Do you have a dog that, by breed, is better served with upright ears?
Do you need some tips on how to help that process along, ensuring the ears stand up at the vertical angle and upright position in which they are intended?
Depending on the breed, a dog’s upright, erect ears can perhaps help that pooch medically and certainly aesthetically—making them more sanitary and sensitive to sound, while also making the dog look quite a bit more majestic.
While the ears of many dogs of certain breeds will almost always stand up on their own once that dog reaches a given age, some pooches require a little extra help in this department.
That “help” is what we intend to outline and discuss here.
In this article, we will highlight some step-by-step procedures for making your dog’s ears stand up, and describe the motivation for, and the benefit of, all these processes.
About Dogs and Upright Ears
When you think about dogs with persistently upright ears, there are many breeds that may immediately come to mind.
Two of the most popular and well-known breeds in this category are the Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd—two potentially lovable breeds, both considered excellent guard and working dogs, and both hyper-alert with the ears to prove it.
There are, of course, other breeds with this familiar, seemingly stand-alone and often pointy-ear profile, including small and medium-sized dogs and even some that belong to the large or even giant canine category.
What all these erect-eared dog breeds have in common is the substance in the body that allows their ears to eventually stand upright: cartilage.
In healthy dogs, the developing cartilage—developing as the dog ages from the puppy stage to mature—gradually transforms ears from floppy to erect.
In other words, for most dogs, no outside help whatsoever is needed for this process to be completed.
In others, though, damage or underdevelopment of that cartilage may cause the process to go slower—or may hinder the course altogether.
In situations like these, there are a few things you can do to help speed up the procedure—steps that are outlined in more detail in the section entitled: How to Make Your Dog’s Ears Stand Up.
Before we get to that section, however, let’s first talk about the normal timeline and timeframe for when a dog’s ears may stand up on their own, and some factors that may affect this timeline.
Upright Ears in Certain Dog Breeds: The Timeline and Factors that Affect It
The first thing to understand is that the timeline for a dog’s ears to stand up naturally will vary from one breed to the next, and from one dog to the next.
In other words, all dogs are different, and their individual timeline may differ from even another dog of the same breed.
It’s important to stress here that we are talking only about dogs who are supposed to have naturally erect years.
Although there is a process called cropping that can transform almost any dog’s ears, making them pointy and erect, experts say this should only be done for medical reasons and only with the help of a pet care professional.
Now, if you have a dog who is supposed to have pointy and erect ears as a matter of breed—Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Boston Terriers, Great Danes and the like—when exactly can you expect that to happen and when should you intercede to help if it doesn’t?
Well, according to experts, that timeframe is about 8 months.
By the time a dog reaches 8 months of age, the process that transforms floppy ears into pointy, upright ears should be well underway if not totally completed.
This can vary by a few months in both directions, but 8 months is usually the timeline given by veterinarians and breeders.
There are some factors that can certainly delay the process in some dogs.
One of the most noteworthy of these factors is teething.
Experts say teething can have a minor to major impact on the proper development of your pup’s ears.
When a puppy begins teething, usually towards the end of his first month, they can develop calcium deposits in various parts of their body, including their ears.
Some of this calcium can make its way into the ear cartilage, and since calcium is a relatively heavy mineral, it can start to weigh down the ears, thus preventing the mechanism that turns a dog’s ears upward.
For most dogs, those calcium deposits will ebb over time after all the teeth have formed and the ears will recover fantastically.
Others, however, may see calcium delay the process considerably.
As a dog reaches this 8-month age, most owners will happily see their dog’s ears start pointing toward the sky.
But don’t get discouraged if this is not immediate and permanent by that age.
Some dogs’ ears will go through an “up and down” phase—up at some times and down at others.
This is just part of the natural process playing out, where cartilage becomes stronger and stronger over time.
How to Make Your Dog’s Ears Stand Up
For the purpose of this section, let’s assume you have a 10-month old German Shepherd whose ears have yet to stand up.
What should you do? First, do not panic.
This is not the end of the world, and there are several tips you can employ to help this process along.
One technique you may have heard about—a technique we do NOT recommend unless done by your vet for medical reasons—is cropping.
Cropping is a process in which the skin and cartilage of a dog’s ears are surgically manipulated to make those ears pointy and erect.
Some vets will recommend cropping only when it is medically necessary—necessary to treat a skin condition or ear disease that is better served by it.
It should not be done for aesthetic or vanity reasons, mostly because it causes a lot of pain in dogs, and because when done by those owners who are not trained in canine surgery, it could result in infection that threatens the overall health of your pet.
The good news is that, outside of cropping, there are still several things you can do to painlessly create pointy and upright ears in your dog.
Some of these methods include:
Chewing His Way to Upright Ears
Believe it or not, making your dog’s ears stand up can often be as simple as giving him a chew toy.
No, this is not some kind of magic trick, but a genuine tip that is actually offered by thousands of vets every year.
So just how can a chew toy make a dog’s ears stand up?
Well, the natural act of chewing is the best way for a dog to strengthen his head and jaw muscles—and stronger head and jaw muscles are crucial for erect ears
From the time your dog begins to teethe, you should provide a steady stream of chew toys until you find one that your dog particularly enjoys.
The more he chews during any given period, the stronger his head and jaw muscles will become.
This is the first tip you should employ if you want your dog’s ears to stand up.
And to make those chew toys even more irresistible, try spreading a little peanut butter on the end—a food that will keep him chewing for a long time.
Give Those Ears a Trim
We don’t usually think of hair as being heavy, but when there is a lot of thick fur in and around your pup’s ears it can actually make them droop.
Extra hair makes it harder for the ear cartilage to do its work, so any extra help you can give will have a positive effect.
Extra ear hair and fur can be trimmed with scissors or a battery-operated dog hair trimmer.
The process is quick and easy and should be repeated at regular intervals for best results.
If you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself, mention your goals to your dog’s groomer—people who specialize in this kind of trimming.
Avoid Extra Calcium
The calcium deposits that can invade ear cartilage when your puppy is very young and teething can continue into adulthood with the wrong type of diet.
For speeding the upright ear process in dog, avoid things like calcium supplements and chews unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.
Cut back on calcium-rich foods like milk, and instead look for other protein sources that are low in this particular mineral.
Last but not least, is taping.
Taping a dog’s ears is a procedure used mostly by breeders to ensure the most optimal ear position in dogs.
It is carried out using cloth-based medical tape.
The ears are placed into a perfect upright position, and are then taped down to ensure they stay that way.
According to breeders, taping a dog’s ears is most successful when you start early—at age 2-3 months.
It is used to train the ears to stand upright, so even when the tape is removed they remain erect.
If you plan to try this technique with your pet, be sure to check with your veterinarian first to ensure it is both healthy and safe for your particular dog.