That classic German shepherd appearance requires those ears to stand up. But anyone who has ever adopted a GSD puppy knows that when you bring him home from the breeder, sanctuary, or shelter, his ears are flopped over. He will likely look a little comical, with those big ears and small, intelligent face.
Straight ears are one of the most stereotypical physical characteristics of German shepherds and in general, most dogs ears will start to stand up as they grow into them.
However, some owners, especially those that want a very classic-looking dog, are concerned about when the ears will stand up and if there is anything they can do to help the ears stand up. Here’s everything you need to know about German shepherd ears, from if and when they’ll stand up to ways to help them stand up, to ear care:
At What Age Do German Shepherd Ears Stand Up Straight?
Your puppy will usually have floppy ears while he is teething. By the time he finished teething, which with most dogs is by twenty weeks, his ears should be starting to stand up or should be all the way stood up. Why does it take this long—up to five months?
German shepherds, like humans, only have cartilage in their ears. When the GSD is a puppy, his cartilage is not very strong and cannot hold up the weight of those big ears.
As he grows, however, and gets the right nutrition, he will develop stronger cartilage in those ears, that will perk them up and make them pointy, instead of floppy. This process usually takes about twenty weeks.
During this time, especially as he starts to wean himself out of the teething phase, you will likely begin to notice that his ears fluctuate between floppy and pointy. Often, when he perks up his ears in response to another dog barking, someone ringing the doorbell, or the promise of a treat (for example).
If you see him raise his ears up straight at all during the five months prior to the end of the teething phase, it’s likely that those ears will be straight up and pointy for the rest of his life.
Can This Process Take Longer?
In some dogs, the process of ears standing up will take longer. Every puppy, even puppies from the same litter, will develop differently. Some German shepherds may take up to seven months to stand up fully. By the time the puppy is eight months old, if his ears have not stood up, they are probably not going to stand up, as this is the time that most shepherds ears’ form is permanently cemented.
If your puppy’s ears haven’t stood up by the fifth month, however, it might be worth your while to take him to the veterinarian for a checkup, as this might indicate a problem with his development. At any time, if you have a serious concern about your puppy’s health, it is a good idea to visit the veterinarian or the breeder who sold you your puppy.
On the other hand, if you are not very concerned with whether or not your puppy’s ears ever take on that Rin-Tin-Tin pointiness, there is no reason to worry if his ears have not perked up by five months of age.
What can go wrong with the ears?
If five months have passed and his ears have still not perked up, this could be an indication that he is either not developing properly or that he is not getting proper nutrition.
In order for the cartilage in his ears (and the rest of his body) to strengthen sufficiently to hold up floppy ears, he needs to be getting plenty of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. If he is not getting high enough levels of these nutrients from his puppy food, it might be time to switch to a higher quality puppy food.
More often, floppy ears far behind the age of five months is an indication of weak genetics. While taping can sometimes rectify this problem, it does not always work to correct a problem that is in the dog’s biological makeup, rather than in how he is being fed or cared for.
Is Taping German Shepherd ears a Common Practice?
Many breeders will recommend taping to help your German shepherd’s ears stand up straight. This is a fairly common practice, especially in show dog circles, in order to make sure a puppy’s ears take on that very stereotypical appearance.
In the world of family pets and working animals, however, this is a less common practice, for two reasons.
First, dogs that are bred as family pets or to work are less likely to come from “show lines,” which can mean they are less likely to be “pure” German shepherds and may lack that genetic weakness.
Second, owners of dogs that are not going to be shown in competitions are sometimes less concerned with how “German shepherd” their shepherd looks and may be perfectly happy with a floppy-eared adult GSD.
Is Taping dog ears a Good Thing?
Taping, as long as it is done properly, is usually painless for a dog and in some situations can help floppy ears stand upright, as it trains the cartilage to hold up the weight of the ears in that position, just as lifting weights can train a muscle.
However, it is not always effective, and will probably not have very much effect on ears that were going to stand up anyway.
What Else Can I Do to Make German Shepherd Ears Stand Up?
If your GSD just does not have the right genetics for pointy ears, there is not very much you can do to get them to stand up. However, if he has showed signs that his ears are going to perk up, there are a few things you can do to protect them from damage, to make sure that they stand up.
Keep him away from puppies or dogs that like to bite or tug on ears. While this might be cute and normal behavior, it can damage the cartilage and make it impossible for one or both of the ears to ever stand up properly.
It is important to talk to children and other family members in the house that as much fun as it is to play with a puppy’s floppy ears, this can hurt the dog. Keep his ears clean and well-cared for and they will be properly perked up in no time!
German Shepherd Ear Care
Dogs ears do not need as much cleaning or attention as human ears do, but they do need some attention, especially if your GSD puppy loves to roughhouse or is constantly getting into dirt or mud. Very carefully clean his ears with a wet cotton ball if you see dirt on the inside.
If there is no visible contaminants, he probably does not need a cleaning. Never stick anything down into the ear canal! If you notice lots of hair grown or earwax inside the ear, take him to the vet for a cleaning.