German Shepherds are well known for their supreme loyalty and intelligence. But they are also known for those big fluffy adorable ears. Although most German Shepherds traditionally have ears that stand up, they aren’t born that way. They are born floppy and normally stand up as they grow. This article will examine many aspects including when they stand up and what to do if they don’t stand up on their own. So when do German Shepherds ears stand up?
Most German Shepherds ears will stand up by the age 6 months but this can vary depending on each dog and their individual genetics. Some can stand up as early on as 6 weeks and some can take all the way up to a year. Most of the time they should be close to or standing up all the way following their teething stage. During this stage the cartilage hardens enough giving the ears the strength to stand on their own.
The Anatomy of a German Shepherds Ears:
Like most dogs, a German Shepherd’s ear is a sophisticated organ that consists of three main parts: The pinna, or external ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. This intricate system allows a dog to hear at double the frequency of human beings.
Humans can hear sounds approximately within the frequencies of 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. Anything below 20 Hz, typically cannot be heard although it can be felt.
The frequency range of dog hearing is approximately 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz, of course depending on the breed of dog as well as its age.The Physics Factbook
To put this into perspective, dogs can hear approximately 4 times better than humans on average. Part of the reason for this, is because dogs have deeper ear canals which translates to more surface area for the sound waves to travel through.
External Ear (Pinnae)
This is the visible part of the ear (flap) covered in skin and fur that catches the sound and funnels it into the middle ear. German Shepherds are known for having erect or pricked ears that stand straight up. The pinna or ear flaps catch the incoming sound waves which then proceed to make their way down the ear canal.
The ear canal is composed of cartilage and consists of two different glands that produce wax to help protect them and keep them dry. The ear canal extends vertically from the pinnae down to the eardrum, or tympanic membrane, where it then become horizontal. This is the intersection where the sound hits the eardrum causing the vibration.
The middle ear contains the eardrum along with a minuscule air-filled chamber with three very small bones. These bones are the anvil, hammer and stirrup. There are also two muscles in the eardrum. One is the eustachian tube which connects the back of the nose with the middle ear thus allowing air to come in. The other muscle is the oval window.
The inner ear is complex as well and is comprised of two main organs. The cochlea, or hearing organ, is similar in shape to a snails shell and contains a fluid that reacts to vibrations from the auditory muscles. The second is the vestibulocochlear nerve, or balance organ, which carries the nerve impulses to the dog’s brain creating the different sounds.
Mobility and Shape of a German Shepherds Ears:
Because dog ears have more mobility than a human’s, they are able to hear at a much greater range. When a German Shepherd hears a noise, it will prick up its ears and move them in the direction of the sound for optimum hearing. In fact, they can move each of them independently of each other in different directions.
The shape also plays a role in their ability to hear. The ears of a German Shepherd are naturally curved amplifying the sound even more. This is similar to humans cupping their ears to hear something better.
This higher frequency hearing in dogs can be a blessing and a curse. While it does allow them to be totally aware of their surroundings it can also hurt their ears. Frequencies above the 25,000 Hz threshold can make a dog uncomfortable causing them to whine or run away from the sound.
Sounds that dogs hate:
- Dog Tags Clinging
- Gun Shots
- Keys Jingling
- Loud Music
- Power Tools
- Vacuum Cleaners
Why Aren’t German Shepherds Born With Their Ears Standing Up?
You have seen the cute pictures of adorable German Shepherd puppies and their big floppy ears. This is another really cool aspect of the breed. When they are young, there are several reasons why they are floppy.
The size, shape and perkiness will depend first on their bloodlines. Just like humans, a German Shepherds offspring will be similar to that of their parents. If you want to know what your new puppy’s ears are going to look like, take a look at the parents.
Purebred German Shepherds should have erect, perked up, triangular ears. However, there are some breed varieties whose will remain floppy their whole life. If it is a mixed breed, there is also a chance that they may stay floppy or be in between.
Teething is the central reason that German Shepherds aren’t born with their ears standing up. Similar to newborn babies, dogs go through the same process of growing new teeth to replace their first set of baby teeth. The process normally starts at around 4 weeks of age and can continue for several months all the way up until 6 months of age.
This affects the development because the dog’s jaw and neck muscles are focusing their energy on teething instead of perking up the ears. The stress from this process also causes them to go from standing up one day to being down the next. It just depends on the stress levels from teething.
The second part of the equation is cartilage development. Cartilage and tiny bones are responsible for causing the ears to stand up. Sometimes they can fail to stand up because of weak cartilage, especially considering their large size.
Fact or Myth:
Will touching a German Shepherds ear too much while they are growing cause them to not stand up?
There is a lot of debate surrounding this question coming from both sides. A lot of breeders will tell you not to handle ears while they are still growing. But a lot of owners feel the opposite. According to the majority of owners on the GermanShepherds.com forum, playing with their dog’s ears had no effect on them standing up.
However playing too rough and injuring them could lead to weakening the cartilage. This could make it much harder for them to stand up and take their natural form. Petting them should be fine but try to avoid clutching or grabbing them during playtime.
What To Do If Your German Shepherd’s Ears Don’t Stand Up?
If your they are not standing up by time your German Shepherd is 3-4 months do not panic. It is very common for them to take 5-6 months to be fully erect. A lot of owners start to get worried when they aren’t standing after only 12-16 weeks of age.
Many breeders will tell you not to worry at this stage but to instead start to pay close attention. You don’t want to take too long before making a decision regarding taping.
If they have finished teething and they still aren’t standing up, it is time to consider taping.
Do I Need to Tape My Puppy’s Ears?
You definitely don’t need to tape your German Shepherd’s ears. It depends on the owner and what their intention for taping them is. They will be just fine if they aren’t totally erect. A lot of owners just prefer the traditional perkiness that the breed is traditionally known for.
Is Taping a Dog’s Ears Cruel?
A lot of owners want to know if the process of taping is cruel to dogs. The answer to this is based on each individual’s opinion. In general, it is a very common practice that overall isn’t seen as cruel to the animal. It is sort of a pain but doesn’t do any damage if done properly.
In fact: A lot of owners say that it decreases the amount of ear infections that your German Shepherd may get.
How to tape your German Shepherd’s Ears:
It is recommended that you tape stubborn ears before they reach the age of 7-8 months. By then it is too late and the cartilage is most likely already formed.
If you are certain that taping is right for you and your German Shepherd, a few basic materials will be needed that can be purchased at your local pharmacy.
- Thin white surgical tape such as 3M Micropore 2″ Tape (Never use Duct Tape or Electrical Tape)
- Large pink foam hair rollers for women’s hair (Small insulation tubing can be used as an alternative)
- Wooden Popsicle stick
- Glue (Skin Bond adhesive can be used)
- Couple of #2 pencils that are unsharpened
1. Prepare Pink Foam Roller
To prepare the pink foam hair roller, remove the plastic rod that came with the roller and discard. Take the #2 pencil and push it into the middle of the roller about an inch. Put a conservative amount of glue approximately 3/4 of the way around the girth of the roller.
Note: DO NOT USE too much glue! You do not want the glue to drip down into your puppy’s ear canal. It could damage their hearing.
2. Place the Roller inside the Ear Flap
Holding the pencil from the top, place the pink foam roller inside of the German Shepherd’s ear flap. To be completely safe, leave two fingers worth of space between the bottom of the roller and the dog’s head.
Note: It is extremely important to leave enough room between the roller and the puppy’s head. You do not want it to cover their ear canal causing them to lose their hearing.
3. Tape the Ears
Press the roller firmly into the ear flap and hold it into position. Holding the pencil from the top, wrap the surgical tape around the ear firmly but not too tight. Start at the top and gradually work your way down until you reach the base. Remove the pencil once the ear is fully taped. Repeat this process for both even if one is already standing on its own.
Note: DO NOT WRAP them too tight. It can cut off the circulation and make your puppy extremely uncomfortable. Not to mention they will want to try and remove the tape themselves for relief.
4. Connect Both Ears with the Popsicle Stick
Connect the wooden Popsicle stick to both of the taped ears to stabilize them and keep them both upright. Think of the Popsicle stick as a bridge between them. You can cut the Popsicle stick to the appropriate length depending on the dog.
Note: It is important that you have them in the right position to ensure that they form correctly.
5. Divert Your Puppy’s Attention
Your puppy will most likely be curious about this new contraption and try to paw or scratch at it. Play with him or give him his favorite toy to divert his attention away for about five to ten minutes. This should give the glue and tape the necessary time to set up and hold.
6. Keep Them Taped for Two Weeks
It can take up to two weeks for your puppy’s ears to stand on their own. Try removing the tape after one week to see if they are starting to stand on their own. If not, retape them and wait another week. If you German Shepherd puppy’s ears are still not standing at the 7-8 month mark, they probably aren’t going to stand because the cartilage has already hardened for the most part.
Note: Your puppy may paw or scratch off the tape during this two week period and you may have to retape them several times.
7. Remove the Tape and Foam Roller
Remove the tape and foam rollers by gently unraveling the tape starting at the base and working your way up the ears. Try not to use too much force which could possibly do damage or leave him in pain.
Note: Don’t panic if they are not standing immediately after removing the tape. This is normal because they are still a little weak from the taping.
Tips For Getting Them To Stand Up:
Here are some good tips to help increase the chances of them standing.
- Have your puppy checked at the veterinarian for any parasites that could infiltrate his ears.
- Keep your puppy healthy and on a high quality diet of premium food.
- Do not rub their ears backwards away from the nose or scrunch them up in your hands.
- Avoid supplementing calcium in their diet as it can collect in their joints.
- Add 1 tbsp of cottage cheese or unflavored yogurt to promote growth.
- Supplement with Glucosamine and Chondroitin to help ears and joints.
- Calcium injection by veterinarian only if recommended.
We hope that this article gave you a good time frame for when your German Shepherd’s ears may stand up. Remember it can take all the way up to 12 months for them to stand completely. So be patient and don’t jump to any conclusions right away. Give them time and don’t start worrying until about the 5 or 6 month mark, after their teething stage.
To learn more about the position of their ears and what it means regarding body language, check out our article: German Shepherd Ears Meaning.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Do you have any experience with this development? When did your German Shepherd’s ears stand up? Let us know! We would love to hear about it!