When Will My German Shepherd's Ears Stand Up?
Classic German Shepherds have ears that stand up straight. But anyone who has ever adopted this breed knows that their ears are floppy when they are young. Some owners, especially those who want a very classic-looking German Shepherd dog (also named Alsatian or abbreviated GSD), are eager to see the ears stand up right away and often wonder whether there is anything they can do to help.
At What Age Do German Shepherd Ears Stand Up Straight?
When your puppy is finished teething (around week 20), his ears should start to stick up or should be all the way up. Why does it take five months for this to occur?
As a puppy, the German Shepherd's cartilage is not strong enough and cannot hold up the weight of their big ears. But as they grow and get the right nutrition, they will develop stronger cartilage. This process usually takes about 20 weeks.
When they start to wean themselves out of the teething phase, you will likely begin to notice their ears fluctuating between floppy and pointy. You might see them rise when they perk up in response to noise but see them flop down quickly afterward.
If their ears can stick up straight during the first five months (prior to the end of the teething phase), then it’s likely that they will be straight and pointy for the rest of their life.
Can This Process Take Longer?
In some dogs, the process will take longer. Every puppy, even puppies from the same litter, will develop differently. Some dogs may take up to seven months. If their ears do not stand up by the time they are eight to nine months old, they are probably never going to stand up because this is the time when most German Shepherd's ears take permanent form.
After 3000 people voting in my poll and a lot of questions in the comment section, I decided to make a table to provide a clear overview. Keep in mind that polls are self-reporting and can contain flaws or biases.
Around 75% of the dogs have their ears standing up in the first three to ten months. The results also show that nearly one in five German Shepherds will never have their ears stand up straight. That number is higher than I expected. I trained in official clubs with purebred dogs and I've rarely or never seen those, which makes me think there are more mixed dogs in the poll or some people voted too early?
Percentage of Dogs Having Ears Standing Up by Age
Percentage of Dogs
After 1 Year
Is There Something Wrong With My Dog's Ears?
If five months have passed and their ears have still not perked up, it could be an indication that they are either not developing properly or that they are not getting proper nutrition. Your dog should have a diet that is abundant in protein, calcium, and vitamin D. If they are not getting enough of these nutrients from their puppy food, it might be time to switch to a higher-quality food. If you are really worried, you should take them to the veterinarian for a checkup.
However, most cases of floppy ears are an indication of non-standard genetics rather than lack of nutrition. Owners might want to rectify this problem with taping, but it rarely works because you cannot correct your dog’s biological makeup.
If you are not too picky with your puppy's appearance, then there is no reason to worry if their ears have not perked up by five months of age.
Is Taping German Shepherd Ears a Common Practice?
Many breeders recommend taping, and this is a fairly common practice, especially in show dog circles.
But taping is a less common practice with family or working German Shepherds for two reasons:
- Dogs that are bred to be family pets or working dogs are less likely to come from “show lines,” which means they are less likely to be “purebred” dog.
- Owners of dogs that are not going to be shown in competitions are sometimes less concerned about their puppies being standard in appearance and may be perfectly happy with a floppy-eared adult German Shepherd.
Is Taping Safe?
Taping, as long as it is done properly, is usually painless, but it rarely works and can cause irritation or annoy your pet.
People who own domestic dogs are generally not as concerned about the appearance of their dogs to the point that they feel it necessary to manipulate their bodies to reach a certain level of appeal. This isn’t always the case though – some dog owners want their dogs to represent the breed as is indicated by clubs and show lines.
Taping ears isn’t always effective, it actually has a high rate of failure, and it will not fix genetics. The idea is that taping a dog’s ears causes the cartilage to form and shape in the same way that weight lifting causes muscles to grow and get stronger.
I have gotten a lot of messages with people asking me about how to do it safely. If you insist on taping your German Shepherd’s ears follow these steps:
- Talk to a veterinarian before you tape a young dog’s ears and don't start to early, give nature a chance to do its thing.
- Make sure that they’re in good health. They can’t have parasites, they need to have good nutrition and they need to be physically fit.
- Use thin, white surgical tape to tape the ears.
- Wrap the ear around a foam insert and tape them into a tight roll, vertically.
- Using a popsicle stick, attach the top part of both ears in a horizontal position. Prepare to replace this – the dog’s going to rip it off a few times.
- Make sure you change it every once in a while. If they don’t come up after a few months, then they’re not going to.
If possible, avoiding taping the ears. German Shepherds won’t like it and they don’t need to have their ears taped for good health.
When Did Your Shepherd's Ears Finally Stand Up?
What Else Can I Do to Make German Shepherd Ears Stand Up?
If your dog does not have the right genetics for pointy ears, then there is nothing you can do. However, if they have shown signs that their ears are going to perk up, then there are a few things you can do to protect them from damage.
- Keep them away from puppies or dogs that like to bite or tug on the 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 stand up properly.
- It is also important to talk to children and other family members about handling the puppy in a gentle manner.
- If you see dirt inside their ears, clean them very carefully with a wet cotton ball. Never stick anything down the ear canal! If you notice a lot of hair growth or wax, take them to the vet for a professional cleaning.
- Play with your dog and do a lot of fun activities. A happy and fit dog has fewer health issues and will be very attentive. You'll probably see those ears perking up in no time. Love your dog the way he is, up or down it doesn't really matter in the end.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2017 Sam Shepards