Don’t you love the quintessential look of a German Shepherd? Bright eyes, strong profiles, and of course, those perky, attentive ears!
When you first bring your German Shepherd puppy home, its ears will probably be floppy and droopy – at times, those ears may try to make a stand, only to fall back down again. What gives!?
A dog’s ears are made of cartilage, and that cartilage must grow strong enough to hold up the weight of those big ears. As your German Shepherd grows and gets the right nutrition (among other things), the cartilage gets stronger and stronger. And voila – straight, pointy German Shepherd ears!
But is it really that simple? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.
Many GSD owners worry their puppy’s ears just aren’t doing the “right” thing and wonder if there’s anything they can do to help. This article covers all you need to know about your German Shepherd puppy’s ear stages and what to do (and not do) if those ears aren’t standing up.
German Shepherd Puppy Ear Stages
It’s important to keep in mind that these stages are not set in stone. German Shepherd puppy ears can be unpredictable!
Don’t panic if your young GSD puppy’s ears are doing funky, wobbly things that don’t quite fit into any of these puppy ear stages.
The key is to be patient and give those ears time to develop on their own before stepping in.
Now, let’s look at the typical German Shepherd puppy ear stages.
Newborn to 5 months:
During teething, which begins around 3 months old, it’s not uncommon for German Shepherd puppy ears to go up then down again. Those ears should perk back up after teething is over.
If you want to learn more about the timing of teething and what to look for, check out this article on German Shepherd puppy teething.
When went to visit my German Shepherd, Allie (pictured above at 7 weeks old), her ears were floppy and undeniably precious. I brought Allie home at 8 weeks, and those ears still had their ups and downs, but by 10 weeks old, her ears were up permanently.
I was lucky that Allie’s ears stood up very early, but that doesn’t mean this is the norm. Many GSD puppy ears don’t stand up until months later and that’s perfectly normal.
5 to 6 months:
Teething is usually complete by the time your pup is around five months old. By this time, your German Shepherd’s ears may already be standing at attention. However, if they’re not standing strong just yet, now is a common time for those ears to start perking up.
6 to 8 months:
If you’re in this phase and your dog’s ears still haven’t stood up, now is the time to be a little concerned. In most cases, your pup’s ears should be nice and perky by now.
At the 6 month mark, it’s time to talk to your vet and/or breeder to get advice on what steps you can take to help those ears do their thing. Once you hit 8 months, the chance of your dog’s ears ever standing up drops significantly. So, the key is to catch it in time.
Reasons Why Your Dog’s Ears Aren’t Standing Up
As I already mentioned, teething is the most common reason why those ears refuse to perk up. During teething, it’s also very common for German Shepherd puppy ears to go up then down. This flip-floppy stage is completely normal.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about your fur baby’s genetics – some puppies are just predisposed to have droopy ears due to the genes passed on by their parents.
I believe Allie’s genetics definitely played into her perky ears standing strong at an early age.
Genetics can also come into play when some breeders try to breed specifically for German Shepherds with larger ears. As a result, those big, oversized, heavy ears may be too much to stand up.
If pointy, perky ears are important to you, then choose your breeder and puppy carefully. Make sure to check out the parents – how do their ears look?
Trauma to the ears:
Your puppy’s ears are developing from birth until around 5 months old. Any significant trauma to the ears during this time can cause permanent damage – which may also cause droopy ears.
For example, if another dog bites or pulls your puppy’s ears too hard while playing, it can do significant damage. Or if your kids just love tugging and yanking on your puppy’s adorable, floppy ears.
Try to have everyone keep their hands off those adorable ears as much as possible. It’s best not to play with your puppy’s ears to ensure they develop correctly and stand strong.
Yuck. Nobody likes dealing with parasites, but unfortunately, they’re a reality when dealing with puppies who love sticking their noses in “dirty” places (and sometimes eating things they shouldn’t!).
Parasites drain your puppy of the nutrients it needs and can hamper your puppy’s development. Make sure to do poop patrol regularly to check for signs of worms that may be stealing all your pup’s nutrition.
In the next section, I’ll talk a bit more about the importance of nutrition in the development of your puppy’s growing body – from nose to tail and toes to ears.
How to Help Your Dog’s Ears Stand Up
This is your first step to naturally help those droopy ears perk up. Puppies need chew toys, as it exercises their jaw and their head and neck muscles.
Those muscles are important for perky puppy ears. So, let your puppy chew, chew, and chew (on the right things of course).
If you need some ideas for durable dog toys that can withstand those chomping jaws, then check out this article for my picks of the best tough German Shepherd chew toys.
Proper diet & nutrition:
Cheap, commercial food could be the culprit if your puppy’s ears refuse to stand. Make sure you’re feeding high-quality dog food.
It’s worth noting that some people recommend using supplements for your puppies to help with their ears. However, this isn’t necessarily a good idea.
For example, many people think calcium will boost those ears – but it can also have a negative effect on your pup’s joints and bones, causing permanent skeletal problems. It’s just not worth the risk!
Stick to a high-quality, natural diet instead. Some ideas for foods that may help boost your pup’s ears include cottage cheese, yogurt, and chicken feet. Cottage cheese and yogurt both have plenty of calcium (without overdoing it), and chicken feet are a natural source of glucosamine, which helps strengthen cartilage.
Taping is usually a last-ditch effort to help your puppy’s ears stand up straight. As I noted before, it’s very important not to do this too early. Give those ears time to develop on their own before you resort to taping.
There are a couple of different methods you can use to tape your German Shepherd puppy’s ears. At the end of the article are some sources that go over common methods of taping.
Here are the supplies you’ll need before getting started:
- A large, spongy perm roller (you should be able to find this at Walmart, CVS, etc.). Note: There are several options that you can use for this – there are even foam dog ear forms.
- Thin, white surgical tape that tears easily. A 2-inch wide tape works well, and you can also get this at Walmart, CVS, or somewhere similar. Note: Do NOT use duct tape or electrical tape – these will do way more harm than good!
- An unsharpened pencil or popsicle stick. You can tape these to your dog’s ears as the last step to keep them standing tall and not flopping out to the sides.
- Adhesive – either skin bond adhesive or eyelash glue are good choices.
To wrap up, if your German Shepherd puppy is still sporting droopy ears (and is under the age of 6 months), don’t panic! Give those ears plenty of time to develop and get stronger before taking action.
If your GSD’s ears don’t stand up by 6 months, then is the time to look into alternatives to help those ears along.
Also remember, if your German Shepherd puppy’s ears never stand up on their own, consider those floppy ears a quirky touch of cuteness! I would love my Allie with or without pointy ears and I’m sure you would say the same about your GSD.
Let’s take a poll. How old was your German Shepherd puppy when its ears finally stood up? Let me know below!
Here are a couple of helpful articles on taping your German Shepherd puppy’s ears: