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.
Here's what you'll learn:
- 7 stages of German Shepherd puppies ears.
- Why timing is everything, but why you shouldn't panic too soon.
- My number one way to naturally support GSD puppies ears.
- 6 other ways to help their ears develop beautifully.
And you'll see some feedback from German Shepherd Corner's Facebook group, who've had amazing results with my Chew, chew, and chew method!
Here's a quick taster of the kind of feedback on my Chew, chew, chew method…
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 symbolizes the alertness they are famous for.
Of course, the German Shepherd isn't born with upright ears. When they're born, their ears are floppy, and over time, their ears develop as they grow.
And eventually, the cartilage perks up, giving them their signature pointy structure.
So it's only natural for German Shepherd owners like you to want the best for your German Shepherd's ears.
5 Common Questions about German Shepherd Puppy Ears
Before we get into some natural ways you can support your German Shepherd puppy's ears, here are some common questions folks ask me about ears.
At What Age do German Shepherd Puppies Ears Stand up?
Your puppy's ears can stand up anywhere from 8 weeks to 8 months. And generally, they should be standing up by the time your puppy has finished teething.
One of my males was not even through teething, and his ear cartilage was upright and ready to position correctly.
On the other hand, his two littermates still had floppy ears by the time his ears were upright.
Using teething as a benchmark is inaccurate because of the wide variations in development, even between littermates.
So I prefer to play it safe and say 8 months of age is the cut off before you should start intervening.
How Do You Know if Your Dog's Ears Will Stand Up?
Your dog's ears should stand up in good time in a perfect world with ethical breeders who don't breed for looks but rather for breed preservation and barring ear trauma.
But as a rule of thumb, if your puppy's ear cartilage has perked up, even a little, this is a good sign that they are developing and the cartilage is getting stronger.
Do Some German Shepherds Have Floppy Ears?
If your German Shepherd puppy has been bred for breed preservation and not for looks, you can expect your puppy's ears to stand up.
According to breed standards, it is considered a “fault” if a German Shepherd has floppy ears.
In short, a GSD will only have floppy ears if something has gone wrong in terms of breeding, health, or trauma, and I'll get into each of these further down.
Why Do German Shepherd Puppies Go Ears Up then Down?
It's common for a pup's ears to perk up and then droop again within a few weeks. So, don't let this alarm you. This is a sign that the cartilage and muscles are developing normally.
And this can happen several times during teething when the adult teeth are pushing through.
Although as I mentioned above, some puppies will not experience droopy ears during teething.
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.
Some uneducated sources say this has to do with their bodies using calcium for bone and teeth development.
This is incorrect information because, in fact, their ears are cartilage and not bone, so calcium is not a factor in upright ears – in fact, calcium supplementation can cause serious health issues.
In reality, this up and down see-saw of your puppy's ears has to do with the development of the Temporalis Muscle, which I'll get into a little further down, so keep reading.
When Will My Pup's Ears Perk Up and Stay Up?
After your puppy has finished teething, their ears will perk up and stay up for good.
But as I mentioned, using teething as a yardstick is not ideal because puppy development does vary slightly.
So, by all means, keep your puppy's teething in mind, but don't start panicking too soon.
Speaking of panicking…
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 puppy is only 3 or 4 months old, and they're already flustered about their puppy'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 8 months, chances are they're not ever going to perk up.
Although, if you read on you'll see, even at the age of 9 months, supporting ears to perk up is totally possible.
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 8 months.
Please see the section on chewing for more information and results from readers of German Shepherd Corner.
There have also been cases where taping after 8 months has been successful (see the section on taping further down).
German Shepherd Puppy Ear Stages
I haven't found a formal breakdown of German Shepherd Puppy Ear Stages, and I believe this is because the development of muscles and cartilage varies between puppies.
And as a GSD puppy owner, the last thing I want to do is cause you to lose hope because your puppy's ears don't look or act like they should at a certain age.
But since this is such an important topic…
I've broken down the most common ear stages and positions we see in our breed…
Please keep in mind that these stages are highly variable from puppy to puppy. Use this only as a rough guide and never as anything set in stone.
The Teensy Ear Stage
You can expect “Teensy Ears” to develop slowly from birth to 7 weeks.
The Side Flop Ear Stage
From roughly 7 weeks to 10 weeks, you'll see your GSD puppy's ears do “The Side Flop” – no, it's not some weird dance from days gone by!
Your pup's ears are developing step-by-step!
The Flying Nun Ear Stage
Yikes! “The Flying Nun” – 10 to 14 weeks. It's starting to feel like I'm naming movies from days-gone-by!
But really, check out this picture and tell me it doesn't look like this puppy is trying to “take off”!
The Comb-Over Ear Stage
This ear stage can start anywhere from 14 weeks. But again since ear stage development and position are so individual, depending on the puppy, it's not uncommon for some puppies to skip ear stages altogether.
She-Sells-Sea-Shells Ear Stage
This ear stage is when both ears are upright, although usually not in the correct position just yet.
Since puppies can skip ear stages as I mentioned, you can expect this ear stage anywhere from 15 weeks.
The One-Up Ear Stage
This ear stage usually causes GSD owners to panic. Because suddenly, the cartilage of one ear flops down.
But in reality, this is the time to start getting super excited about your puppy's ear stage position!
In this ear stage, your puppy will either have one ear up permanently or do a bit more see-sawing. But rest assured, those ears are getting into position!
The “Perffeto” Ear Stage
At this point, your German Shepherd puppy has gone through all the ear stages.
Their head and facial muscles are strong and their ear cartilage is upright, and (in most cases) in the correct position.
Although they still look “too big for their head”, this will correct as they grow into their ears.
This stage can start anywhere from 20 weeks (5 months) and last until full correct positioning at 8 months.
Why are My German Shepherd's Ears Floppy
There are few things that can cause German Shepherd puppies ears to droop or struggle to stand up.
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. So I always give another month on top of that before I start panicking about droopy ears.
OK, so there's not much you can do about your puppy's genetics – except choosing to work only with ethical breeders when selecting a puppy.
Some puppies are predisposed to droopy ears. This is due to the genes passed on by their parents.
And in some cases, due to breeders specifically breeding for larger than breed standard ears.
In fact, Lupo, my first GSD as an adult, came from such a breeder. This was 20 years ago and back then I knew little about how to pick an ethical breeder.
Even if ears are not a big issue for you and you're fine with your GSD having floppy ears, it's still a good idea to work with an ethical breeder who breeds their dogs according to breed standards.
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 an ethical and reputable breeder, meet the puppy's parents you're interested in, ask lots of questions, and get referrals to owners of their puppies.
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' (cartilage) of the parent's thick and firm or thin and wobbly? Thinner cartilage 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.
Your puppy's ears are still developing between birth and 8 months of age. And significant trauma to her ears will cause permanent damage and droopy ears.
This can happen during rough-housing with other dogs. And even when human family members spend too much time rubbing or playing with the puppies 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 8 months, it's time to look at ways to help those little ears!
So let's look at some ways you can help…
How do I Get My German Shepherd's Ears to Stand Up?
7 Ways to Support Your GSD Puppy's Ears
Before you try anything else, this should be your first step in naturally supporting your puppy's ears.
This is the number one method I've used for decades to naturally support my GSD puppies ears. And I've dubbed it the “Chew, chew, chew method.”
Because that's exactly what it's all about – chewing on safe puppy toys with plenty of “give.”
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 succeeded in helping pups' ears older than 6 months perk up.
In fact, this is what some members of my German Shepherd Corner Facebook group shared about my “chew, chew, chew” method…
Puppies should have chew toys. Not only will this will help relieve pain and irritation during teething.
It also benefits from 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, one of the crucial muscles involved in chewing.
In this image above, 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 that gives 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!
But as I mentioned, it's not just chewing on any old toy. You want to offer your German Shepherd puppy safe toys with lots of “give.”
By “give” I mean toys that are made of non-toxic rubber that give way slightly when they bite down. This is the best and most effective way to encourage chewing.
And if you need some recommendations you can check out this post on indestructible toys for German Shepherds.
And this post on chew toys for German Shepherds.
Many people, including myself, supplement their puppies during their development stages. Twenty 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. And 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 they grow.
Besides, your German Shepherd puppies ears are made of cartilage, not bone. Calcium will have no effect on cartilage development, and it will only cause damage and mineral imbalances.
If you want to supplement your puppy's diet and potentially assist the development of their ears, 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 with 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.
If you're looking for natural ways to add Glucosamine to your puppy's diet, consider whole food options like the following:
- Chicken feet.
- Chicken necks.
- Duck feet.
- Duck necks.
- Green-lipped mussels.
- Homemade bone broth. 1oz per 10 lbs, or 28 g per 4.5 kg.
Of course, if you're feeding a raw diet, it'll be much easier to add whole-food options.
If you're feeding dry commercial food, you can safely replace 10% of their diet with whole foods and still have a balanced diet.
Diet and Vitamins
Feeding your puppy high-quality food should be something you do regardless. Food has the biggest impact on your pup's body and brain development.
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 also supplement their diet with Vitamin C. Although dogs can manufacture their own Vitamin C from their diet, I like to supplement their intake with whole-food natural Vitamin C.
It is an excellent source of antioxidants it also helps build cartilage.
And for puppies who are going through the stressful time of vaccinations, transitioning to a new home, and rapid growth, whole food natural vitamin support is essential.
This is according to Dr. Wendell O. Belfield, DVM, who in his book, How to Have a Healthier Dog: The Benefits of Vitamins and Minerals for Your Dog's Life Cycles, advocates for Vitamin C supplementation in puppies.
Over a decade or so, I've used several different Vitamin C supplements. But for the last few, I have been using Pure Radiance Vitamin C, a whole food option and not synthetic.
Pure Radiance Vitamin C is widely available on Amazon and also at some health stores.
If you'd prefer to use food sources to supplement your puppy's Vitamin C through ear stage development, these foods are healthy and safe:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Bok Choy
Remember to remove all the pips from fruits and vegetables before feeding. And make sure to break down the cell walls by chopping fruits into small pieces.
And either steaming or blending vegetables before offering them to your puppy.
Some experts say supplementing a German Shepherd puppy's diet with natural yogurt or cottage cheese will help support ear stage development.
And there was a time I believed this to be true. However, since furthering my studies in canine nutrition, I don't believe offering large amounts of dairy is a good option for dogs, especially not for puppies.
Dairy tends to cause gut upsets in dogs unless it's been fermented – like Kefir. Not to mention the fact that most yogurts contain stabilizers and artificial sugars, which are not good for dogs.
Get Rid of Parasites
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 doing a monthly fecal float at the vet before offering your puppy a deworming medication – there's no point in deworming if your puppy shows no signs of carrying parasites.
Although it's worth noting that heartworms won't show up in a fecal float. Since mothers can infect puppies and dogs also infect each other.
Protect Your German Shepherd Puppies Ears from Trauma
You can do a few things 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 not to play with them for healthy, perky ears.
Keep other puppies and dogs from roughhousing and tumbling too much. Pulling and biting other puppies can unintentionally cause significant trauma to the 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.
And to be honest, I think a healthy diet, whole food supplementation, and chewing on safe and appropriate toys is a much better option than massaging ears to increase blood flow!
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!
You'll need the following to achieve results with method one:
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.
To achieve results with method two, you'll need the following:
A woman's tampon applicator or foam hair rollers (found inexpensively on Amazon) – get a pack with various 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.
If all else has failed, you can consider surgical implants as a last resort. 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 have your own method, please share it in the comments below.
Please consult your vet before you change 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.
Are you having trouble with potty training your German Shepherd? Learn about how to potty train a German Shepherd puppy.