Bringing home a German Shepherd puppy is an exciting time! Those floppy ears and puppy dog eyes melt your heart. But soon, you’ll notice your pup’s ears start to change. When will those cute, floppy ears stand up tall?
Understanding the ear stages your German Shepherd goes through will help you know what to expect. With this guide, you’ll learn all about the development of your puppy’s ears.
Why Do German Shepherds Have Pointy Ears?
The iconic pointy ears of the German Shepherd are one of the breed’s most distinguishing features. But why do they stand up tall when most dogs have floppy ears?
The answer lies in the breed’s history. German Shepherds were originally bred as herding dogs. Their upright ears gave them better abilities to hear and communicate while working with sheep and cattle.
Over time, the pointed ears became part of the German Shepherd standard. For show dogs, prick ears are essential. But even companion German Shepherds often have standing ears as a part of their breed characteristics.
Typical Puppy Ear Stages
German Shepherd puppies go through a series of ear stages as they grow and develop:
Birth to 5 Weeks
When German Shepherd puppies are first born, their ears are folded over. The ears may wiggle a bit but remain floppy.
5 to 8 Weeks
At around 5 weeks, you’ll notice the ears start to stand up for brief moments. They still fall back down, but it’s a sign the cartilage is getting stronger. During this stage, ears may pop up when eating or playing.
8 to 16 Weeks
Between 8 and 16 weeks, your puppy’s ears will continue gaining strength. They’ll stand up more often, but also still flop back down. It’s normal for ears to go up and down during this stage.
4 to 6 Months
By 4 to 6 months, your German Shepherd’s ears should stand fully erect. The cartilage has hardened enough to hold the ears upright. If your puppy is teething, their ears may droop temporarily before standing tall again.
6 to 8 Months
If your German Shepherd’s ears are still floppy by 6 months, it’s time to ask your vet about options to assist with standing the ears. The window between 6 and 8 months is critical for helping ears stand permanently.
Keep in mind each puppy develops at their own pace. Your dog’s ears may stand sooner or later than these averages. As long as they stand strong by 8 months, there’s no cause for concern.
What Makes Ears Stand Up?
Two main factors determine when your German Shepherd’s ears will stand:
The ears of puppies contain mostly cartilage. As they grow, calcium deposits begin to strengthen the cartilage. Eventually, it becomes firm enough to hold the ears upright.
Puppies that lack proper nutrition may have cartilage that develops too slowly. This can prevent ears from standing properly.
The muscles in your German Shepherd puppy’s head, neck, and ears all play a role in holding the ears upright. Exercising these muscles through play and chewing helps ears stand up.
Puppies who aren’t active may lack the muscle tone needed to keep ears erect.
Why Won’t My Puppy’s Ears Stand Up?
If your German Shepherd puppy’s ears are late to stand or remain floppy, possible reasons include:
- Teething – The stress of teething temporarily weakens cartilage. Ears often droop and stand back up after teething finishes.
- Genetics – Some bloodlines are prone to soft ears due to the genes inherited from parents.
- Injury – Damage to the ears through bites or rough play can prevent ears from standing properly.
- Poor nutrition – Without proper vitamins and minerals, cartilage won’t develop correctly.
- Illness or parasites – Sick puppies may be too weak for their ears to stand up. Intestinal parasites can also impair nutrient absorption.
Don’t panic if your puppy’s ears aren’t standing by the “normal” times. Seek your vet’s advice only if the ears haven’t stood by 6 to 8 months old.
How to Help German Shepherd Puppy Ears Stand Up
If your German Shepherd’s ears need assistance standing up, here are some tips:
- Add chew time – Chewing strengthens facial muscles and works the ears. Give your puppy plenty of safe, durable chews.
- Massage ears – Gently rub and massage your pup’s ears to increase blood flow. Do this for a few minutes daily.
- Feed a high-quality diet – Nutrition is crucial for proper cartilage growth. Choose a premium puppy food.
- Try taping – Taping the ears into an upright position can train the cartilage to stand. Use soft tape and foam rollers.
- Ask about supplements – Glucosamine, calcium, and vitamin C may help, but ask your vet first. Too much calcium can cause joint issues.
- Be patient – If ears stand late, continue proper care and be patient. Ears may pop up at any time before 8 months.
With the right care during these crucial months, you can help encourage your German Shepherd’s ears to stand tall!
When Should I Tape My Puppy’s Ears?
Taping should only be done as a last resort at 6 months or older. Taping too early can damage young cartilage. Follow these tips for safe taping:
- Use soft surgical tape or paper tape. Never duct tape!
- Wrap foam hair rollers with tape to support the ears.
- Position ears up and out to the sides. Don’t tape flopped over.
- Add pencils or popsicle sticks taped upright to hold ears in place.
- Only leave tape on for a few hours per day to avoid discomfort.
- Monitor for rubbing and irritation. Discontinue taping if this occurs.
Consult your vet before taping. Done correctly, it may help stubborn ears stand up. But proceed with caution in puppies under 6 months old.
Caring for Floppy Ears
While prick ears are preferred for the German Shepherd breed, some puppies just never achieve standing ears – and that’s ok! Here are some tips for caring for floppy ears:
- Clean inside the ears weekly to prevent infections.
- Carefully pluck excess ear hair to aid airflow.
- Watch for signs of ear mites like head shaking and dark discharge.
- Protect ears from sunburn and frostbite.
- Handle ears gently to avoid injury.
- Avoid tugging on ears when playing.
- Weigh ears down when eating and drinking to prevent soiling them.
Floppy eared German Shepherds make just as fabulous companions. Their soft ears add to their cuteness!
German Shepherd Puppy Ear FAQs
How long should I wait for my German Shepherd puppy’s ears to stand?
You can begin helping ears stand after 6 months if they haven’t gone up yet. Most puppies’ ears will stand on their own by 8 months. After this age, it becomes much harder for ears to stand.
What food helps German Shepherd puppies ears stand up?
Feed a premium large breed puppy food. For added nutrition, try adding cottage cheese, plain yogurt, raw meat, fish oil, eggs, or chicken feet. Avoid supplements without your vet’s approval.
Should I massage my German Shepherd puppy’s ears?
Yes, gentle ear rubs and massages can increase blood flow and help strengthen cartilage. Do this for a few minutes daily once your puppy is 8 weeks old. Avoid handling the ears too roughly.
Is it bad if my German Shepherd puppy’s ears don’t stand up?
While prick ears are breed standard, floppy ears won’t affect your dog’s health at all. They may face challenges in dog shows, but can still be wonderful family companions. Focus on their personality, not their ears!
Can I tape my German Shepherd puppy’s ears at 12 weeks?
No, taping too early can damage the delicate growing cartilage. Wait until at least 6 months old before trying any ear taping methods.
The Journey from Floppy Puppies to Pointed Ears
The development of your German Shepherd puppy’s ears is an exciting process. With patience and proper care, those soft puppy ears will transform into the signature pointy ears of the German Shepherd breed.
While the timing varies from pup to pup, you can expect your dog’s ears to go through predictable stages. With the tips in this guide, you’ll be prepared to help your pup’s ears stand tall!
The most important thing to remember is not to worry. Whether your German Shepherd ends up with standing ears or floppy ones, they’ll be the perfect companion for you!