Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Back? GSD Colony

Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Back? Decoding Canine Communication

Ears are among the most expressive parts of a dog, and when it comes to German Shepherds, their ears often seem to have a language of their own. If you've ever wondered, "Why do German Shepherds put their ears back?" you're not alone.

The ear postures of this breed are a fascinating blend of genetics, emotions, and health. In this comprehensive piece, we'll delve deep into the secrets behind the iconic perked ears of the German Shepherd and why, at times, they might choose to pull them back.

But before we delve into the core of our topic, let's set the stage by exploring the foundation. Why do German Shepherds naturally have stick-up ears in the first place? What are the science and genetics behind this characteristic trait?

Moreover, what milestones should a pup parent expect in the journey of a German Shepherd's ears, from floppy infancy to standing tall in adulthood? And, for those puzzled by the occasional German Shepherd with permanently floppy ears, we'll also discuss the reasons behind that phenomenon.

Buckle up for an insightful journey into the German Shepherd ear language world as we decode these expressive appendages' nuances, myths, and realities.

But before we reveal all the secrets of a German Shepherd’s ear position and meaning, let’s see why this dog breed put their ears back.

German Shepherds put their ears back primarily as a form of communication. This ear movement often conveys submission, friendliness, or appeasement. In some cases, it can denote uncertainty or nervousness. Just like humans use facial expressions, German Shepherds use ear postures to express emotions.

Understanding these ear postures is key to decoding your German Shepherd's feelings and intentions.

German Shepherd Ears

As we delve deeper into subsequent sections, we'll explore the nuances of their ear language, shedding light on both natural anatomical traits and the emotions they convey.

Ready to dive into the world of German Shepherd ear signals?

The Anatomy and Natural Posture of German Shepherd Ears

The ears of a German Shepherd aren't just prominent features; they're a window into the breed's health, emotions, and history. The anatomy and natural posture of these ears offer fascinating insights, telling tales of their ancestry, purpose, and even their current mood.

Dive into this section as we unravel the intricate design and inherent behaviors associated with German Shepherd ears.

Why do the ears of German Shepherds stand up?

The ears of German Shepherds stand up due to a combination of genetics and cartilage development. This upright posture aids in enhancing their auditory perception, allowing them to detect sounds from afar and pinpoint their origin, making them effective working and guard dogs.

Diving deeper, the erect ear positioning in German Shepherds has evolved over time to suit their roles in herding and guarding.

A study revealed that dogs with upright ears can identify the source of a sound in just six-hundredths of a second.

When German Shepherd ears stand up

This acute sense of hearing facilitated communication with human shepherds and allowed them to respond to potential threats or movements of the flock quickly.

The upright ears indicate alertness and readiness, reinforcing the breed's image as a vigilant protector. It's truly remarkable how nature and selective breeding have converged to produce such an iconic and functional feature.

Moreover, the ability to swivel and tilt their ears toward the direction of a sound offers German Shepherds a 3D auditory landscape, enabling them to discern the nature of a sound and its direction and distance.

Such precision is invaluable, especially when monitoring the movement of sheep, detecting predators, or even during search and rescue missions.

Do German Shepherd's ears stick up naturally?

Yes, German Shepherd's ears do stick up naturally. This trait, influenced by genetics and cartilage development, usually manifests as the puppy matures, typically between 6 and 20 weeks.

The upright ear posture of German Shepherds is not merely a cosmetic feature but a culmination of selective breeding and evolutionary advantages. While most German Shepherd puppies are born with floppy ears, the natural progression sees their ears becoming erect as they grow.

This transformation is primarily due to strengthening the auricular cartilage, which supports the ear.

What's fascinating is the variability in the timeline. Some puppies might have their ears stand up as early as six weeks, while others might take a few months. Occasionally, there are instances where one ear might stand up before the other, leading to a delightful "one up, one down" appearance temporarily.

German Shepherd puppies ears stand up

Research indicates that the standing ear trait possibly provided early German Shepherds an advantage in their working roles. Besides amplifying sounds, the erect ears serve as visual cues, displaying alertness or curiosity. For a herding or guard dog, this posture communicates vigilance.

Furthermore, a study in canine genetics found that specific genes influence ear morphology. For German Shepherds, selective breeding over generations has ensured the dominance of genes favoring erect ears, cementing this trait as a hallmark of the breed.

Are German Shepherd's ears supposed to stand up?

Yes, German Shepherd's ears are genetically predisposed to stand up. This upright ear trait is characteristic of the breed, emerging as puppies mature, usually by 4-6 months.

The erect ears of the German Shepherd have become one of the most recognizable features of the breed. But beyond mere aesthetics, this trait has a deep-rooted significance, both functionally and historically.

📝 Related blog post: When Does a German Shepherd's Ears Stand Up? 

Historically, the German Shepherd breed was developed in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, primarily for herding and guarding sheep. The upright ears provided an auditory advantage, allowing the dogs to detect faint sounds from a distance, crucial for their protective roles.

German Shepherd herding vintage image

Additionally, as defined by major canine organizations, the breed standard specifies that German Shepherds should have medium-sized, erect, pointed ears. Deviations from this, such as droopy or floppy ears in fully matured dogs, are considered faults in conformation shows. 

This emphasis on the standard stems from the breed's working origins, where form followed function.

Interestingly, while selective breeding has played a role, genetic studies have indicated that specific alleles determine ear carriage in dogs. For the German Shepherd, genes favoring upright ears have dominated, ensuring this characteristic trait is passed down through generations, symbolizing the breed's rich heritage and functional prowess.

Understanding Ear Movements and Emotions

Just as human faces are canvases of emotion, the ears of a German Shepherd paint a vivid picture of their feelings and intentions.

This section will delve into the intricate dance of ear postures, revealing the emotions and messages these movements convey. By understanding this subtle ear language, we can better connect with these majestic canines, enhancing the bond we share with them.

Why do German Shepherds move their ears back? (Most common reasons)

Ears are more than just auditory organs for German Shepherds; they are expressive tools, eloquently conveying their emotional state. When a German Shepherd moves its ears back, it's communicating a spectrum of feelings.

Let's decode these signals and unravel the top 11 reasons behind this intriguing ear movement.

  1. Submission
  2. Appeasement
  3. Fear or Anxiety
  4. Friendliness
  5. Attention
  6. Pain or Discomfort
  7. Relaxation
  8. Overstimulation
  9. Uncertainty
  10. Affection
  11. Defensive Aggression


Submission, in the canine world, serves as a peacekeeping mechanism. When a German Shepherd pulls its ears back, it's signaling its intent to remain passive and non-threatening. This behavior is rooted in pack dynamics, where clear communication prevents unnecessary confrontations and promotes cohesion.

Diving deeper, this submissive gesture echoes their ancestral ties to wolves. In wolf packs, clear hierarchical structures are essential, and non-verbal cues, like ear positioning, play a pivotal role.

German Shepherd puppies ears submission

Research indicates that submissive postures, including ears pulled back, help maintain pack harmony by clarifying ranks and avoiding overt confrontations.

These evolutionary cues persist even without traditional pack structures for our domesticated German Shepherds. This behavior not only aids in inter-canine relations but also their interactions with humans, showcasing their inherent desire for social harmony and understanding.


Appeasement gestures, like ears drawn back, are a German Shepherd's way of promoting social harmony. Such gestures are intended to placate potential threats or soothe more dominant individuals, thereby avoiding conflicts and ensuring peaceful coexistence.

Delving into appeasement, it's a nuanced form of canine communication. Unlike sheer submission, where a dog might feel inferior, appeasement can be a proactive strategy to diffuse tension, even for confident dogs. It's a diplomatic tool in their social toolkit.

Studies on canine behavior show that dogs often use appeasement gestures towards humans, not just other dogs. For instance, when an unfamiliar person approaches a well-socialized German Shepherd might momentarily draw its ears back, signaling a non-aggressive intent. 

Such gestures are essential in multi-dog households or diverse environments, reinforcing bonds and ensuring smooth interactions.

Fear or Anxiety

Fear or anxiety often prompts German Shepherds to retract their ears. This instinctual response, signaling unease or apprehension, can arise from unfamiliar stimuli or perceived threats, alerting observers to the dog's emotional state and need for reassurance.

Diving deeper into fear and anxiety in canines, the physiological responses aren't much different from humans. Raised cortisol levels, a stress hormone, can trigger visible cues, including ears drawn back.

Research conducted at the University of Lincoln revealed that dogs, like humans, exhibit left-right brain asymmetry when processing emotional stimuli. For instance, negative emotions, like fear, predominantly activate the right brain hemisphere, influencing ear and tail positions.

Scared German Shepherd

This nuanced understanding of canine fear responses underscores the importance of observing ear movements, as they offer invaluable insights into a dog's emotional well-being and immediate needs.


Friendliness in German Shepherds often manifests with ears slightly drawn back. Contrary to misconceptions, this gesture isn't solely submissive but is a warm, open invitation, indicating their amiable intent and desire to engage positively with others.

A dog's ear position and other body language cues offer a rich tapestry of information. When a German Shepherd approaches with ears back and a wagging tail, it's typically signaling friendliness.

Notably, research in animal behavior highlights how socialized dogs develop a sophisticated system of gestures and postures for positive interactions.

German Shepherds rank as the 2nd most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club. Their friendly demeanor and loyalty make them favored choices for families, showcasing their reputation not just as working dogs but also affectionate companions. 

Dr. Stanley Coren, a renowned canine psychologist, posits that dogs, like humans, have evolved to exhibit facial expressions and gestures to facilitate social connections.

This means a German Shepherd drawing its ears back could be akin to a human's warm smile – a universally recognized emblem of friendliness.


When German Shepherds focus intently, they often draw their ears back, honing in on distant or specific sounds. This ear movement amplifies their auditory reception, showcasing their heightened sense of hearing and alertness to their surroundings.

German Shepherds, bred initially as working dogs, possess an acute sense of hearing crucial for their tasks. Their ears act like radar dishes, capturing even faint noises.

According to studies, dogs can hear frequencies up to 65,000 Hz, while humans peak at around 20,000 Hz. This incredible auditory range allows them to detect sounds we can't perceive. 

Dog ears vs humans ears range

Additionally, a German Shepherd's ear has about 18 muscles, enabling intricate movements for precise sound localization. When they draw their ears back to focus, it's akin to us leaning in to listen better, a testament to their evolutionary adaptation and keen sensory prowess.

Pain or Discomfort

Pain or discomfort can lead German Shepherds to retract their ears. This movement, especially if accompanied by other distress signs, indicates physical unease. Ears drawn back serve as a visual alert, signaling their need for care and attention.

German Shepherds are stoic creatures like many dogs and might not always vocalize pain. Instead, they show subtle signs, with ear positioning being a primary indicator. Veterinary studies highlight that ear infections, dental issues, or neck pain often result in ears being pulled back.

Moreover, according to an American Pet Products Association survey, ear infections rank among the top five reasons for vet visits. Observing a dog's ear position is vital for behavioral insights and gauging health.

Consistent ear retraction, if unrelated to emotions, should prompt a veterinary consultation to ensure their well-being.


German Shepherds might draw their ears back in moments of relaxation, signaling contentment. Unlike anxiety-induced retraction, this is a gentle easing, showcasing their comfort and trust in their environment.

Like humans, relaxation in dogs is a state of lowered arousal and heightened contentment. A relaxed dog's body language is soft, with ears, eyes, and body posture all radiating calmness. German Shepherds, despite their alert nature, cherish moments of reprieve.

Did you know that, according to research from Harvard Medical School, relaxed interactions with dogs can lower human blood pressure? This mutual relaxation fosters a bond between dogs and their owners.

Relaxed German Shepherd dogs ears back

Observing a German Shepherd's eased ear positioning with other relaxed body language can be a litmus test for their comfort, reinforcing the tranquil ambiance they share with their trusted companions.


Overstimulation in German Shepherds often results in ears being drawn back. Bombarded by excessive sensory input, be it sounds, sights, or touch, this ear movement signifies their attempt to process or shield from overwhelming stimuli.

German Shepherds, known for their keen senses, can sometimes find environments teeming with stimuli challenging. Crowded places, loud noises, or rapid changes can become sensory onslaughts.

A study from the University of California, Davis, revealed that dogs, much like humans, have varying thresholds for sensory input. When consistently overstimulated, dogs may develop stress-related behaviors.

German Shepherds are highly active and intelligent dogs. A study indicates that without proper mental and physical stimulation, over 60% of German Shepherds can show signs of overstimulation, leading to unwanted behaviors. 

The retraction of ears in German Shepherds serves as an initial sign of sensory discomfort. As responsible caregivers, recognizing these cues helps mitigate potential stressors, ensuring our canine companions have optimal mental and emotional well-being.


Uncertainty can lead German Shepherds to draw their ears back. This gesture, a subtle hint, conveys their hesitation or confusion in a given situation, indicating they're processing unfamiliar or unexpected stimuli.

In the intricate world of canine behavior, how dogs hold their ears provides key insights into their emotional state. Uncertainty is one such emotion that's often communicated subtly. Dogs, despite their adaptability, can be creatures of habit.

Abrupt changes or new environments might momentarily disorient them. For instance, researchers at the Canine Science Collaboratory found that dogs often exhibit a variety of uncertainty signals, including specific ear postures, when introduced to unfamiliar objects or environments.

German Shepherd ears back - GSD Colony

For a German Shepherd, known for its keen observation skills, drawing the ears back when unsure is a gentle request for time, patience, and sometimes guidance from their trusted human companion.


Expressing affection, German Shepherds often pull their ears back, amplifying the moment's tenderness. This gesture, combined with soft eyes and relaxed posture, conveys their love, trust, and bond with their human companion.

Dogs, including German Shepherds, have many ways to demonstrate affection, and ear positioning is among the nuanced indicators. Scientists have found that dogs and humans share the hormone oxytocin, commonly termed the "love hormone."

When dogs and their owners gaze into each other's eyes, there's a mutual increase in oxytocin levels, strengthening the bond. Drawing back their ears during close interactions can be likened to a human's tender touch or a soft glance.

Furthermore, a study from Azabu University in Japan observed that these oxytocin-releasing moments, marked by subtle gestures like ear retraction, underline the deep, symbiotic bond between dogs and humans.

Defensive Aggression

When German Shepherds feel threatened, they might pull their ears back, signaling defensive aggression. This posture and other body cues reflect their need to protect themselves or their territory from perceived threats.

Defensive aggression in dogs is rooted in their instinctual drive to preserve their safety and that of their pack. With their protective nature, German Shepherds are especially attuned to potential threats.

It's essential to differentiate between true aggression and defensive behaviors. A study from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine found that many dogs when cornered or overwhelmed, display defensive behaviors that can be misconstrued as outright aggression.

Aggressive German Shepherd ears back

The retraction of ears in such scenarios is an early sign, conveying discomfort. Recognizing these cues helps diffuse potential confrontations, ensuring safety and understanding the dog's underlying concerns.

What does it mean when German Shepherds put their ears back?

When German Shepherds put their ears back, they communicate emotions ranging from submission, affection, and relaxation to anxiety, overstimulation, or defensive aggression. It's a nuanced gesture reflecting their internal state.

Ear movements in dogs, particularly breeds like the German Shepherd, are pivotal in canine communication. Their ears are versatile instruments that capture sounds and convey emotions. A study from the University of Lincoln found that dogs, much like humans, use specific body parts, especially their ears, to express different emotions.

For instance, if a larger dog approaches a German Shepherd and flattens its ears, it could display submission or appeasement. Similarly, when they're being affectionate or are in a relaxed state, their ears might slightly drawback, denoting contentment.

It's essential, however, not to view this gesture in isolation. A retracted ear accompanied by a wagging tail and relaxed body might denote happiness. In contrast, the same ear posture with a rigid body and growling could signal defensive aggression.

📝 Related blog post: Why do German Shepherds Actually Howl? 

According to a survey by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, understanding the intricate language of dog ears and other body cues is pivotal for owners, trainers, and vets alike. It fosters a deeper connection, ensures safety, and promotes positive, empathetic interactions between dogs and humans.

Why does my German Shepherd put his ears back when I pet him?

When your German Shepherd puts his ears back as you pet him, it's often a sign of affection, comfort, or contentment, indicating he enjoys the physical connection and feels relaxed in your presence.

The act of petting holds significant importance in the realm of dog-human interactions. It's a mutual exchange of affection and trust. When you pet your German Shepherd, and he responds by pulling his ears back, he's reciprocating your gesture of love. This is one of the most direct ways your dog communicates his feelings of relaxation and pleasure in response to your touch.

💡 Fact time: Interestingly, a survey found that over 70% of German Shepherds exhibit the behavior of putting their ears back when petted, indicating a mix of submission, affection, and comfort in the presence of their owner. 

A study at the University of Colorado Boulder found that petting and gentle touch increase oxytocin levels (often termed the 'love hormone') in dogs and humans. This hormone plays a role in bonding and relationship-building.

So, the ear movement during these moments can be seen as your German Shepherd's physiological and behavioral response to the hormone surge.

Furthermore, the tactile sensation can be particularly enjoyable for dogs due to their sensitive skin. Canine skin, especially around the ears, is rich in nerve endings. Thus, when you pet or scratch them gently in these areas, it can evoke a pleasurable response, signaled by the drawing back of their ears.

Why does my German Shepherd put his ears back when he sees me?

When your German Shepherd puts his ears back upon seeing you, it's typically a gesture of friendliness, recognition, and affection, showcasing his positive association and bond.

Dogs are incredibly perceptive creatures, and their responses to humans are often based on their bond. German Shepherds, renowned for their loyalty and intelligence, can display many emotions through their body language; ear movements are among the most telling signs. 

When they greet you with ears drawn back, it's their way of showcasing submissiveness, excitement, and affection.

Research conducted by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna underscores the profound ability of dogs to recognize and react to their owners. When dogs were shown pictures of their owners and strangers, their ability to differentiate was evident through various signals, including ear movements.

Furthermore, the same hormone responsible for strengthening the bond between mother and child in humans, oxytocin, plays a role in the dog-human bond. An intriguing study from Azabu! 

University in Japan found that dogs and their owners experienced a surge in oxytocin levels when they interacted, especially when making eye contact. In this context, the retracted ears are an immediate, visceral reaction to the recognition and joy of seeing someone they're deeply bonded with. This profound connection between dogs and humans has evolved over thousands of years, solidifying the notion of dogs being "man's best friend."

Delving into Floppy Ears

Upright ears might be the signature look for German Shepherds, but the floppy-eared counterparts bring a twist to the tale. Here, we'll dissect the dynamics behind these droopy appendages. Strap in as we venture into the less charted territory of floppy-eared German Shepherds.

Why does my German Shepherd have floppy ears?

German Shepherds might sport floppy ears due to various factors, ranging from genetics to developmental stages. Often, puppies naturally have floppy ears that might stand upright as they mature. However, factors like health issues, injuries, or genetics can influence the final ear stance.

While the erect ears of German Shepherds are a distinguishing trait, not all these canines exhibit this characteristic.

German Shepherd floppy ears - GSD Colony

If you've ever wondered why some German Shepherds sport the floppy look, you're in for a treat. Dive in as we unravel the top 10 reasons behind this endearing feature.

  1. Genetics
  2. Puppy Teething
  3. Trauma or Injury
  4. Calcium Deficiency
  5. Infections
  6. Parasites
  7. Heavy Petting
  8. Excessively Large Ears
  9. Chronic Health Issues
  10. Taping or Gluing Too Early


Genetics significantly influences whether a German Shepherd will have floppy or erect ears. Just as certain traits pass down in human families, a dog's lineage can predetermine its ear stance based on dominant and recessive genes within its gene pool.

While the iconic image of a German Shepherd features erect ears, genetic variance remains. Selective breeding over the years has aimed at promoting the upright ear trait, but genetic memory from ancestors can occasionally manifest as floppy ears.

In canine genetics, even if two parents have erect ears, recessive genes can come into play, leading to litters with floppy-eared pups. This intricate dance of dominant and recessive genes offers a captivating glimpse into the vast tapestry of canine genetics and the surprises it can unveil.

Puppy Teething

Puppy Teething plays an unexpected role in the ear stance of young German Shepherds. As puppies teethe, they may temporarily divert calcium to aid in tooth development, affecting the firmness of their ear cartilage and causing a floppy appearance.

Teething, an integral phase in a puppy's growth, might surprise many German Shepherd owners when they notice a change in their pet's ears. During this period, calcium, essential for robust cartilage, is primarily used for tooth development.

German Shepherd teething phrase - GSD Colony

It's common to observe fluctuating ear positions, with one ear erect one day and dropping the next. As teething concludes, most ears should resume their upright stance by six months. However, owners must ensure their puppies receive a balanced diet rich in calcium to support both teething and optimal ear development.

📝 Related blog post: When does a German Shepherd stop teething? 

Trauma or Injury

Trauma or Injury to a German Shepherd's ear can hinder its ability to stand erect. Even minor injuries to the cartilage or base of the ear can lead to prolonged or permanent floppiness, depending on the severity.

Injuries to a German Shepherd's ear can significantly impact the ear's structure and position, whether through play, accidents, or encounters with other animals. The ear's cartilage is delicate, and trauma can weaken or deform it. A telltale sign of injury might be one ear drooping while the other remains erect.

Sometimes, the ear can regain its upright stance with proper care and time. However, severe injuries might necessitate veterinary intervention. In some cases, irreversible damage can lead to a permanently floppy ear.

It underscores the importance of prompt care following suspected ear injury to ensure the best possible outcome.

Calcium Deficiency

Calcium Deficiency in German Shepherds can lead to floppy ears due to its vital role in bone and cartilage health. Without adequate calcium, the ear cartilage may not have the strength to stand erect, resulting in floppiness.

Calcium plays a pivotal role in developing and maintaining strong bones and cartilage. A calcium-deficient diet can be particularly problematic for German Shepherds, whose ears rely on robust cartilage to maintain their characteristic upright position.

German Shepherds require about 1% calcium in their diet. A deficiency can affect the rigidity of ear cartilage, hindering their ability to maintain erect ears. Ensure your pup gets the right amount for optimal ear health. 

Puppies, during their rapid growth phase, are especially vulnerable. A consistent lack of calcium might manifest in droopy ears even if genetically predisposed to stand erect. Owners must ensure a balanced diet, potentially fortified with calcium during growth spurts.

Over-supplementation can be harmful, making consulting a veterinarian essential when considering dietary adjustments.


Infections can cause German Shepherds to have floppy ears. Swelling and discomfort from the infection can make it difficult for the ear to stand, leading to a temporary or lasting droop.

Ear infections in German Shepherds are relatively common, given their shape and size. Bacteria, fungi, or ear mites can be culprits. The infection can cause inflammation, leading to pain and swelling, affecting the ears' natural stance.

Bacterial infection in German Shepherds

Furthermore, a persistent, untreated infection might weaken the cartilage, making the droop permanent. Signs of an infection include excessive scratching, foul odor, and discharge. It's paramount to get prompt veterinary care.

Factually, around 20% of all dogs will suffer from ear disease at some point in their lives, underlining the importance of regular ear checks for canine companions.


Parasites, especially ear mites, can lead to floppy ears in German Shepherds. These tiny pests cause itching and discomfort; subsequent scratching can weaken ear cartilage, affecting its stance.

Ear mites are among the most common parasites infusing a dog's ears. These minuscule creatures thrive in an ear canal's warm, dark environment. An infested German Shepherd will often shake its head or scratch incessantly, causing potential damage to the ear structure.

Over time, repeated trauma can impact the strength of the ear cartilage, making it less rigid.

A staggering fact: about 10% of all dog skin-related vet visits are due to ear mites. 

Keeping a routine check on your dog's ears and maintaining proper hygiene can prevent such issues and ensure the iconic pointed ears of a German Shepherd remain upright.

Heavy Petting

Heavy Petting can influence the position of a German Shepherd's ears. When petted forcefully or repeatedly over their head, the pressure can weaken the ear's cartilage, leading to a floppy appearance.

For many pet owners, patting or stroking their dog's head signifies affection. But with breeds like German Shepherds, where erect ears are a breed standard, too much pressure can have unintended consequences.

The cartilage in a dog's ear is somewhat malleable during its early months. If this cartilage is frequently pressed down due to heavy petting, it may not develop the strength to stand erect as the dog matures.

Petting German Shepherd dog

It's essential to be gentle, especially with puppies. An interesting note: a study found that dogs prefer being petted on their chest or the base of their tail rather than the top of their head.

Excessively Large Ears

Excessively Large Ears can contribute to German Shepherds having floppy ears. When the ear's size outweighs the strength of its cartilage, the ear may not stand erect, leading to a droopy appearance.

In German Shepherds, the genetic variability can occasionally produce dogs with ears larger than the breed average. While large ears can be attractive, they might also have more weight than the underlying cartilage can support, especially during the dog's younger months.

As the dog matures, there's a chance the cartilage will strengthen, and the ears will rise. However, in some cases, the ears remain floppy throughout the dog's life.

Notably, dogs with larger ears often have heightened auditory sensitivity, potentially giving them an advantage in tasks that require acute hearing.

Chronic Health Issues

Chronic health issues can affect a German Shepherd's ears not standing up. Long-term health conditions might affect the strength and vitality of the ear cartilage, leading to floppiness.

A dog's overall health directly influences the rigidity and structure of its ears. Chronic health problems, such as hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, or long-term malnutrition, can weaken a dog's ear cartilage.

For German Shepherds, whose erect ears are a hallmark feature, any compromise to the cartilage can result in droopiness. Maintaining a Shepherd's health through regular vet check-ups, a balanced diet, and proper care is crucial for the ears and the dog's overall wellbeing.

It's essential to remember that a dog's ear posture change can often signal underlying health issues that might require attention.

Taping or Gluing Too Early

Taping or gluing too early can interfere with a German Shepherd's natural ear development. Premature intervention may weaken cartilage, making ears less likely to stand erect later.

While many German Shepherd owners are eager for their puppies to have the breed's signature erect ears, intervening too soon can be counterproductive. The ear cartilage is still forming during the puppy's early months.

When taped or glued prematurely, it can disrupt the natural strengthening process of the cartilage. This interference might result in the ears never fully standing up. Typically, it's advised to wait until the puppy is six months old before considering any interventions.

It's worth noting that many German Shepherd puppies will have their ears stand up naturally without assistance, emphasizing the importance of patience during the early stages of their development.

Why are my German Shepherd’s ears down?

When a German Shepherd's ears are down, it can indicate various factors, from emotions, such as submission or unease, to physical causes like teething in puppies or potential health issues.

Why German Shepherd ears down - GSD Colony

Erect ears are an iconic feature of the German Shepherd breed. However, it's common to observe their ears drooping or lying flat against their heads sometimes. Several reasons might explain this phenomenon:

  1. Age: German Shepherd puppies naturally have floppy ears that might not stand erect until several months old.

  2. Mood & Emotion: Dogs communicate extensively through body language. Ears held back can signify submission, apprehension, or even affection.

  3. Health Issues: Conditions such as ear infections, parasites, or other ailments can cause discomfort leading to droopy ears.

  4. Teething: As GSD puppies teethe, the calcium that usually strengthens ear cartilage is diverted to tooth development, making ears floppier.

  5. Injury: Trauma to the ear or head might cause a temporary or permanent change in ear posture.

Not all German Shepherds will have permanently erect ears, and that's okay. It's essential to monitor their overall well-being, consult with vets about any concerns, and appreciate them for the unique individuals they are.

Is it bad if my German Shepherd’s ears won’t stand up?

It's not inherently bad if a German Shepherd's ears don't stand up. Ears can be influenced by genetics, health, or development stages, but floppy ears don't necessarily indicate a health issue.

German Shepherds are often recognized by their erect ears, giving them an alert and regal appearance. However, it's not a cause for alarm if your dog's ears remain floppy. Here are some insights:

  1. Developmental Stages: Many German Shepherd puppies have floppy ears that only become erect as they mature, sometimes taking up to seven months.

  2. Genetics: Just like humans have inherited traits, dogs do too. Some German Shepherds might genetically have softer ear cartilage.

  3. Health & Well-being: While floppy ears can be perfectly normal, it's crucial to rule out health issues. Ear infections or injuries might be a cause.

  4. Breed Standards: For those interested in showing their German Shepherds, breed standards might require erect ears. However, this is often of no consequence for the average pet owner.

  5. Character and Behavior: It's essential to remember that the posture of a dog's ears doesn't determine its character, loyalty, or ability to be a great companion.

Always consult a vet if you have concerns about your dog's health. Still, love and appreciate your German Shepherd, whether its ears stand tall or have a charming droop.

How do I get my German Shepherd's ears to stand up?

A German Shepherd's iconic erect ears are more than just a visual hallmark; they also play a role in their body language and communication.

If your young German Shepherd's ears haven't stood up on their own, there are several strategies you can employ. But before diving in, consult a veterinarian or a professional to ensure you take the best approach for your furry companion.

Ultimate List of Solutions:

  1. Teething Time
  2. Calcium Intake
  3. Massage
  4. Ear Taping
  5. Molefoam
  6. Avoid Heavy Petting
  7. Check for Infections
  8. Ear Forms
  9. Limit Crate Time
  10. Consult a Vet

Teething Time

Teething Time is crucial for German Shepherds. As puppies channel calcium for growing teeth, ears may temporarily droop. Once teething ends, calcium redirects, potentially aiding ears to stand erect.

The teething phase for German Shepherds typically occurs between 3 to 7 months of age. It's common for the ears, which might have once stood up during this period, to droop.

The primary reason is redirecting calcium from the body to assist tooth development. Interestingly, when the dog reaches 8 months, most have completed the teething phase, and their ears should ideally stand upright.

Owners must recognize this natural developmental phase and avoid intervening prematurely, allowing nature to take its course.

Calcium Intake

Calcium intake plays a pivotal role in ear cartilage strength. Proper calcium levels can expedite the ear-standing process for German Shepherds, ensuring healthy cartilage development.

Calcium is a fundamental mineral for bone and cartilage formation. Ensuring appropriate calcium levels is essential for German Shepherds, whose ears are a defining feature.

Calcium for German Shepherds

While many believe supplementing with calcium will aid erect ears, over-supplementation can lead to other health issues. It's crucial to maintain a balanced diet. Quality dog foods typically provide the necessary calcium required.

📝 Related blog post: Fueling Your German Shepherd - Proper Diet Tips 

Before considering supplements, consulting a veterinarian is imperative. Interestingly, some regions with calcium-rich water have reported fewer cases of floppy-eared Shepherds, suggesting that the environment plays a role, too.


Massaging German Shepherd ears can stimulate blood flow, aiding cartilage strength. Regular, gentle massages might hasten the ear-standing process, fostering their natural upright position.

A gentle massage has multifaceted benefits. For German Shepherds, massaging the base of their ears can invigorate blood circulation, promoting healthier and sturdier cartilage.

Beyond physiological benefits, these sessions can deepen the bond between owner and pet. It's imperative, however, to approach this method with caution. Excessive force can cause discomfort or even injury.

As a fascinating note, some breeders and trainers swear by this method, especially when combined with other strategies, amplifying its effectiveness in achieving the signature perky-eared look.

Ear Taping

Ear taping is a popular method among German Shepherd enthusiasts to support the ear cartilage. When done correctly, it can aid in achieving an erect ear posture without causing discomfort to the dog.

Ear taping, in essence, offers temporary structural support to the ears, helping the cartilage become strong enough to maintain an upright position.

This technique is particularly useful for puppies whose ears are heavy or large in proportion to their cartilage strength. It's essential to be well-informed and gentle when applying this method to prevent harm.

Ear taping in German Shepherds has a success rate of about 80% when done correctly. It's a common practice to help the cartilage in the ears become strong and stand erect, especially during their growing phase. 

Interestingly, while many breeders use this technique, there's still debate about its necessity, as many German Shepherds' ears will stand up naturally over time. If you're considering this route, consulting with a veterinarian or an experienced breeder is advisable.


Molefoam, a soft cushioning material, is frequently used as a supportive insert for German Shepherd puppy ears, facilitating their ascent to an upright position while ensuring comfort.

Molefoam offers a gentle but effective means of supporting a German Shepherd's ears. Its soft, pliable texture is non-irritating, ensuring that puppies experience minimal discomfort. Adhering inside the ear provides the necessary scaffold for the cartilage to strengthen over time.

Its popularity has grown among breeders and owners due to its non-invasive nature, compared to more rigid supports. Though Molefoam is often a preferred choice, it's essential to change it regularly to maintain hygiene and monitor the ear's progress. Consulting a vet before proceeding ensures optimal results and safety.

Avoid Heavy Petting

For German Shepherds, avoiding heavy petting on the head is crucial during their ear development phase. Excessive or rough handling can delay or impede the natural process of ears standing upright.

German Shepherd puppies have delicate ear cartilage during their growth phase. Overzealous or frequent petting can exert undue pressure on this cartilage, potentially causing it to weaken or not form properly.

While interaction and bonding with your pup are essential, it's vital to know how and where you pet them. The ear's standing process combines genetics, health, and environmental factors.

By minimizing potential external hindrances like heavy petting, owners can support their pup's natural development. Proper care and awareness can lead to those iconic erect ears associated with the breed.

Check for Infections

Regularly checking for infections in German Shepherds' ears is vital. Infections can cause discomfort and hinder the ear's ability to stand. Addressing them promptly can aid natural ear development.

Ear infections in German Shepherds can not only cause pain but also affect the structural integrity of the ear cartilage. These infections can be due to bacteria, yeast, or parasites. Left untreated, they can lead to swelling, discharge, and a foul odor.

German Shepherd ear infection

Furthermore, a continuous head shake or scratching by the dog can damage the ear cartilage, preventing it from standing upright. Regular vet checks and owner vigilance can help detect and treat infections early.

It's essential to maintain clean ears and use vet-recommended products for optimal ear health and development.

Ear Forms

Using ear forms provides German Shepherds with the necessary support for their ears to stand erect. These forms act as scaffolding, assisting the natural cartilage development during the crucial growth phase.

Ear forms are custom-made structures designed to fit inside a dog's ear, providing the required support without causing discomfort. They're especially beneficial for German Shepherds, known for their iconic erect ears.

While genetics play a major role in ear positioning, these forms can offer assistance, especially if the ears show weakness. It's imperative to ensure the ear forms are the correct size and are applied properly to avoid any potential damage or irritation.

Seeking advice from a vet or experienced breeder ensures safe and effective use.

Limit Crate Time

Limiting crate time can aid in German Shepherds' ear development. Excessive crate time may lead to the ears being pressed down, potentially affecting their natural progress to an upright position.

While crates offer safety and comfort for dogs, excessive confinement might not be ideal for a German Shepherd's developing ears. Especially during their growth phase, their ears are malleable.

Spending long hours in a crate, where their ears might get pressed against the crate's walls or floor, can hinder the natural process of the ears standing up.

Moreover, free movement and play outside the crate encourage muscle and cartilage development in the ear, assisting in achieving that iconic erect posture. It's always a balance; while crating is essential for training and safety, moderation is key.

Consult a Vet

Consulting a vet is vital for German Shepherds with ear concerns. A professional opinion ensures underlying health issues aren't overlooked and provides tailored guidance for ear development.

Veterinary professionals possess extensive knowledge of canine anatomy, including ear structure and common issues German Shepherds may encounter. They can identify if there's an underlying health problem, infection, or injury causing the ears to remain floppy.

German Shepherd at vet station

Furthermore, vets have access to many data and experiences with various breeds, allowing them to offer evidence-based solutions tailored for each dog. Early intervention can make a significant difference in outcomes.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says regular check-ups can prevent complications and catch issues before they become severe. Seeking a vet's advice underscores a proactive approach to your dog's well-being.

The Joy of Ear Interaction

Ears aren't just for hearing; they're a German Shepherd's emotive antennas. In this section, we'll dive into how these dogs use their ears to communicate and bond. Ready to explore the subtle language of German Shepherd ears? Let's go!

Why do German Shepherds like their ears rubbed?

German Shepherds relish ear rubs due to the multitude of nerve endings in the area. Stimulation from a gentle touch releases endorphins, offering comfort and strengthening the bond between dog and human.

The ears of a German Shepherd are more than just striking features; they are intricate instruments of communication, sensation, and balance. Delving into the joy that arises from ear interactions, we find that the canine ear, particularly in breeds like the German Shepherd, is an equipped with many nerve endings.

When these nerve endings are stimulated through touch, it can be a profoundly relaxing and enjoyable experience for the dog.

One could draw a parallel to humans enjoying a head massage. The sensation can be calming, and it promotes a sense of well-being. For German Shepherds, an ear rub can also release endorphins, the body's natural 'feel-good' chemicals.

This makes the dog feel content and can alleviate minor pains or stresses they might be experiencing.

Moreover, rubbing or massaging the ears has social implications in the canine world. In wolf packs, from which dogs descended, grooming behaviors like this signify trust and denote social bonds.

German Shepherd vet ear rubbing

When an owner rubs their German Shepherd's ears, it's not just a physical pleasure for the dog but also an affirmation of their bond.

It's also noteworthy to mention that for many dogs, including German Shepherds, the ear is a less frequently touched area than the back or the belly. This makes the sensation of an ear rub somewhat novel, and as such, it can be more intensely pleasurable.

Furthermore, research indicates that positive physical interaction, like petting, can lower blood pressure and heart rate in dogs, similar to the effects seen in humans. This physiological response reinforces the idea that ear rubbing, as a subset of petting, offers genuine health benefits.

The next time you see a German Shepherd tilting its head, leaning into a gentle hand offering an ear rub, remember that this simple act is deeply rooted in physiology and social bonding. It's more than just a fleeting pleasure; it's a testament to the deep bond between humans and their canine companions.

Final words

Ah, the world of German Shepherd ears - it's not as straightforward as you'd think! Those iconic pointy ears have tales to tell, from their genetic stories to daily challenges like teething or an unfortunate infection.

And if you've ever wondered why your Shepherd's ear might be drooping one day and perky the next, well, there's a world of reasons behind it. But fret not! With the right care - think ear massages, a good diet, and timely vet visits - your pup's ears can be as proud and erect as ever.

It's also heartwarming to see the pure joy in their eyes when you gently rub their ears. So, let's give a nod to understanding our furry friends better and ensuring those ears stand tall and healthy. Cheers to the Shepherds and their remarkable ears!

Frequently asked questions

Do you still have questions? Check our FAQ section, and you can find your answer here!

Can you touch a German Shepherd's ears?

Yes, you can touch a German Shepherd's ears, but always approach gently and observe the dog's reaction. Many German Shepherds enjoy ear rubs, but it's crucial to ensure the dog is comfortable and familiar with the person touching them. Always prioritize the dog's comfort and safety.

How often do I need to clean German Shepherd’s ears?

German Shepherds typically require ear cleaning every 1-2 weeks, but it varies based on individual needs. Regular checks help identify dirt or wax buildup. If the ears appear clean, avoid over-cleaning. If unsure, consult a vet for a personalized cleaning routine and guidance.

Can German Shepherds hear well?

Yes, German Shepherds possess keen hearing abilities. Their large, erect ears give them an advantage in pinpointing the source of sounds. Capable of detecting frequencies up to 65,000 Hz, they often hear sounds well before humans, making them exceptional watchdogs and service animals.

German Shepherd one ear down (meaning)

A German Shepherd with one ear down may indicate various factors: the dog might still be in its teething phase, an underlying ear infection, an injury, or simply a genetic trait. While some ears are erect with age, it's essential to monitor for signs of discomfort or medical issues.

Back to blog
  • German Shepherd Stomach Flip (Causes & Prevention)

    German Shepherd Stomach Flip (Causes & Prevention)

    Are you a proud owner of a loyal and loving German Shepherd? If so, you're likely aware of the unique joys and challenges that come with this incredible breed. One...

    German Shepherd Stomach Flip (Causes & Prevention)

    Are you a proud owner of a loyal and loving German Shepherd? If so, you're likely aware of the unique joys and challenges that come with this incredible breed. One...

  • German Shepherd Bloat (Treatment & Prevention)

    German Shepherd Bloat (Treatment & Prevention)

    Imagine this: You're cuddled up with your beloved German Shepherd, enjoying quality time together. Suddenly, you notice something's not right. Your furry friend seems uncomfortable, restless, and maybe even bloated. You're...

    German Shepherd Bloat (Treatment & Prevention)

    Imagine this: You're cuddled up with your beloved German Shepherd, enjoying quality time together. Suddenly, you notice something's not right. Your furry friend seems uncomfortable, restless, and maybe even bloated. You're...

  • Are German Shepherds Prone To Cancer?

    Are German Shepherds Prone To Cancer?

    Picture your loyal and furry German Shepherd companion by your side, always ready for a game of fetch or a comforting cuddle. These intelligent and energetic dogs are known for...

    Are German Shepherds Prone To Cancer?

    Picture your loyal and furry German Shepherd companion by your side, always ready for a game of fetch or a comforting cuddle. These intelligent and energetic dogs are known for...

1 of 3