Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
Are Your Shepherd's Ears Standing 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 its 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 voted 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
|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 a 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.
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But taping is 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” dogs.
- 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 from 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 too 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, avoid taping the ears. German Shepherds won’t like it and they don’t need to have their ears taped for good health.
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
John on August 22, 2020:
I was worried about my German Shepherds ears I called emailed all over I found someone in Oregon she sent me 2 pads 1 for each ear you apply fabric glue and tie the 2 pads together it is harmless the glue falls out from the tips in about 6-8 weeks and he has perfect ears
Jason on August 17, 2020:
My GSD is a week away from being 5 mo old.
First left ear was up, left ear up but leaning on top of his head. That lasted around a week then it was right the opposite. Now both are about 3/4 up. I’m hopeful that each ear has been up even if not the same time that after teething they will wake up
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on July 21, 2020:
@Shefali it is actually very common that the litter only has one dog with floppy ears and that the other german shepherds have their ears standing straight up when adult. Most GSD litters have all dogs grow up having their ears standing up. Multiple puppies or a full litter where the dogs grow up with floppy ears are rather rare. That mostly happens when one or both parent dogs have floppy ears. Breeding with dogs that have floppy ears is mostly avoided or discouraged, especially with "official" German Shepherd bloodlines and breeding practices, it remains mostly genetics in the end. Characteristics like straight-up ears, healthy hips, having all teeth, coloration and build (size, weight) have been under closer scrutiny. Mostly because of unhealthy practices related to joint issues. But still overbreeding and bad practices aren't erradicted either.
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on June 27, 2020:
@Phil, well only 4 in 100 according to the polls in this article. So there is still a small chance your german shepherd's ears will go up and it's interesting the ears stand up during play. You can't force it, maybe, but chances are small.
Phil Piccolo on June 27, 2020:
Our German Shepherd will be 1 yr old on July 16 2020 and his ears go up only when he plays. The rest of the time they are down and very often back as if he's affraid. Is there still hope?
Shefali O'Hara on May 16, 2020:
My German Shepherd is 6 months old and has floppy ears, even though his litter mates ears have mostly stood up. However, he is the sweetest i the litter, so if that means I have a floppy eared dog, so be it. I am wondering if there are normally natural differences like this within litters though and why?
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on May 12, 2020:
It could be just normal, sometimes one ear goes op and the other ear goes up weeks later, etc. It all depends, if you worry about chances about not going up you can look at the poll and statistics about the time ears of German Shepherds go up on average etc. Also look at tips for healthy dogs, play etc.
Dev on May 07, 2020:
My puppy is 5 months old his one ear is stand up but another ear is not stand up what reason
sascha mae on December 21, 2019:
I got my gsd puppy 3 weeks ago with one ear leaning. It is still leaning. She is now 13 weeks old. Is it normal for it to still be leaning this long . It’s been at least three weeks as I don’t know how long it was leaning before I got her.
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on September 13, 2019:
It depends on the age of the dog. Some german shepherd puppies have the ears straight up very young and then they go down again when they are teething, but will come up again after that.
So it all depends on the age of your dog what the chances are the ears will come up again. You can check the table and read the article. Good puppy food, enough play and patience. Some dogs will always have tipping ears or ears that stay very floppy, it's partly genetic.
King Whalery on September 13, 2019:
My dog ear was standing be for but now it as drop small.what
can i do
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on June 25, 2019:
They grow up to fast indeed, I love the floppy ears too. Floppy ears and doing something they shouldn't have done or making a mess and showing a sad face will make you fall in love with young German Shepherds over and over again.
Jeff on June 22, 2019:
Floppy eared GSD are so damn cute though.
jethro on May 22, 2019:
i have a german shepherd he is 6 weeks old but his ear is standing at early age
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on May 01, 2019:
@Linda The ears could go down again when teething, so it could all start over.
Linda Irion on May 01, 2019:
our puppy is 10 weeks and her left ear is standing up and her right one is almost up, that seems a little early from all I have read. looks adorable with 1 up and 1 almost....kind of wish it would stay like that for a little while
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on April 29, 2019:
This depends on a lot of things... The age and the time that the other ear was straight up. They often are not straight at the same time. Of course it also happens one ear is never straight or tips over. If you feed your dog well and he's happy and playful there is not that much you can do. Sometimes people tape the ears, but I've never done that so I can't recommend anything for tipping ears.
Sherin on April 24, 2019:
My dog’s left ear is not straight like the right ear. Can someone please explain
Destiny Runion on March 08, 2019:
I have a German shepherd and he is 12 weeks one ear is standing straight up but the other is half way but not compelty and won’t stand up unless he is listening to something closely is this normal will his ear eventually stand up?
Rajnish on February 22, 2019:
My gsd have 3 month old but his hair eas not stand
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on January 22, 2019:
No there is no problem. But remember they can go down again during teething, so don't worry about that, during the first 3-4 months things can go up down and up again.
dhanush on January 21, 2019:
is there any problem if german shephered ears stood earlier within 1 months 15 days
Curtis Mccray on January 08, 2019:
I have a wolf shepherd mix with laid down ears she is six was old .Her mother’s ears stand up but the dads doesn’t.Will her ears have a chance to stand up
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on December 21, 2018:
If you look at the statistics of the poll, you have about a 6% chance.
Good dog food and being active with your dog so he's happy is all you can do. In the end you can't beat nature, but I wish you all the best.
DucHieu on December 20, 2018:
Hi Sam Shepards. My GSD is 10 months old. And his left ear is not stand up yet, but sometimes when he plays, his left ear stand up for a while, so have any oppotunity his ear can stand up after 10 months? Thank you !
Arjunsinh Bhati on November 28, 2018:
Thanks for this services
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on October 22, 2018:
Ramil if you look at the poll you can see that nearly half the people german shepherds ears are not standing up straight around 4 months. So chances are everything will be fine. Is he eating well and being playful/active?
Is he changing his teeth ?
Ramil de Guzman on October 21, 2018:
Hello, I'm about to get a german shepherd that's 4 months old, but both his ears are not standing. Although there are moments when he is walking, his ears are perking up, that is when his head is like stooping. There are also times when i'm playing with him and he is lying on his back, his ears go up out of excitement.
I'm quite concern since this is my 1st GSD, I want my dog's ears to be normal.
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on September 18, 2018:
Ruhound, It happens, but the ears will probably go down again before or during teething.
ruhound on September 17, 2018:
I'm looking to add anothe