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

How to Train a German Shepherd's Ears to Stand Up
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-8 Months
General training category iconGeneral

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.

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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.

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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!

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The Tape Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Health Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Click & Reward Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By James Barra

Published: 03/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Niklaus

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German Shepherd

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4 Months

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Question

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Potty training. stop having accidents in doors. i had tried the bells on the door trick so he can associate the bells with going outside but he hasn't gotten the hang of it yet. i want him to learn to not steal food, toys and anything from my other dog while he has his own (same exact) things to play with and eat. i want him to come when he is called.

April 4, 2022

Niklaus's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, First, know that pup has to be accident free for at least two months to be motivated enough to try to hold it while indoors to start alerting when they need to go outside. The bell is a wonderful thing to teach, but it sounds like pup needs more confinement when he can't be supervised - such as crate training or tethering pup to yourself with a hands free leash, and a strict potty schedule - where you take pup potty every 2 hours, to start preventing pup's accidents through management of freedom and schedule, so pup can keep your home clean long enough to begin associating your home with cleanliness. Check out the Crate training and tethering methods from this article below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Because it takes about 2-3 months for most puppies to get to the point where they are accident free between scheduled potty trips consistently, then another 2-3 months before pup is staying accident free long enough to turn that cleanliness habit into a long term habit, often puppies will not reliably ask to go outside with a bell or other alert until around 6 months. If expected to too soon leads to pup having more accidents, it will stall the process of pup getting to that point sooner. This area of potty training is unfortunately not explained or taught often though, so its a common struggle among pet owners. Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Leave It method - to help pup learn to leave the older dog alone: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means give space, to also help with interactions around the older dog. Once the section on how to teach Out is taught, also pay attention to the section on how to use Out to deal with pushiness found there too. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 4, 2022

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Tom

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Australian Kelpie

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2 Years

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Question

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His ear is not stood up full yet.

Dec. 24, 2021

Tom's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Abir, At this age, I would speak with your vet. Generally, most methods to help ears stand up outside of surgical options are intended to be used while a puppy is growing, before maturity. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 27, 2021


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