There are countless questions about the ears of German Shepherds!
From when they’ll stand up, to their final appearance, and if it’s too late to tape them… and much more
Understandably, owners are keen to learn about the kind of ears their German Shepherd will sport, and I shared the same curiosity.
This piece covers all you need to understand about German Shepherd ears.
Table of Contents
When Do German Shepherd Ears Stand Up?
Curiosity about ear positions often arises early on, and rightly so, since ear movements undergo dramatic shifts starting from about 12 weeks old.
German shepherd ears typically begin to stand up anywhere between 12-20 weeks. For some, the process might take a bit longer.
But owners should know right now that it’s not always a smooth process.
➡️ The reality is, as long as the teething process is ongoing, the ear position won’t be permanent.
Teething happens in waves of intensity, placing extra strain on your German shepherd’s ears, causing them to droop again. The ear position won’t become stable until the teething process is complete.
Additionally, not all ears will rise: It’s reported that around 18% of German Shepherds will have floppy ears for life.
Do German Shepherd Puppies Have Floppy Ears?
When German Shepherds start life, they have small floppy ears that fold over to the front side. So yes, German Shepherd puppies do have floppy ears. And it’s completely normal.
It can be quite a concern for new puppy owners who see their GSD’s floppy ears when they were expecting the classic upright triangle pyramids!
Why Are My German Shepherd’s Ears Still Floppy?
Three contributing factors explain floppy ears.
Let’s run through each one with a solid explanation.
The main reason is due to teething. All puppies go through teething which usually begins around 4 weeks and can last up to 28 weeks (6 months).
So how does teething affect the ears? Teething has a big impact on ear development because the jaw and neck muscles are actually responsible for healthy perky ears (aside from the cartilage itself).
With so much stress and pressure being applied to the mouth, jaw, and neck from teething, the development of the ears takes a back seat, until it’s all over with.
As teething fluctuates with its intensiveness, so too can the ears. This is why the ears sometimes “dance” around. One day they are up, the next day they’re down. It usually coincides with the teething process and how much physical stress is being caused.
2. Developing Cartilage
It’s also possible that weak or developing cartilage is responsible for floppy ears. Ears are made to stand up by cartilage and small bones. As German Shepherds have large ears, it does in fact require the cartilage to be healthy and strong to bear the weight of the ears.
Weak cartilage can be caused by many different things, but the most likely is due to injury from playing or from someone who has mistakenly been touching their puppy’s ears too much.
Despite how cute they are, fondling the ears must be avoided to ensure they are not accidentally damaged or weakened.
Bloodline affects dogs the same way it affects us! Traits that the parents have can be passed down to the offspring. So a quick look at the mom and dad of your German Shepherd will give you an idea of what to expect.
This goes for whether or not they are perky, how big they are, and their shape. It’s important to note that some breed variations of German Shepherds do have floppy ears throughout their life.
If your German Shepherd is mixed then there is an increased chance of different ears to what you would expect. Purebred German Shepherds have erect, triangle-shaped ears.
4 Tips To Help Your German Shepherd’s Ears
While you can’t speed up this natural process, there are certainly good and bad habits that affect the ears of your German Shepherd puppy. Let’s run through them:
1. Chew toys
Chew toys provide valuable support throughout the teething timeline. Your GSD will be inclined to chew everything in sight as this promotes blood flow to the gums and provides effective pain relief.
Instead of your furniture being the victim, invest in a selection of high-quality chew toys, and rotate them on a weekly basis. This keeps your GSD excited because he’ll be receiving what he considers to be a new toy every week (even if it’s one he’s already used).
As well as helping teething, which directly affects ear development, they will strengthen and build the jaw and neck muscles that also play a key part in overall ear growth and structure. Chew toys are great.
2. Hands off the ears!
The ears on puppies are so irresistible that we always want to touch them. But this is a big no-no!
Too much fondling can weaken cartilage and bones that are not yet strong or developed. Not only can this prolong the time that it takes for them to stand up, but it could damage them permanently.
Some breeders advise gently massaging the base of the ear to promote blood flow. This may work, but I cannot vouch for that as I have never done it. If you’re unsure, just avoid the ears.
The food and nutrition that your GSD puppy receives is important for every aspect of his growth and development, including his ears!
Ensure his food is rich in protein from whole-meat sources, is high in healthy fats, and contains a range of vegetables and fruits for essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Use a trusted premium brand like Taste of The Wild, Wellness, or Nutro to ensure you aren’t giving your puppy cheap, nasty ingredients. It’s very important to choose an option that’s made for puppies. Stay away from “all-life stages” because these formulas don’t take into consideration that a puppy needs extra nutrition to support growth and development. Puppy formulas are made with this in mind.
4. Be careful with Glucosamine
Glucosamine is an over-the-counter supplement made for humans that maintains healthy cartilage and keeps joints lubricated, but it’s also commonly given to dogs too.
I’m not saying Glucosamine is necessarily bad for dogs, but it’s something you will need to talk to your veterinarian about first. Don’t automatically assume your puppy needs Glucosamine because his ears are staying floppy for a little longer than usual.
One thing about Glucosamine is that we rarely give it to young children, so this leads me to believe that puppies should stay away from it too. But as I said, speak to your veterinarian if you’re considering Glucosamine.
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Should You Tape Up Your German Shepherds Ears? Good or Bad?
Time to address the elephant in the room.
A big topic for discussion for all breeds that have pointy, erect ears, is whether or not we should tape them in an upright position, to help them stand up.
As people have had success with this in the past, the process has caught on… but it’s not recommended! The truth is that we don’t really know if we are taping their ears up in the correct position.
The bones and cartilages are so small and weak throughout their puppy months that it’s entirely possible we tape them out of proper alignment. This would then cause the ears to grow incorrectly which may lead to permanent cartilage or bone damage.
To stay on the safe side, taping ears is not recommended as a solution to fix floppy puppy ears. It’s important to remember that in some cases, it can be up to 6 months before the ears stand up.
What To Do If Your GSDs Ears Are Still Floppy
If you are concerned that your puppy’s ears are not standing up or showing signs of erecting, you can always visit your veterinarian for a check-up.
If you visit a veterinarian too early on, there’s a very strong chance they are going to tell you that you need to wait.
If you wait until around 5 months old, your veterinarian should no longer dismiss your puppy’s floppy ears and will provide further help.
Having said that, if you suspect there is something wrong with your puppy’s ears, it’s always up to you to bring them to a veterinarian, regardless of their age.
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When do German Shepherd ears stand up?
For the majority of German Shepherds, their ears will stand up between 4-5 months of age. Some will be sooner, later and others will have floppy ears for life.
Why do German Shepherd puppy ears go up then down?
Your puppy’s ears may move around up and down until teething has stopped. Teething places great stress on the jaw and neck muscles which are also responsible for ear movement and placement.
Will my German Shepherd’s ears stay floppy?
It’s possible that your German Shepherd’s ears stay floppy. Around 18% of the breed population have floppy ears for life. If one or both parents of your puppy had floppy ears, then the chances of this physical trait being passed down to your puppy are high.
Should you tape German Shepherd ears up?
Taping German Shepherd ears certainly isn’t mandatory or something that anyone “should” do. Floppy ears cause no harm nor do they impair hearing. Unless medically advised, taping is practically always done for appearance reasons.
Is taping German Shepherd ears safe?
Due to the fragile bones and cartilage, it’s very difficult to know we are taping the ears in the correct position, this is why it’s generally discouraged. If we tape the ears out of alignment, it could cause permanent damage and inproper growth.
So there you have it! Your German Shepherd’s ears should be standing up by around 20 weeks of age. Sometimes it can be earlier or even later than this. Teething, bloodline, and cartilage health all play a part in how early or late, your puppy’s ears will stand up.
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