Lupine, vulpine, canine — different species, but all interrelated. If you want a wolf-like or foxy appearance in a domestic dog, which pointy ears impart, you have plenty of choices. If your dog is a mixed breed with an unknown background, you can narrow down some of his heritage via the shape of his ears.
Pointy ear types
"Pointy" ears are formally known as erect or prick ears. Dog fanciers, those who breed and show canines, have all sorts of subsets within the erect ear classification, such as the "candle flame" ear of the English toy terrier. As the name implies, that's what the ideal ear in this breed is supposed to bring to mind. These subtle distinctions require a good working knowledge of specific breeds.
The herding group
As the name implies, dogs included in the American Kennel Club's herding group were originally bred to herd livestock. Some of them still perform that task, while others work as guard dogs, guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, or serve primarily as family pets. While some of the 30 breeds making up the herding group enjoy being couch potatoes, this is a type of dog bred for a job.
Many members of the herding group boast pointy ears. The best-known among them include the German shepherd and the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh corgis. There are plenty of other pointy-eared canine breeds in this group who aren't as well known, including the Australian cattle dog, Beauceron, Belgian Malinois, Belgian sheepdog, Belgian tervuren — the Belgians seemed quite keen on prick ears — the Berger picard, Bouvier de Flandres, Briard, Canaan dog, Finnish lapphund, Icelandic sheepdog, Norwegian buhund, and the Swedish vallhund.
The working group
Until 1983, herding dogs were listed in the AKC's working group, but the new group was formed to reflect the specific jobs for which herding dogs were created. Many of the dogs remaining in the working group also share the upright ears found in the herders. These "workers" include dogs bred to pull sleds or carts, protect property or otherwise put in a good day's effort to help their people.
Pointy-eared dogs in the working group include the Akita, Alaskan malamute, the giant schnauzer, Samoyed, Siberian husky and the standard schnauzer. Many of these breeds are large and quite strong, as befits a working animal. Even if they aren't earning their keep in any way other than providing companionship, they need to keep busy via exercise or participating in canine sports.
The terrier group
Terriers were originally bred to hunt and kill vermin. While most terriers today are house pets, their prey drive is still strong. The American Kennel Club's terrier group consists of 31 breeds, and many of them sport erect ears. That's especially true of many of the smaller terriers.
Members of this group with pointed ears include the bull terrier, cairn terrier, Manchester terrier, miniature bull terrier, miniature schnauzer, Norwich terrier, Scottish terrier, and West Highland white terrier.
The toy group
The toy group offers plenty of pointy-eared, but portable, pups. Small dogs with erect ears include the Chihuahua, toy Manchester terrier, the silky terrier, toy fox terrier, and Yorkshire terrier. Although the terriers in this group are especially small in stature, they still boast that tough, but adorable, terrier personality.
Also known as tipped ears, semi-erect ears are pointy, but the top of the ear tips over. Collies and Shetland sheepdogs have semi-erect ears, as does the fox terrier. The border collie, arguably the smartest and hardest working of all dogs, may have erect or semi-erect ears.
Faux pointy-eared dogs
Some popular breeds may often appear pointy-eared, but they weren't born that way. They are subject to a controversial practice known as ear cropping, performed when they are puppies to make the ears stand upright. While there is no reason for a pet dog to have their ears cropped, erect ears are part of the breed standard and necessary for those who intend to show their dogs in conformation classes.
Breeds whose ears are naturally droopy, or at least only erect after cropping, include the boxer, Doberman pinscher and great Dane, according to Dog Discoveries. In the toy group, the miniature pinscher also falls into this category.