching your
shepherd's ears will have an effect on them (keep them from
hear this from breeders ALL the time. I think it is silly. It
is just cartilage - if is was really that sensitive why don't we
have more lop-sized kids. Remember when parents used to grab
their kids by the ears to get them to listen. When was the last
time you saw a kid with ears that don't match? Or, what about
when those little kids hold their nose to go under water. How
come their noses still have holes in them? ;-)
have to admit there sure are a lot of breeders out there that believe this
though - I guess I could be wrong........? My opinion
is this - If
he has good ears, it doesn't matter what you do to them. I play with my puppies
ears all the time. They are so soft and fluffy, who could
resist?! Who would want to?!
So, If the
German Shepherd puppy ears are not up by 7 or 8 months of age they
are probably not going to come up. When the GSD ears do not stand on
their own there are ear implants that can be surgically added. I
have no experience with this personally but if you are unlucky
enough to have a German Shepherd whose ears will not stand on their
own, this is an option. I have done some research into these
implants and most vets DO NOT recommend them. Number one -
Downed ears is a
cosmetic issue ONLY. It will not affect your dog's quality of
life. Secondly, if the implants get infected and have to be
removed, the original floppy ears are going to look better than what
you will be left with after the implants are removed.
downed ears are not the end of the world, however, erect ears are a
part of the German Shepherd Dog breed standard. Upright ears are
more handsome, tougher, and more regal and the way the German
Shepherd was bred to look. While I will try several techniques
in order to get them to stand, I stop short of surgery.
do have questions about the German Shepherd ear taping process, feel
free to contact your German Shepherd breeder or the local GSD breed
club in your area or your veterinarian.