Updated: January 2020
I receive a lot of questions from worried GSC readers and from the clients I work with about floppy German Shepherd puppies ears.
Since it’s such an important topic, I decided to address this issue in a post to answer all the questions. And give tips on how to solve this problem all in one place.
One of the most distinctive features of the German Shepherd Dog is their signature pointy ears. It’s part of what gives them their regal looks and is a symbol of the alertness they are famous for. So it’s only natural for German Shepherd owners like you to want the best for your German Shepherd’s ears.
Are you having troubles with potty training your German Shepherd? Learn about how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy.
Don’t Panic too Soon
New German Shepherd owners often jump the gun and become stressed about their puppy’s ears way too soon.
By that I mean their pups are only 3 or 4 months old and they’re already flustered about their pup’s ears.
If this is you, my advice is to be patient.
Messing around with your dog’s ears too soon can cause long term damage.
Timing is Everything
The opposite side of the coin is that some owners realize too late that their German Shepherd puppies ears need fixing.
Usually, if a pup’s ears are not up past 6 or 7 months, chances are they’re not ever going to perk up.
Note: I have chatted with hundreds of GSD owners over the years and have come to the conclusion that taping is not the only way to help those ears perk up after 6 or 7 months. Please see the section on chewing for more information.
Although there have been cases where taping after 6 months has been successful (see the section on taping).
My German Shepherd Puppies Ears Went Up and Down Again
It’s common for pup’s ears to perk up and then droop again within a few weeks. So, don’t let this alarm you.
This usually happens during teething when the adult teeth are pushing through.
In my experience, if the ears perk up once and then droop again, they will come back up. So in this case just relax and wait for your pup to finish teething.
When Will My Pup’s Ears Perk Up and Stay Up?
After your puppy has finished teething her ears will perk up and stay up for good.
Although this does differ from puppy to puppy. My male German Shepherd, Zè, had his ears fully perked up at 12 weeks and went through teething without droopy ears.
What Factors Cause Droopy Ears?
There are few things that can cause German Shepherd puppies ears to droop.
As I mentioned earlier, teething is one of the main reasons for droopy ears. Luckily this is just temporary and after teething your pup’s ears should perk up. Teething ends at around 6 to 7 months.
OK, so there’s not much you can do about your puppy’s genetics.
But some puppies are predisposed to droopy ears. This is due to the genes passed on by their parents.
In fact, my male, Zè, comes from such a breeder. But, I was lucky, his ears were perked up at 12 weeks and still are.
But even if they didn’t I would still have bought from this particular breeder.
In my case ears are not a big issue. I’m more concerned with sound temperament, drive, and healthy hips.
But if you are looking to show or breed with your dog, ears would be an important factor.
Many breeders will aim to breed German Shepherds with larger ears. It’s like that age-old saying; “give the public what the public wants”. This is especially true for breeders of the American and Canadian Showline type.
In my opinion, breeding dogs to enhance a specific trait, not in line with the breed standard is poor breeding practice.
The result of this is German Shepherd puppies with droopy ears that will never perk up. The reason is logical, their ears are too heavy and big for the head muscles to hold the cartilage up.
In this case, no amount of help will make these ears perk up.
It’s a good idea to find a good breeder, meet the parents of the puppy you’re interested in and to ask lots of questions.
When choosing a breeder and puppy there are a few things you should look for with ears…
- Do the parents have huge ‘satellite-like’ ears? Or are they smaller, neater and closer to the skull? The latter is what you want.
- Do the parents have larger than normal heads? Larger heads usually come with larger ears. Not a good trait.
- Is the ‘ear leather’ of the parent’s thick and firm or thin and wobbly? Thinner ‘ear leather’ lacks the stiffness needed to perk up firmly with no wobbling. Thicker ‘ear leather’ will perk up perfectly.
- How wide is the space between the ears? A wider space usually means the ears will take longer to perk up.
Between birth and, 4 to 5 months old your puppy’s ears are still developing. And significant trauma to her ears will cause permanent damage and droopy ears.
When Should You Start to be Concerned?
There is a point in your puppy’s development when you should become concerned with droopy ears. If your pup’s ears have not perked up at around 6 to 7 months, it’s time to look at ways to help those little ears!
So let’s look at some ways you can help…
7 Tips to Help Those Droopy Ears
Before you try anything else, this should be your first step in naturally supporting your puppy’s ears.
Chewing on safe and healthy chew toys is the Number One way to help those gorgeous ears perk up.
I have had feedback from several readers who have had great success with helping the ears of pups older than 6 months perk up.
Puppies should have chew toys. Not only will this will help relieve pain and irritation during teething. It also has the benefit of exercising their jaw, head and neck muscles. The jaw and head muscles are particularly important for healthy perky ears.
I’m not a vet or anatomy expert but here’s a simplified version of how this works…
Dogs have a highly developed Temporalis muscle which is one of the crucial muscles involved in chewing. In this image below you can see where the Temporalis muscle is situated and it’s found on both sides of the skull.
The Temporalis muscle is one of the muscle groups involved in giving dogs with upright ears their look. Of course, it’s not the only muscle involved as there are also many smaller muscles around the ears.
But encouraging chewing will stimulate and develop the muscles needed for healthy, upright ears.
So let your puppy chew, chew, chew!
Need toys for your teething puppy? Check out these indestructible dog toys for German Shepherds.
Many people, including myself, supplement their puppies during their development stages. 20 different people will give 20 different opinions on supplements. But here are some of the main ones. It’s worth noting here that not all these are necessarily a good idea.
A lot of people think that supplementing with calcium is beneficial for puppies. And some believe this will aid the development of the ears.
Personally, I don’t recommend this route. But I’ve mentioned it here as a serious warning!
Adding extra calcium to your puppy’s diet could potentially have permanent negative consequences. Excess calcium will lead to serious imbalances in other minerals.
DON’T add extra calcium to your puppy’s diet!!! This will cause permanent skeletal problems as she grows.
Besides, your German Shepherd puppies ears are made of cartilage, not bone. Calcium has no effect on cartilage.
A safer bet is to add Glucosamine to your puppy’s diet during development.
Glucosamine is a natural substance that helps the body maintain healthy cartilage. An added benefit is it also helps create joint lubricant, for healthy joints.
This supplement is often used to relieve arthritis in humans and older dogs. But will work just fine for your puppy.
A product like TerraMax Pro’s Glucosamine for Dogs from Amazon is one of the best products on the market. Since it comes in liquid form it’s much easier for your pup’s body to absorb.
It’s also worthwhile to chat to your vet if you have any concerns or questions about adding this supplement. I use a powder mix of Glucosamine and MSM that my vet mixes for me.
Diet and Vitamins
Feeding your puppy high-quality food should be something you do regardless. Food has the biggest impact on the development of your pup’s body and brain.
I recommend staying away from commercial dog food and opting for a more natural diet. If you are feeding commercial puppy food try to go for a grain and corn free make.
I feed my pups a 100% raw diet and also give raw chicken necks daily. Chicken necks have the best bone to meat ratio so I’m confident my pups aren’t getting excessive calcium.
I also supplement their diet with Vitamin C. I don’t use the plain Ascorbic Acid kind I always opt for a brand with bioflavonoids and added Rose Hip.
This helps for better absorption of calcium. I crush about 250g of Vitamin C into their food once a day. Kirkland Vitamin C with Rose Hip and Citrus Bioflavonoids (find it on Amazon) is a good choice.
You can also supplement your puppy’s diet with natural yogurt or cottage cheese. The full cream kind directly from a farmers market is best.
Yes, parasites can hamper the development of your puppy’s body and so affect her ears.
Parasites steal the nutrients from the food your puppy eats causing malnutrition. These critters also prevent the absorption of the nutrients that remain.
You can see parasites like tapeworms, pinworms, and roundworms in your puppy’s poop. You should do ‘poop patrol’ regularly and check for signs of parasites. But heartworms and Spirocerca Lupi will need to be tested for.
It’s worthwhile taking your new puppy to the vet for regular deworming. Since mothers can infect puppies and dogs also infect each other.
Protect Your German Shepherd Puppies Ears from Trauma
There are a few things you can do to prevent trauma to your puppy’s ears.
A good rule of thumb is to keep any hands off your pup’s ears. That means no bending, rubbing or folding. I know it’s not easy to leave those cute, soft ears alone, but it’s best for healthy, perky ears not to play with them.
Keep other puppies and dogs from roughhousing and tumbling too much. By pulling and biting other puppies can unintentionally cause significant trauma to ears.
Some breeders encourage owners to massage the base of the ear. The theory behind this is to increase blood flow to the cartilage. Whether this is true or not I don’t know. But I have never tried it since my opinion is to keep hands off ears until they perk up.
Taping Your Dogs Ears
Even if you’ve done everything in your power, you may still need to tape your pup’s ears. Many owners have taped their German Shepherd puppies ears with great success.
There are two ways you can do this and both methods are simple and easy.
A reader here at GSC, Roger, has shared his amazing ear-taping success story…
Roger used the materials found in the first method.
Here’s what he had to say…
“Our puppy was 8-9 months when we went this route. He had a wrinkle near the base of his ear which was caused with rough playing with our other dog.”
“We did this 4 times over a 2 and a half month period.”
“At one stage, his ear stayed up for 3 weeks and then went down.”
“It does work, don’t lose hope.”
“I would not suggest doing this until you know your dog is done teething, which would be around 6 to 7 months.”
Roger added some additional steps to the method – and I think these are great tips…
- This is a 2 person job – someone needs to keep the dog entertained!
- First, brush the skin adhesive onto the outside of the ear form. Coat the whole thing and let it fully dry, for at least 10 minutes. This helps to get a good bond with your dog’s ear when you apply a second coat.
- Put a cotton ball where the ear canal starts to prevent any of the adhesives from dripping in. Most pup will tolerate it for a little while. If it’s a problem, skip it but just be careful.
- Now give the ear form a second coat of skin adhesive. Lay it flat on something like a paper plate to keep the adhesive from dripping.
- Wait 20 seconds.
- Now, carefully place the form into the ear. Make sure it’s far enough down to the base, but not into the ear canal. The ear should stand up without flopping at the base.
- The ear should be smooth on the outside. So, make sure there are no folds or wrinkles in the ear. This is important!
- Hold in place for at least 45 seconds.
- When you’re done, reward your German Shepherd with a delicious treat!
- After all is said and done, have a fun play session to get your pup’s attention off the ear forms.
The ear form should stay in place a week or so.
If the ear does not stand up after the form falls out, go for another round. But clean the ear with the adhesive remover first and wait a day or so if the ear is red/raw.
The edges of the ear form will curl and start to come loose after a day or two that is normal.
Resist trying to put more adhesive in your dog’s ear while the form is in place! You stand a good chance of it dropping in the ear canal. Just wait and try again when the form falls out.
Good luck, have patience and love your dog no matter the outcome!
For the first method you’ll need the following items:
Since the ear support foams are sometimes out of stock, you can use Dr. Scholl’s Molefoam Padding from Amazon instead.
Make sure you get the MoleFoam padding and not the MoleSkin.
With the MoleFoams you’ll need to experiment with measurements since you’ll be cutting them into the right size before bonding.
So play around before bonding them to the ears.
Skin Bond Adhesive – Montreal Osto-Bond Skin Adhesive from Amazon is the best choice. It causes no irritation and can easily be removed. And won’t pull out your dog’s ear hairs.
Adhesive Remover – Uni Solve Skin Adhesive Remover also on Amazon is a great product. A small amount will easily remove the remaining skin adhesive. And it doesn’t irritate the skin.
- Brush the skin adhesive onto the skin and ear form. Be careful not to get any inside the ear canal.
- Wait until it becomes a little tacky, but not to dry.
- Carefully place the ear form into the ear. Make sure it’s far enough down to the base. But not into the ear canal. The ear should stand up without flopping at the base.
- Make sure there are no folds or wrinkles in the ear. It must be smooth on the outside of the ear.
For the second method you’ll need the following:
A woman’s tampon applicator or foam hair rollers (found inexpensively on Amazon) – get a pack with a variety of foam roller sizes. This way you can pick the best size. Remove the plastic part and just use the foam.
Paper tape – use the thinnest paper tape that tears easily. Micropore Paper Tape 2″ from Amazon wide is a good product to use.
A popsicle stick
- Place the tampon applicator or foam roller in the ear and wrap the ear around it. Make sure the ear is in a vertical position.
- Then use the Micropore Paper Tape to tape the ear around the foam roller or tampon applicator. Tape it from the tip to the base.
- Then tape the popsicle stick across the top of the ears one end at each tip.
Don’t use duct tape or other DIY tapes!
Keep your German Shepherd puppies ears taped for a week, then remove the tape to see if they perk up. If they do, job done!
If not, allow your puppy’s ears to rest for a day and then tape them again. Keep doing this until they perk up by themselves.
Your puppy is bound to scratch off the tape the first couple of times. The key here is to keep taping the ears until they perk up. Eventually, your pup will get used to the tape and leave it alone.
As a last resort, if all else has failed, you can consider surgical implants. A product like PermaStay Ear Implants for Dogs might be the solution.
The procedure must be done under anesthetic by a qualified vet. So there will be extra costs for you. Your dog will also require pain medication after the surgery. In my opinion, if you’re going to go this route you should wait until your puppy is fully grown.
The PermaStay website claims a 95% success rate. Whether this is true, I don’t know. I suggest discussing this with your vet first.
I hope this information will set your mind at ease about your German Shepherd puppies ears. And give you the tools you need to help those ears develop into healthy perky German Shepherd ears.
If you have any questions or you’ve got your own method please share it in the comments below.
Please consult your vet before you make any changes to your dog’s diet, nutrition, and lifestyle.
Are you still struggling with biting? Check out these 4 great games to stop German Shepherd puppy biting.