German Shepherd dogs have a very distinctive appearance in every way, from their big strong bodies to their alert standing ears.
But what many first-time German Shepherd puppy owners don’t realize is that GSD puppy ears don’t stand up like they do in adulthood.
This brings up the question of when you will see your German Shepherd puppy start to look like a real adult GSD. Also, if your GSD puppy’s ears don’t ever stand up on their own, is there any way you can make them stand up?
In this article, we will walk you through the different German Shepherd puppy ear stages so you know what to expect and also when to intervene if needed.
German Shepherd Puppy Ear Stages
German Shepherd puppy ears go through stages just like the rest of their growing bodies.
However, the timing of these stages can vary based on your GSD puppy’s genetics and body size, among other factors.
If you don’t see your German Shepherd puppy’s ears start to perk up by the age of five months, you may want to intervene. Read on for tips on how to do that here.
Learn About German Shepherd Puppy Ears
In this YouTube video, you can learn from an experienced German Shepherd dog owner and trainer about when to expect your dog’s ears to stand up.
This video gives you some unique tips to help their ears get stronger and stand up without human assistance (like some of the tips you will read later in this article).
German Shepherd Puppy Ears Timeline
As we mentioned in the introduction here, when your German Shepherd puppy was a newborn, your dog’s ears were floppy. All dogs are born with floppy ears, so this is totally normal.
Bt as Sequoyah German Shepherds breeder explains a German Shepherd puppy’s ears should start to perk up soon after.
In some cases, your puppy’s ears might start the process of standing up as early as four weeks old! In other cases, it may take as long as four months before you see signs of the alert ears the GSD breed is known for.
Leerburg Dog Training explains that sometimes it can take until after a German Shepherd puppy has finished the teething process for the ears to begin to stand up on their own.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) expanse that teething can take as long as six months to conclude and requires a lot of your puppy’s resources to complete.
The critical period to watch and wait for is the period between five months and seven months. If your GSD puppy’s ears are still flopping over by the age of eight months, it may be too late to assist the ears to stand up straight.
Read on to learn exactly what to do to help your puppy’s ears grow and stabilize in the upright position.
Learn About German Shepherd Puppy Ear Structure and Anatomy
As Whole Dog Journal outlines, a dog’s ears are comprised of four basic sections: the flap, the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The ear flap is the outermost ear and is often called the pinna (plural is pinnae). A dog has two pinna – one for each ear. Each pinna can work independently of the other, which is part of what gives dogs such keen hearing.
In addition to hearing, your dog’s ears also serve to help with balance.
It is a common myth that German Shepherd dogs need to have their ears “set” or “fixed” in order to make them stand up, as Central Coast German Shepherds breeder points out.
The reason a German Shepherd’s ears stand up erect is because of the rim of cartilage that gives structure and shape to each ear.
This is the same reason all German Shepherd puppies are born with their ears down and floppy. The cartilage has not started to form and harden in the ears yet – that won’t happen until later on in life.
As long as your German Shepherd puppy is eating an appropriate large breed complete and balanced puppy diet and is basically healthy and sound in every other way, there is no need to worry if you don’t see the ears standing up at first.
It takes time for the cartilage to form, thicken and then harden into the characteristic erect ear position of the German Shepherd.
As Hausamberg Shepherds explains, your puppy’s body is taking in calcium through their food, which is what the ear cartilage needs to form properly and harden. The only trouble is, lots of other parts of your puppy’s body need that calcium too.
This is why you may see your little pup’s ears stand up straight one minute and flop over the next minute. The ears might pop up as early as four weeks old only to flop back down around four months old.
Not only is the cartilage in the outer ears still forming and hardening, but the many muscles, tendons, ligaments, and tissues that help the ears move and function are still getting coordinated as well.
This is why it is wise not to get concerned about ear position or stability until after your German Shepherd puppy has finished teething. There is just too much growing going on to expect your little puppy to look like a full-grown adult dog yet.
But if your puppy is approaching six months old and you haven’t seen any signs of the ears standing up yet, this is the time to start intervening to help nature along.
German Shepherd Puppy Ear Taping and Gluing
German Shepherd puppy ear taping and gluing are both methods that many breeders and German Shepherd dog owners use to help guide their GSD’s ears into the adult upright position.
Yet it would be understandable if you are reading the title to this section and feel dismay or even horror. Tape or glue a puppy’s ears? How can that possibly be a good thing?
But understand we are not talking about doing anything harmful or invasive.
The techniques you are about to read about will not harm or hurt your German Shepherd puppy at all. They will simply support the ears to grow into the upright position without having to work so hard to get there – or stay there.
German Shepherd puppy ear posting (taping)
The goal with German Shepherd puppy ear posting, or taping, is to help guide your puppy’s ears into the correct upright adult position without being invasive or uncomfortable.
You want to give your pup enough time to try to do this naturally. But you also want to intervene before the cartilage in the ears starts to harden (usually around seven to eight months old), leaving the ear flaps in the wrong position.
You will need the following supplies:
- Some type of surgical tape (NOT duct tape or any super-adhesive tape).
- Foam roller inserts or foam pipe insulation cut to size.
- Two plain popsicle sticks or unsharpened pencils.
Here is what you want to do (if you feel unsure, always ask your GSD puppy’s breeder or your canine veterinarian for assistance):
- Insert one popsicle stick into the center of each piece of foam.
- Insert the popsicle stick/foam into the ear.
- Wrap the surgical tape around the outside of the ear to hold the insert in place.
Be prepared for your puppy to find a way to paw off this strange contraption several times before they finally get used to it and forget about it. You want to leave this in place for a week and then remove it to check the ear position.
You may notice the ears start to stand a little straighter week by week. But if you see them flop over again, you need to re-tape them until they are strong enough to stand up on their own.
German Shepherd puppy ear gluing
Another option you can try is puppy ear gluing. This is actually not nearly as awful as it sounds and is far easier to do than the ear taping method.
Another perk of puppy ear gluing over taping is that you are not going to cut off any air circulation to the inner ear canal when you use the glue method instead.
To glue your puppy’s ears in the upright position, all you need is some type of skin bond or tear mending glue – the key is to pick some kind of fabric glue (do NOT use super glue or super-bonding glue that may not come off).
What you need to do for this method is to add a dab of glue to the outside of the inner ear flap about two-thirds of the way down from the ear tip (point). Then press the two ear flaps together for 30 seconds to allow the glue to set.
You definitely don’t need to use much glue!
Wherever possible, if you have multiple dogs in your household, try to keep your German Shepherd puppy from playing rough games with the other dogs as this will cause the ears to separate.
The glue will wear off on its own after a while and you can observe if the ears are able to remain upright and erect when this occurs. If you need to, keep reapplying the glue until the ears are strong and stable to remain in the correct position without glue.
It may take a few weeks or longer for this to occur. Do not worry if the ears are not in a perfect position. As long as they stay upright, the inner muscles and tissues will naturally self-correct over time.
Quick Brace system
If you don’t feel confident using a do-it-yourself approach like ear taping or gluing, you may want to consider ordering a kit called the Quick Brace system.
This kit teaches you exactly what to do to help stabilize and support your GSD puppy’s growing ears.
Surgical correction of flopping ears
Where all else fails, your canine veterinarian or GSD breeder may be able to advise you about surgical options for propping your puppy’s ears up in the correct position.
With proper support, the erect ear position helps your dog avoid ear infections by promoting ear flow into the ear canal.
By taking proactive action about ear flopping, you can help your GSD puppy have healthy ears all throughout life.