How to Train a German Shepherd's Ears to Stand Up

Medium
1-8 Months
General

Introduction

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.

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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

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Step
1
Wrap
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
Re-tape
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.
Step
4
Breaks
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.
Step
5
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.
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The Health Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
Encouragement
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.
Step
5
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.
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The Click & Reward Method

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Step
1
Clicker training
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.
Step
2
Monitor
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.
Step
3
Click
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
Repeat
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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ruby
German Shepherd
16 Weeks
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Question
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Ruby
German Shepherd
16 Weeks

Wondering what I can do for her ears to stand. She’s also teething

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
941 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amber, I recommend speaking with your groomer or vet about whether pup's ears should be taped or glued to help them stand. As a trainer, I am not an expert on aesthetic areas of dog care. I have heard that many puppies ears will naturally stand up on their own once they are older. German Shepherds often have ears that droop while they are still teething, that then stand on their own once the dog gets older, so you may not need to do anything special other than wait. For breeds that do need help with their ears standing erect, many people will tape or glue the ears in that position for a while with specific safe glue (ask your vet or groomer which kind they recommend) to hold them in an upright position to train the ear to develop in that position. I cannot advise you whether that's needed in your case or if pup simply needs to mature more for them to stand on their own. I would consult your vet or groomer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Wilson Floyd
German Sheherd
1 Year
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Question
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Wilson Floyd
German Sheherd
1 Year

Our lovely Wilson has just turned one but his right ear will not stand up, do you have any advice? Thank you.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hello! This is something you may want to discuss with your Veterinarian. I do believe there are corrective procedures that can be done.

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Question
Lucca
German Shepherd
7 Months
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Question
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Lucca
German Shepherd
7 Months

Barking and growling at home visitors and guests

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. The techniques below can be used towards other dogs and strangers. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
NOBU
German shepherd mix
6 Months
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Question
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NOBU
German shepherd mix
6 Months

Her ears havent stood up yet. Is there anything I can do to make them go up?

Also shes a rescue so she has severe fear of the outdoors, gets startled by new sounds, people and surroundings. Refuses to go out on walks but is a confident happy dog at home. How do I change that?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hi there! I am going to give you some tips that will build her overall confidence. It is likely with practice and some mild changes, his behaviors will start to resolve themselves over the next few months. So patience is key! There are several methods you can use to improve your fearful dog´s confidence. As far as her ears, she may be keeping them flat because she is so timid. Hopefully with building her confidence, her ears will stand up also. 1. Work on obedience training. Daily obedience work, even when it is only for a short time, provides submissive dogs with a lot of confidence. Family members are proud of dogs that perform on command and dogs pick up on this feeling. If the obedience training is harsh, though, a submissive dog will just get worse. Find a positive reinforcement and reward-based training class in your area. If the trainer works with a discipline-based system, it is not appropriate for a submissive dog. 2. Socialize your dog as much as possible to make them adaptable. The sensitive socialization period for your dog ended when she was a puppy, about 15 weeks of age, but she can still be socialized as an older dog, it is just going to take a lot more work. To socialize your dog, take her out as much as possible, let her meet new people, let her meet your friends dogs (if they are friendly with other dogs), and let her run free at the dog park so that she will meet new dogs. (Some dogs will be too nervous to play at the dog park so this phase may only come later.) 3. Give your dog a job or get her involved in a canine sport. Most dogs are not able to "work", however, so in order to give them an activity to build their confidence, it is a good idea to get them involved in one of the canine sports. Flyball, agility, Frisbee, dock diving, and other activities may be available in your area. 4. Use counter-conditioning techniques to help her overcome fear. This is the best but also the hardest (for you!) of the methods available to treat a submissive dog. For each thing that your dog is afraid of, you have to train her to have a pleasant feeling. When a dog is no longer afraid of the situation, he is confident and no longer going to be submissive. If you decide to try to build her confidence through counter-conditioning, the first thing you have to identify is the trigger. What is stimulating your dog to be so submissive? If she is only afraid of one thing it is easier to train her; unfortunately, most submissive dogs are afraid of almost everything. Spend some time with your dog to become familiar with her fears. The next step is to teach him that the scary thing is actually a good thing. When she is exposed to the scary object, give her a tasty treat and let her relax around the object without any pressure. The final step in counter-conditioning your dog to face her fears is to expose her and not provide a treat or even notice that he is being exposed. If you need more help on using counter-conditioning, the animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell has a book that I have found to be useful. The techniques are great and will help your dog develop confidence but as with most behavior modification, takes patience and persistence. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
jake
german sherpard
6 Months
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Question
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jake
german sherpard
6 Months

hi there i have a 6 month old german shepard one ear stands firm up and other one tilts inwards and its flopy

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
941 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bob, I am neither a vet nor a groomer or breeder, so I suggest consulting someone more experienced in that area than what I have as a trainer. With that said though, check out the article linked below for someone else's advice on the matter. http://leerburg.com/tapingears.htm Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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