German Shepherds With Floppy Ears: Is It a Cause for Worry?

German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears sitting on the grass

When you think of a German Shepherd, you immediately visualize a large muscular dog with alert eyes and perky ears. However, some owners are surprised to find out that their German Shepherd puppy has floppy ears.

It’s always fun to make them stand and watch them fall the next second, but have you ever wondered why this happens?

Before panicking, you need to know what causes this condition. This article will better explain what you need to know about German Shepherds with floppy ears. Let’s get started!

Do Some German Shepherds Have Floppy Ears?

German Shepherd with floppy ears smiling

Yes, there are German Shepherds with floppy ears. It is normal for some GSD puppies to have floppy ears since their ear cartilages are not yet strong enough to support the weight of their ears. However, cases where one or both ears remain droopy until adulthood could be due to various factors.

Factors like breeding, health, and even trauma could cause a German Shepherd puppy to develop floppy ears, which could remain that way for a lifetime.

Nonetheless, you should know that your German Shepherd will always be born with droopy ears.

At each stage of puppy development, you will notice how their ears gradually get to their pointy structure. However, showing no signs of ears perking up should be a cause for concern.

For GSD owners, it’s important to know the exact cause of having floppy ears in puppies. It’s also necessary to familiarize yourself with the different stages of German Shepherd ear growth.

Knowing when your puppy will have fully erected ears will lessen your worry about this controversy.

German Shepherd Ear Stages: At What Age Do German Shepherd Ears Stand Up?

If you notice that your German Shepherd puppy’s ears are looking awkward and wobbly, embrace it! It’s part of their growth and development as puppies. Like their weight and height, their ears change over time.

German Shepherds undergo different stages of ear development. After around 5 to 8 months, you can expect their ears to be all perked up. Let’s take a look at how your puppy’s ears will look throughout this transition.

Birth to 7 Weeks

4 week old German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears

From the moment your GSD puppy is born, it begins to show its tiny ears, which slowly become noticeable until they turn seven weeks old. Just look at those eensy-weensy floppers!

7 to 10 Weeks

7 week old German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears

When they reach 7 to 10 weeks old, their ears start to do a side flop. They also begin to grow bigger, looking like fluffy earmuffs. Their cartilage is evidently not strong enough to hold them up.

10 to 14 Weeks

12 weeks old German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears

At this stage, your German Shepherd’s droopy ears will start to look like airplane wings. At roughly 10 to 14 weeks, the cartilage begins to develop, preparing the ears to stand up little by little.

14 to 15 Weeks

14 weeks old German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears

During this period, your puppy’s ears may take on several appearances. At 14 weeks, some GSD puppies have side-swept ears wherein one ear still flops to one side while the other is combed over your pup’s head.

At around 15 weeks, their ears can both be upright but not quite in their correct and final position. However, every dog is different, and some will just skip these stages altogether.

15 to 20 Weeks

17 weeks old German Shepherd puppy with a floppy ear

At this point, your German Shepherd is one step closer to having those perky ears. However, this is also the stage that usually leaves owners perplexed and panicked.

When your German Shepherd reaches 15 to 20 weeks, the ear cartilage of one ear typically becomes fully developed while the other is still not strong enough.

As a result, your GSD will have one ear up permanently while the other will still be awkward and wobbly.

20 Weeks and Above

Fully grown German Shepherd with erect ears

After a while of constant ear checks, you won’t need to wonder anymore about your German Shepherd’s drooping ears. At 20 weeks, your dog will have both its ears standing up.

During this last stage of ear growth, the muscles in their head and face are already strong and defined. Their ear cartilages are upright and mostly in their expected position.

Since the ears mature faster than the rest of their body, they might look too large for their head. After some time, they will become more proportioned. The ears will still adjust until it achieves their final position at eight months.

Here is a video showing how the German Shepherd’s ears stand up as they mature:


Is It Bad If German Shepherd Ears Don’t Stand Up?

Although this is alarming for most owners, there is usually nothing to worry about having floppy ears in German Shepherds if they are still a puppy.

Nevertheless, it’s important to observe and check if your dog has fully erect ears once they turn 5 to 8 months old. If one or both ears remain droopy at this period, you need to find out the reason for this delayed development.

Instead of waiting for the ears to correct themselves, you need to consult a vet to find the exact cause of their floppy ears and the right course of action.

Possible Reasons Why Your German Shepherd’s Ears Won’t Stand Up

German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears up close

If you are pondering why your puppy’s ears are stubborn, this section will inform you about the possible causes of this phenomenon.

Here are a couple of known reasons why your German Shepherd’s ears just refuse to stand up:

1. Teething

Most dog experts will tell you that having floppy ears is normal while your German Shepherd is teething, regardless of its type or origin. This starts around 3 to 4 months old and ends after 6 to 7 months.

When the pup is still in the teething phase, its body uses up most of the stored calcium for the teeth to grow.

Once all their adult teeth show up, the ear cartilage can have enough calcium again to harden and become strong enough to hold the ears upright.

2. Genetics

If your German Shepherd is predisposed to have droopy ears, this is beyond your control.

If their mother and father have floppy ears in adulthood, they are most likely to inherit this trait. Their genes will ultimately dictate their features in the end.

Whether you are okay with your German Shepherd having lazy ears or not, you should still communicate with trusted breeders to select a puppy that adheres to standards in terms of appearance.

3. Breeding

Over the years, many people started to prefer German Shepherds with larger ears. As the demand grew, GSD breeders started producing dogs with an enlarged ear size.

However, enhancing a specific trait can sometimes lead to serious consequences.

This poor breeding practice can result in having German Shepherds with ears that will never stand up. Since they are too big and heavy, the head muscles won’t be able to hold the ear cartilage up.

If you are buying a puppy for the first time, here are a few things you should ask the breeder to ensure that your German Shepherd will have perked ears:

  • The size of their parents’ ears: Ideally, the ears should be smaller and closer to the skull. If the parents have ‘satellite’ ears, there’s a high chance that their ears will also be oversized.
  • The size of their parents’ heads: If the parents have larger heads, they might also have larger ears. You would want their parents to have normal-sized heads.
  • The thickness and firmness of the ear cartilage: You need to make sure that the puppy will inherit a thick ‘ear leather’ or cartilage that will stand up perfectly. Thin cartilages are wobbly, which is not ideal.
  • The space between the ears: Generally, having a wider space means that the puppy’s ears will take a longer time to perk up.

Always ensure to only transact with reputable breeders since they strictly follow ethical breeding practices and adhere to the breed standard.

4. Trauma

In German Shepherds, puppyhood lasts until eight months. While their ears develop during this period, they can be affected by excessive rubbing by owners or intense playing with other dogs.

Any significant trauma to the ears can cause irreversible damage and prevent the ears from standing up.

5. Parasites

Parasites such as intestinal worms affect the overall health of your German Shepherd, but they can also cause permanent droopy ears. If your puppy suffers from internal parasites, its body won’t get enough nutrients to grow.

This will consequently impede the development of your pup’s ears. As owners, you should do regular poop checks to see if there are any worms stealing your dog’s nutrition.

Why Does My German Shepherd Have One Ear Up and One Down?

As mentioned, the ‘one-up’ ear stage is a completely normal phase in your German Shepherd’s development. This only indicates that they are growing at different rates.

You should not be worried if your German Shepherd puppy has one floppy ear. However, if your puppy has one ear up and one ear down after eight months, the ears will probably remain in this condition until adulthood.

How Do Kennel Club Standards Describe a German Shepherd’s Ears?

German Shepherd with floppy ears front profile

The official standard for German Shepherd Dogs includes guidelines regarding general appearance, temperament, size, and other features, including their ears.

Upon registration, owners should ensure that their dogs adhere to these requirements.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a GSD’s ears should be moderately pointed and proportionate to its skull and immediately stand up when called to attention.

The ears should be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. They should also appear moderately arched and flawlessly slope into the dog’s muzzle.

Aside from conforming to these standards, it’s very important to note that chipped and droopy ears are grounds for disqualification.

Are German Shepherds With Floppy Ears Allowed to Participate in Dog Shows?

Floppy-eared German Shepherds might look cute, but they are not ideal for conformance shows.

Show dogs should have tall, erect ears that match their alert and vigorous personalities. Having droopy ears would mean they were not bred with high-quality standards and may even indicate poor health.

How Do I Fix My German Shepherd’s Floppy Ears?

Adult German Shepherd with a floppy ear

Once you notice that your puppy is developing its ears at a very slow rate, it’s time to think of ways to help them achieve those perky adult ears.

There are several ways in which you can encourage the growth of the ear cartilage and even procedures that will fix their floppy ears.

Here are some effective methods that will make your German Shepherd’s droopy ears stand up as expected:

1. Chew Toys

Toys are not just for entertaining your puppy. They can only help in exercising their jaw, facial, and head muscles.

The temporalis muscle, in particular, is one of the main muscle groups responsible for developing upright ears.

By encouraging your German Shepherd to chew, this muscle, along with other small ear muscles, will be stimulated for proper growth. Just make sure that they are chewing pet-safe toys to avoid injuries or choking.

2. Proper Diet and Nutrition

Cheap, low-quality food can save you a lot of money, but it can also be the cause of your dog’s floppy ears.

Instead of commercial food, you can start following a more natural diet consisting of vitamin C-enriched fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

Apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are good meal supplements for promoting ear growth. Make sure to blend or steam them before feeding your pup.

A good amount of dairy products like natural yogurt should also be given to support ear development. However, be mindful that dairy can cause gut problems. That’s why feeding them in moderation is highly advised.

3. Supplements

Some owners believe that calcium supplements should be given to German Shepherd puppies. While this seems logical, it may cause more harm than good to your dog.

Excess calcium can lead to an imbalance of minerals in the body. This can also cause irreversible damage to their bones and joints.

If you truly want to add a supplement for boosting your pup’s ear growth, you should consider adding glucosamine to their diet. This is a substance known for maintaining cartilage in good condition.

Some natural sources of glucosamine are chicken and duck feet, green-lipped mussels, and bone broth.

4. Parasite Removal

It has been previously discussed how parasites can hamper the growth of your German Shepherd’s ears. When you notice worms in their fecal matter, you should immediately consult your vet for treatment.

Deworming medications are usually administered to dogs. Vets might also prescribe preventive medicines that can lower the risk of having any type of internal parasite.

5. Protection From Trauma

Housing your German Shepherd puppy with other dogs can mean trouble. Young dogs like to play a lot, but sometimes, harmless playing can turn into violent fights.

To protect your dog from harm and prevent their ears from damage, train your puppy to socialize and be friendly with other pets.

You should also refrain from tugging your puppy’s ears since this can also contribute to delayed ear growth. Massaging the base of the ear is a better alternative to promote blood flow in the cartilage area.

6. Taping

While this seems like a silly idea, many owners have successfully fixed droopy ears using the taping method. Before you resort to taping your GSD’s ears, you should let them develop naturally for the first few months.

To make your own dog ear support, you should have the following supplies ready:

  • Perm Roller: First, you need a large and spongy roller used for hair perming. You can easily buy this at any local pharmacy or beauty store.
  • Surgical Tape: Choose a thin, white surgical tape that you can easily tear. Make sure it is adhesive enough to hold the support in place.
  • Pencil or Popsicle Stick: An unsharpened pencil or clean popsicle stick will keep your dog’s ears upright along with the perm roller.

After obtaining the necessary supplies, you are ready to tape your dog’s ears. To do this correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the perm roller for ear placement. Insert an unsharpened pencil into the opening of the roller and apply a generous amount of glue.
  2. Place the roller inside the pup’s ears. Position the roller inside your puppy’s ears near the bottom half of the ear flap. Make sure to leave space and not block the ear canal.
  3. Hold the roller in position using tape. Hold the end of the pencil and start wrapping each ear with tape. Be careful not to tape them too tightly.
  4. Use the popsicle stick to stabilize the ears. Put the popsicle stick behind the top of each ear and secure them using glue or tape. They will keep the ears upright and stable until it’s time to take them off.
  5. Distract your puppy with treats and toys. To prevent your GSD from playing with their ears as the glue dries, you need to distract them with doggy treats or a few minutes of playtime.
  6. Keep their ears taped for about 10 to 14 days. For effective results, you need to keep your dog’s ears taped for about two weeks. Within this period, you should regularly check if the tape is coming off.

If you notice that the ear support is getting loose, make sure to reinforce them to ensure that the ears will grow evenly.

7. Surgical Implants

If all else fails, you can book a procedure for your German Shepherd to have surgical implants in its ears. This operation usually costs a lot because only a qualified veterinarian can perform this type of surgery.

Before deciding if this is the right course for your dog, talk to your vet about the risks and success rate of this method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Black and tan German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears

What Does It Mean When a German Shepherd’s Ears Go Down?

Like other dogs, German Shepherds exhibit their own behavior and mannerisms as a response to their owner or the environment. When their ears go down, it could mean two things.

First, it could indicate submission. When your dog feels fear or guilt, you can observe that its ears are pinned back and hanging towards the side. Their tails are also withdrawn, and it would seem that they are trying to hide.

It could also mean that your German Shepherd is calm and in a good mood. They are comfortable enough to let their guard down and relax their ears.

Once they are startled by a loud noise or if they sense danger, the ears will immediately stand back up.

Can You Touch Your German Shepherd Ears? Is It a Good Idea?

I know it’s hard to resist your puppy’s soft floppy ears, but it’s better to refrain from touching them altogether.

Make it a household rule not to bend, rub, or fold your German Shepherd’s ears until they are fully developed. This will prevent any trauma to the developing ear cartilage.

Final Thoughts

If your German Shepherd puppy is still at the droopy ear stage, there’s no need to panic. Your pup needs to go through some awkward ear development phases before it can truly show those glorious perky ears.

Once you observe that their ears remain floppy after the eighth-month mark, you can also try different methods for their floppy ears to stand up.

If most tricks don’t work, you can always just consider this as an adorable quirk of your GSD. Having floppy ears wouldn’t make them less of a smart and loyal dog to the family.

Do you own a German Shepherd with floppy ears? Let us know your experience by commenting below!

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