Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
There are so many questions about the ears of Australian Shepherds! From when they’ll stand, to what they’ll look like, and whether it’s too late to tape them… and a whole lot more!
Rightfully so, owners are eager to know what kind of ears their Aussie will have, and I was the same.
This article covers everything you need to know about Australian Shepherds ears.
When Do Australian Shepherd Ears Stand Up?
Questions about ear placement come early, and rightfully so, ear movements change dramatically from as young as 12 weeks old. This leaves owners wanting to know if the ears will stand up? stay down? or go down after having stood up?
Australian shepherd ears typically start standing up anywhere from 8-12 weeks. For some, it may take a lot longer.
➡️ The truth is, all the while teething is happening, ear placement will never be set. As teething comes in waves of severity, it will place extra stress on your aussie’s ears, making them flop down again. Ear placement doesn’t really set until teething is finished.
What Are Australian Shepherd Ears Supposed To Look Like?
Australian Shepherds typically have medium-sized triangle-shaped ears that sit up and break forward, and set to the side a little. This is officially known as side-placement or button ear. Photo below.
Aussies can still have erect standing ears. But only ears that break forward are considered breed standard.
➡️ Erect, prick or droopy ears are considered a “fault” by the AKC.
Australian Shepherds with erect ears would have inherited this trait from previous generations.
- And it’s important to state it is still possible for a purebred Australian Shepherd to have erect ears, even though it’s rare.
And to clarify, the AKC uses the word “fault” but by no means does having erect ears affect his health or ability to hear.
This just means that erect ears are not considered of “show dog quality” but unless you are looking for your Aussie to compete, it really doesn’t matter.
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4 Australian Shepherd Ear Shapes
Let’s run through all the kinds of ear shapes an Australian shepherd can have (with photos).
Side-placement (button ear)
Considered the traditional look of an Australian Shepherd. The AKC and the ASCA have slightly different stances on where the ear should fold. But all in all, this is the standard look.
This is also seen in Australian Shepherd and is where the ears are naturally held back/outwards to the side, mostly level with the top of the skull. Please note: the rose-shaped ear can vary slightly from the image below.
Erect ear (prick ear)
This is the easy one, erect ears are standing upright on top of the head. And just to be clear, erect ears are also referred to as prick ears. You may find me using these terms interchangeably. While it can suggest mix breeding, purebreds can still have full prick ears.
Semi-erect ear (semi-prick ear)
This is where the ears are partly erect but do still have a fold towards the top. In drastic cases of this where the ears are clearly erect with just a small fold at the top, it’s often called “tulip ears”. The photo below is a standard semi-prick ear.
*Please note: there are many variations to each different kind of ear placement. The following images closely resemble the different earsets that an Aussie can have, but are not an exact match.
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What Ears Will Your Aussie Have?
Unfortunately, you won’t know until the teething stops. And although some owners state that you’ll have a good idea after just a couple of months old, it’s unlikely. Ears change dramatically throughout teething.
Some Aussie pups who are destined to have traditional-looking (side-placement) ears may not raise up at all for 5-7 months.
On the contrary, if you do have some level of erect ear movement throughout puppyhood it would suggest there is an increased chance of full erect ears or at least semi-erect ears later on. But again, it may not.
What about the parents?
Yes, you can look to the parents of your Aussie pup and it is true that physical traits pass down to the offspring. So if both parents have the classic ear shape, then you can expect your pup to have the same. But nothing is guaranteed!
And of course, if either the mother or father has a different ear shape, this increases the chance of your Aussie having an alternative ear shape too.
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Taping or Gluing Australian Shepherds Ears: What You Should Know
Believe it or not, taping or gluing your Australian Shepherd ears to achieve a specific result is becoming more common nowadays.
This topic has a lot of strong opinions surrounding it, so let’s run through some of the most frequently asked questions. What the American Veterinary Medical Association thinks.
What is taping or gluing your Aussie’s ears?
When it comes to Australian Shepherds, the breed standard considers erect or pricky ears a “fault” meaning there’s no chance of them becoming successful show dogs. So, for the owners who want in on these shows, they tape or glue their pup’s prick ears in a side-placement position, as to make them look traditional, and thus, pass the breed standard.
Many owners just want their Aussie’s ears to look traditional, and so they tape them as a way of achieving their desired look.
The amount of time the tape takes to create the desired look varies greatly. But it’s common for owners to tape their pup’s ears for at least several months.
Does taping or gluing the ears hurt your Aussie?
There is no evidence that taping hurts or causes any pain to a dog, although it likely irritates them in the short term.
Some people either don’t have luck with tape or eventually transition to using glue, or both.
When it comes to glue, there is a range of safe brands out there but of course, with any chemical adhesive, you must be extremely careful with which product you choose. As long as you use the correct glue, it will simply act in the same way as tape, without negative effects or pain.
There is just one obvious issue with glue and that’s how it’s removed. Most come with a specific removal chemical that will allow you to remove the adhesive. But again, caution needs to be taken and there is always a possibility of a negative skin reaction.
Is there a problem with taping ears?
I think it’s first important to state that in some breeds, the taping of ears may even benefit the dog’s performance and ability to carry out the task they are intended for. Especially when the dog is used for actual working purposes.
But, for most people, and in the case of Australian Shepherds, it’s done for aesthetics, which is when different views and opinions come into play.
Should you interfere with your puppy’s natural ear position, using tape or glue just to achieve a different appearance? do looks matter that much?
While I personally don’t have anything against doing it, I am not someone who will worry about tapping my dog’s ears.
I’ve owned a beautiful German Shepherd and this breed falls into the ear-taping world too. She had one upright ear, and one floppy ear, at all times. This in no way affected her health or ability to hear. So for me, it didn’t matter and I didn’t need her to look a certain way.
But, after all, that’s just my opinion. Nowadays, more people tape their dog’s ears than those who don’t.
Important Note! If you do consider taping or using any kind of glue products to adjust your Aussies ears it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian! There are many inappropriate products on the market that have caused irreversible damage to many dogs over the years.
When is it too late to tape Aussie ears?
If your Aussie’s ears are not taped up by 6-8 months, it’s likely too late, and will be very difficult for them to stand on their own.
Ideally, the taping needs to happen at about 3-5 months maximum in order to achieve the results you want.
It’s also heavily linked to teething. Once teething has finished around the 6-8 months mark, the ears are mostly set. This is why it’s considered too late to start taping then.
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Can You Make Your Aussie’s Ears Floppy
If your Australian Shepherd puppy currently has erect or prick ears, and you want the ears to break forward into the traditional look, taping or gluing are your options.
I can’t stress enough the importance of receiving help from a veterinarian to do this. As it’s not simple.
I would refrain from using youtube as there are many non-professionals giving their direct advice on how to tap the ears. Unfortunately, some of these tutorials skim over the importance of the ear cartilage and how to position the ears when taping.
Taping the ears down is not a simple matter of just folding them and taping. There are around 18 bones and numerous cartilages throughout the ear, and you could be causing permanent ear damage by taping them and forcing them to grow in an unsafe position.
Please speak to your veterinarian if you wish to go ahead with taping or gluing.
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Australian Shepherds traditionally have moderately sized triangle ears that sit high on the head and break forward. This is known as a side-placement or “button ear shape”.
But not all Aussies will have this. It’s still possible for purebred Australian Shepherds to have erect, prick, or semi-prick ears as an adult.
Some people opt to tape their Australian Shepherd’s ears down into a traditional appearance if they suspect the ears are remaining in an erect position.
If you wish to do this with your puppy, I strongly advise you to receive help from a professional to avoid accidentally damaging the ears.
Everyone is entitled to their own views, but this topic does raise a few eyebrows and I for one, can see why.
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