The ears of a German Shepherd are almost as iconic as their sleek coats or strong, imposing posture. All the classic Shepherds who have played parts in movies or been a part of any type of mainstream media have all had one thing in common – their ears point straight up.
But German Shepherd ears are floppy as heck when they’re young. What’s the deal? Do their ears just pop up at some point without warning like a spring-loaded rocket? Not quite – but there are a few things that you might be interested in knowing about the ears of your Shepherd, because not all dogs’ ears develop in the same way. Some people want them to stand up before they’re supposed to, too.
When are the ears supposed to stand up?
Most Shepherds will have their eras beginning to stick up around the time that they start teething. They should be mostly finished sticking up when they’re done teething, or at least noticeably on their way to teething, which should be around the 20th week of the puppy’s life.
This is because GSDs don’t have enough cartilage as a puppy to support the weight of their big ears. If a puppy is raised properly and given good food and kept nutritionally fit, then the cartilage will become stronger and eventually will be tough enough to hold up their ears.
There’s a period of time, usually around the end of the teething period, during which you might notice that your dog’s ears alternate between flopping around and being pointed. This is noticed most often when the dog quickly perks himself up when there’s a loud noise or when you call to them.
This is good, and is a sign that the muscle tissue and cartilage in your dog’s ears and, presumably, the rest of their body is developing properly. If the dog’s ears are fully pointed before they’re five months old, then chances are they’ve reached a permanent state of pointiness and will remain that way for the rest of their lives.
What if they don’t stand up?
If your dog’s ears aren’t perking up in the same amount of time that other dogs’ are, this might be a sign of a problem. Not always, though – some dogs, even puppies from the same litter, will take a little bit longer for their ears to perk up. If your dog’s ears still haven’t perked up by the 7th or 8th month, though, this could be a sign of a problem.
If your dog’s ears still aren’t perky as they’re approaching a year of age, that might be a sign that they’re not getting the proper nutrition or that they have a developmental problem. They need to be fed proper amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, among other nutrients, but these are the most important for the development of bone, muscle and cartilage structure.
If your dog’s not getting the right nutrition, or you suspect his diet is lacking, you’ll need to switch to higher quality food or take him to the vet to get his vitals checked.
HOWEVER, floppy ears might not be a sign of nutritional deficiency at all. A lot of the time, floppy ears are just indicative that your dog has non-standard genes. It might have genes from another breed of dogs from a long time ago down the family line, or maybe it just expressed a recessive gene. Show dogs won’t ever be allowed to have floppy ears, but many domestic breeds do and continue to pass on this gene.
People who don’t want their dog’s ears to stay floppy sometimes try to rectify the problem by taping their ears. If you’re not worried about your dog’s appearance, and you’ve checked its vitals, then there’s no need to tape their ears – they won’t develop any differently or face problems thanks to their floppy ears. Many people even prefer floppy ears and think that they’re cute.
Taping German Shepherd ears
The practice of taping the ears of GSDs is quite common, especially among breeders in show dog circles. While taping can never actually correct the genetic difference that might have caused floppy ears, and certainly won’t correct any nutritional deficiencies, sometimes it passes them through the tests required to take part in a dog show.
It’s not as common for families or other people who own domestic dogs to tape their ears. That’s partially because domestic dogs aren’t as likely to be purebred and are more likely to come from a variety of different breeds, sharing a variety of different genes.
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 isn’t always effective and actually has a high rate of failure, and it will never make long-term changes in the lineage of a GSD (even a perfectly taped dog will not pass on new genes to its puppies.) 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.
If you insist on taping your dog’s ears, 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 awhile. If they don’t come up after a few months, then they’re not going to.
If possible, avoiding taping the ears. Dog’s won’t like it and they don’t need to have their ears taped for good health.