We’re on our third German Shepherd and have more experience with ears standing up, or not, than most GSD parents do simply because one of our dogs was a mess. Our first purebred GSD, named Jumbo because, well, he was very large, didn’t have ears that would stand up.
He was an adult when we rescued him, and his ears were unable to perk. They were like big, floppy puppy ears.
I’ll tell you why his ears were like that in a bit, but before we get there, let’s answer the question:
When will my German Shepherd’s Ears Stand up?
Typically, the German Shepherd’s ears will stand up on their own sometime after the point when the dog stops teething, usually around 20 weeks, 5 months, of age. Some dogs will be quicker, others will take longer. It takes about this long because the cartilage in your pup’s ears isn’t strong enough yet and cannot support the ear’s weight. As the puppy gets older and takes in the proper nutrition, the cartilage will start to strengthen — soon with enough strength to hold those big ears up. This is one of the reasons why puppy food is balanced a bit differently than regular food is. It helps aid puppy growth.
Let’s take a deeper look at German Shepherd Ears.
German Shepherd Ears —
For the most part, you don’t need to worry about whether or not your dog’s ears will take on the natural form most people think about when they hear the breed mentioned. That is, unless those floppy ears haven’t gone up and down a few times by the time your pup is 6 or 7 months old.
The ears popping up and falling again is a good sign that your dog is on the right track. They just need a little longer to get there.
If they have perked up and dropped again, chances are excellent that your dog’s ears will be just fine. They can remain in the down position until they’re 8 months old without cause for concern. If you notice them going up and coming back down again that is a good sign that the cartilage is starting to get the strength it needs to keep them up for good.
It just isn’t quite there yet, which is why they fall back down again.
Even then, they won’t be up all the time. Your dog will always retain the ability to put her ears down if she wants. When I go to love on my 10 year old Shepherd female’s head, she puts her ears down as she nudges me to get her petting just in the right spot.
Then, the moment I stop she perks her ears back up again. Of course, they’re not floppy like they were when she was a pup, but just pointed straight back towards her tail instead of straight up to the sky.
German Shepherd Ear Problems —
Now we get to the sad part. Our boy Jumbo was a mess. He was sort of a medical anomaly in that he had so many skin conditions that we had to bring him to a pet dermatologist in New Jersey who ended up taking pictures of some of his skin problems and published them in her book.
One of his problems is that his ears were so damaged for so long that it somehow ended up affecting the cartilage inside his ear and his ears could no longer stand up. Sadly, or not depending on how you look at things, nobody wanted to adopt him from the pound because he didn’t “look” like a shepherd because his ears didn’t stand up.
I was shocked that everyone was that concerned with his ears, instead of who he was and his temperament.
We adopted him because he chose us and he ended up changing our world. When all the dogs in the pound were throwing themselves at the fences, he sat there all handsome, begging me to take him home.
So we did.
But that’s not the point. Instead, the point is that not all adult German Shepherd dogs will have ears that stand up. Before you ask, yes he was a purebred dog with a tattoo in his ear that we were able to trace back to Germany.
If suddenly your dog starts to have ear problems, going crazy itching at them or you notice some strange stuff in there, bring him down to the vet so they can see what’s going on. A GSD’s ears require some attention, but we’ll cover that in a future installment.
If you don’t get them checked out and treated, it could cause permanent damage. I can’t remember what the veterinarian said the problem was with his ears, but I remember this thick red waxy looking stuff was always present and it bothered him to no end.
This, ultimately brings us to the next point …
German Shepherd Ear Infections —
While Jumbo had massive ear problems, our 10 year old girl, Casey, has only had a couple of ear infections in her life to date, but they do happen.
A warning sign is that your dog will start to scratch her head a lot more. Then, at least our two, would scratch very slowly as if putting extra pressure on the ear would help it.
I remember last time Casey had one, about two years ago now after we moved into our current house, I looked over at her and her paw just sat on her ear for a moment. It was moving, scratching, but in really slow motion. Sure enough, I went and looked in her ear and it didn’t look like the other one.
It was red and inflammed, and had a lot of dirt-looking stuff in it.
It’s an easy fix. The vet will prescribe some ear drops, but the way it works is kind of a pain. Cleaning your German Shepherd’s ears with these drops is best done outside because she would shake her head back and forth throwing the ear stuff, and the dirt inside, all over the place.
Puppies can get ear infections, too, and this could be one of the reasons why your dog is having ear standing up problems if it is later in the puppy’s life. If she’s scratching at them a lot you may want to get them checked out.
Taping your German Shepherd’s Ears —
As a last resort to get your dog’s ears to stand up, you could tape them to help train them to stand. I say as a last resort because it’s always best to give your dog’s ears the chance to stand up on their own.
I’m not going to go into how to do this in this article, but do have a scheduled article going over the rough principles of how to do it and the desired outcome. Again, this is certainly an option but proper nutrition and patience will go a long way to help you before you ever even get to this point.
At the end of the day, your dog’s ears should perk up into that famous big, pointy ear look we’ve all come to love. It’ll take as long as 20 weeks, or 5 months, to get there but is well worth the wait before any human intervention is involved.
Just make sure your dog’s ears are healthy so they can make the progression all on their own.
If you suspect an infection of some kind, bring your girl or boy to the vet to get it fixed.