Jump to section
So you recently bought a new canine companion into your home. Your new best buddy is currently a cute, small and furry German Shepherd puppy. However, they’re already switched on and loyal, and it’s only been a couple of months. The pup attracts an ‘aww’ from everyone that sees them and they still make you smile helplessly whenever you look at them. But there is one problem. Their big ears are still floppy and won’t stand up. Now apart from looking a little strange, you’re worried this might mean there is a problem.
The good news is that it usually takes several months for German Shepherd’s ears to fully stand up properly anyway. In fact, it usually comes after teething. Fortunately, there are also certain things you can do to help train the ears to stand up. This training will help ensure your handsome pooch grows up to look the part with fully functioning ears.
Thankfully, training your German Shepherd’s ears to stand up isn’t as complicated as you might think. You can take steps to encourage them to naturally stand up, such as looking for triggers and then reinforcing the behavior with tasty treats. Many owners also use a bit of tape to help to build the muscles and get them into the habit of keeping their ears up.
If your Shepherd is just a puppy then floppy ears are common and they could be standing upright in just a few weeks. But if they are older and the problem has worsened over time then you may need months to get to the bottom of the problem and tackle it. Persevere with training and your German Shepherd will have that fierce look, complete with ears to stood to attention.
Before you get to work, there are several things you will need. For one of the methods, you will need some tape. You will need thin, white, surgical tape. This can be bought from local drug stores. A popsicle stick and some foam will also be required.
You will also need some mouth-watering treats. Alternatively, break your German Shepherd’s favorite food into small chunks. Some toys and a clicker are also be required for one of the methods, along with a little time for training.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and enthusiasm, then work can begin!
The Tape Method
The other way to train a German Shepherd's ears to stay up is to use tape. Wrap each ear around foam or something similar and then tape them into a tight roll, in a vertical position.
Bridge the ears
Now take a popsicle stick or something similar and use tape to attach it to both ears horizontally. This will help keep the ears symmetrical.
Now your German Shepherd is going to wonder what is on their ears and is probably going to try and scratch and roll around to remove it. You need to make sure you keep re-taping the ears.
Once every week or so, remove the tape and see if the ears stand up on their own. This will be a good way to test whether the tape has done its job yet. If they stay up without any problem then you don’t need to re-tape the ears again.
Know when to give up
If the ears still don’t stand up after 7 or 8 months then it’s time to give up with the tape. Instead see a vet to make sure there aren’t any more serious underlying problems preventing the ears from standing up.
The Health Method
The right diet
Your German Shepherd needs the right diet for their skeleton and muscles to grow properly. This means taking them off puppy food after a few months and checking their new food has all the recommended nutrients.
Head to the vet
If your pup's ears are still down after several months, take them to the vet before you do anything. They will take a stool sample to check there are no parasites causing problems.
Look for a trigger
Spend some time watching your dog, looking for any activities or moments that cause their ears to stand up. Once you have found this, you can capitalize on it with rewards.
Whenever your pup does stand their ears upright, if only for a second, praise them and give them a treat. Make sure you do this within a few seconds. If you can do this each time, they will soon associate holding their ears up with positive rewards and may do it naturally.
Check for teething
Many German Shepherd’s ears do not stand up while they are teething. So, if they are teething, be patient and try not to worry. In fact, it is not uncommon for their ears to stand up and then drop when they start teething. So until teething has finished, be patient.
The Click & Reward Method
A clicker is a brilliant way to communicate with your German Shepherd. You simply click whenever they follow an instruction correctly and follow with a treat. This will signal to them that they are on the right track. Used correctly, this can seriously speed up the learning process.
Now spend a couple of days watching your dog closely. You’re looking for anything that triggers their ears to stand up. When you make their food, for example, or when someone enters the house.
Once you have found a trigger, make it happen again, but be close by with your clicker and a toy. As soon as the ears stand up, click to signal to your pup that they have done something right, even if they’re not sure what yet.
Play with the toy
Once you have clicked, you then need to follow through with a reward. So spend a minute or so playing around. You can play fetch, tug of war and anything that gets them worked up and happy.
Now all you need to do is repeat this for a few minutes each day. The more consistently you train, the more of a habit it will become and the more used to using those muscles your German Shepherd will be. Before you know it they will be standing up with ease.
By James Barra
Published: 03/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021