German Shepherds have a majestic appearance with ears that stand up naturally in most cases, according to German Shepherd World.
However, you do see GSDs with floppy ears sometimes, too. Much of whether one of these dogs has ears that stand up depends on their genetics. There can be other reasons for Shepherd’s ears not standing up, too.
What’s with floppy German Shepherd ears? Although floppy ears are not as common on adult dogs, they can occur in both adults and puppies.
Do German Shepherds Have Cropped Ears?
A common misconception that many people have is that German Shepherds have cropped ears that account for their erect posture. It often surprises some people to learn that the AKC standard calls for naturally erect, not cropped ears.
According to the German Shepherd Club of America, the breed’s appearance is best designed to exemplify its work as a flock guardian.
What Are German Shepherds’ Ears Like at Birth?
GSD puppies are born with floppy ears set against the side of the head. As puppies mature, their ears usually start to stand up naturally. However, for various reasons, some dogs have ears that stay floppy.
According to Train Your GSD, many Shepherd owners expect the ears to stand up earlier than is usual.
When Do German Shepherds’ Ears Start to Stand Up?
German Shepherd puppies’ ears usually become erect between four and seven months old. You can reasonably expect erect ears by around eight months old. Some puppies’ ears might start to go up before four months as well.
Don’t be surprised if your puppy has erect ears that flop when teething starts. Calcium that would generally nourish the ears is reallocated to the teeth during this time. You can expect the ears to become erect after the teething stops, around 20 weeks.
After a puppy is no longer teething, they will start retaining enough cartilage in the ears to help hold them up. GSDs ears are heavier than they appear, and the cartilage must be sufficient to help keep that position.
A sign of ears that are likely to stay erect are ears that become pointy once they start to stand. It’s reasonable to see some movement up and down after this point until they become permanently straight.
If your puppy reaches four or five months without any sign of the ears standing up, you might need to give him or her some help. When the ears are not erect by around seven or eight months, they are likely to retain a floppy position.
How Can I Help my German Shepherd Have More Erect Ears?
One of the most important things you can do is make sure everyone leaves your Shepherd’s ears alone. Fondling, pulling, bending, or folding your puppy’s ears can affect their carriage. Even other dogs’ rough play can affect the ears.
Massaging the ears’ bases without handling the ears themselves may prove helpful. Blood flow into the cartilage will likely increase when you do this, helping the ears keep their shape.
Make sure you learn how to clean the puppy’s ears right. Proper cleaning will help prevent infections that can be painful and costly to treat.
Sturdy chew toys will not only help keep your puppy busy but can also play a role in exercising the muscles supporting both the ears and jaws. Bully sticks, antlers, Kongs, and Nylabones are all excellent choices for this purpose.
The food that you feed your puppy should have high-quality, nutritious ingredients. Foods free from both wheat and corn are some of the best choices.
Using positive triggers can be an excellent way to provide stimulation for your puppy’s ears while they are still teething. Hearing certain noises that attract their attention or hearing their name can make them prick up their ears.
Take advantage of this situation by praising them and providing a treat when they prick up their ears in response to this type of stimulus. They were associate pricking their ears up with getting a reward.
You may want to consider having your vet make sure nothing is going on, like an ear infection. Some parasites can also affect dogs’ ears, so you might want to have a fecal test done to be sure.
What Are Some Reasons for Permanently Floppy Ears?
Some German Shepherds come from lines that carry genes that lead to floppier ears. When genetics are the cause, there is little that owners can do aside from being more conscientious about ear health, which is a more significant concern in floppy-eared dogs.
Many dogs from show lines, in particular, have larger ears that require more cartilage while the dog is growing to help support a more upright position. In many cases, these dogs will not have ears that stay upright.
What About Having my Shepherd’ Ears Cropped?
Even though the breed standard does not call for cropping and posting, some owners choose this option anyway. However, this is a lengthy, expensive process that does not always work.
According to Jenna Stregowski, unnecessary cropping can be risky for your dog. Many vets won’t crop ears for dogs whose breed standard doesn’t call for cropping.
Are There Foods or Supplements That Will Help my German Shepherd Puppy?
It’s a well-known fact that calcium helps contribute to healthy cartilage growth. However, supplements that are intended for human usage aren’t practical for dogs and might even cause health difficulties.
Even supplemental calcium formulated for dogs might not be suitable for your puppy if unnecessary. Excess calcium tends to settle in a dog’s joints, which can cause further problems.
Some supplements and foods can help strengthen and rebuild cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin have this effect. These supplements will also not harm your puppy’s future health.
Should you choose to give your dog these nutrients as a part of their food instead of a supplement, chicken feet can easily fit the bill.
Dogs produce Vitamin C naturally, making supplementing optional. However, there are some benefits to extra Vitamin C worth considering:
- A natural type of histamine that protects your dog against allergies
- An immune system booster providing antibodies increased anti-viral and anti-cancer protection and increased white blood cells
- Contributes to healthy joint development
Before you supplement Vitamin C, it’s a good idea to make sure your dog requires extra to avoid overdosing them. Signs of a Vitamin C overdose can include either constipation or diarrhea.
Vitamin D is a nutrient where additional supplementing is beneficial because dogs’ bodies do not create it naturally. Even if your dog spends a lot of time outside, they might not necessarily get the extra amount that they need.
There is usually Vitamin D added to most commercial brands of dog food. You might, however, need to provide a supplement if your dog’s diet includes mostly home-prepared meals.
According to Dana Scott, as many as 75% of dogs could benefit from supplementing with this vitamin.
A teaspoon of cottage cheese with meals provides a dose of vitamins, phosphorus, protein, and calcium. Another choice that contains these nutrients, plus magnesium, potassium, calcium, and protein, is yogurt.
- One teaspoon to one tablespoon of yogurt with each meal provides digestive support because of its probiotics. Plain yogurt is best because of the lack of sugar, and always avoid any products containing xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
What Should I Do If My Dog’s Ears Won’t Stand at All?
Taping a puppy’s ears should never be done while a puppy is teething, as this is a significant time of development when many nutrients that otherwise go into ear cartilage end up going into other areas of the body seeing substantial growth.
Most puppies will be done teething when they’re between four and six months old. Taping a puppy’s ears around six months if they haven’t stood up already. Use one of the methods listed below and avoid duct or similar tape.
For the first method, use foam hair rollers close to the size of your puppy’s ears, with the plastic was taken out.
Hold the ear up in a vertical position using the roller and a popsicle stick. You will need thin medical or masking tape for the next part.
Put the tape around each ear from the tip to the base. Make sure you finish taping around the tops of the popsicle sticks to finish off each ear.
A somewhat more complicated method involves moleskin dog ear support forms. Use some skin bond adhesive to attach the ear support forms to the ears. Make sure the form goes down to the base of the ear, without going deeply into the canal.
This video, from a German Shepherd owner, details how to use moleskin ear supports.
Good Care is Essential, Floppy or Not
Regardless of whether your dog’s ears stand up or stay floppy, proper care is essential. Don’t allow either children or other adults to play with your dog’s ears. Also, supervise their play with other dogs, especially with rough players.
Protecting your dog’s ears from needless abuse, as well as regular cleaning will help keep them in good condition, regardless of whether they’re carried down or erect.