How to Tell If a Dog's Ears Will Stand

There's something majestic about a dog with ears that stand up straight. Like the noble German shepherd, these dogs look alert and ready for action. But even in breeds known for their perky ears, all puppies have folded ears when they are born. And these folded ears provide no clue as to whether their ears will stand or flop when they are adults. Even breeds known for prick ears, such as corgis, may have members whose ears flop over. Other breeds, like pit bulls, may have standing ears only after a surgical procedure. Knowing what to look for can tell you whether your pup's ears should stand, and how to help them reach full height.

Corgi puppy sitting on carpet
How to Tell If a Dog's Ears Will Stand
credit: Paul Park/Moment/GettyImages

Check his breed

Your puppy's breeding is a good indicator of whether his ears will stand up. Psychology Today says that dogs inherit the prick ear from their wolf ancestry. You'll see standing ears on wolflike breeds with thick, double coats such as the Alaskan malamute, Samoyed and Siberian husky. Primitive breeds such as the Mexican hairless, basenji, and pharaoh hound have naturally standing ears and a sleek, short coat. Rounded ears that stand up grace breeds such as the Chihuahua, Welsh corgis, and French bulldog. If you're not sure of your dog's breed but the pup's parents had standing ears, chances are that his will, too. Great Danes, Doberman pinschers, and boxers are among the breeds that have standing ears only when they are cropped.

Check his ears

If your puppy's ears stand up when he gets excited, they probably will stand permanently by the time he is 6-months-old. Another way to tell if your pup's ears are likely to stand is by observing where they are set on the head. According to Jane Dogs, ears that will stand, even partially, tend to be set higher on the head and closer together than pendant ears.

The cartilage at the base of a standing ear will begin to start feeling firm by 4-to-6 weeks old. However, My New German says it can take as long as six months for your dog's ear cartilage to harden sufficiently for his ears to stand up. If your dog's ears have thick, heavy ear leather, chances are the ears will not be able to stand. A basset hound, after all, will never have standing ears even if they are cropped and a basset hound mix with the same leathery ears will have floppy ears too even if his mother was a husky.

Check his diet

Your puppy's diet also influences whether his ears will stand. Pup's teething occurs between 3-to-5 months old. A deficiency of calcium in his diet during this time can mean that cartilage may not get enough calcium to develop properly. Add a teaspoon of yogurt or cottage cheese to your pup's food to give him a little extra calcium, and give him raw bones for chewing. The chewing action also builds muscles at the base of the ear, helping your dog's ears to stand.

Check his interactions

If your puppy is so cute you just want to scrub his head with your hand, resist the urge. Petting and fondling the ears breaks down cartilage, leaving it soft and pliable instead of firm enough to support a standing ear.

This will not just leave your dog with floppy ears, but partially floppy ears or ears that flop unevenly because the cartilage that remains will still struggle to support the ear as much as possible. This is why you should not intentionally break down the cartilage even if you prefer floppy ears.

Roughhousing with other puppies or dogs in the household is another activity that breaks down ear cartilage. Put each dog in a separate crate and be sure to supervise activity time when they are together to make sure they're not pulling each other by the ears.