Why Do Doberman Ears Stand Up?
Doberman pinschers are recognized worldwide for their distinctive pointy ears that stand erect. But those signature ears don’t come up naturally for all Dobermans.
The reason some Doberman puppies are born with floppy ears is simple anatomy. The ear cartilage in Dobermans is not stiff enough at birth to hold the ears upright. Instead, the ears rely on muscles at the base to raise them into the pointy, alert position Dobermans are known for.
As a Doberman puppy grows, the cartilage in the ears begins to calcify and turn rigid. At the same time, the muscles at the base of the ears strengthen. Together, the stiff cartilage and strong muscles are able to hold the ears in the upright position. This natural process allows Doberman ears to stand fully erect when the dog is alert or excited.
However, some Doberman puppies have ears that are more floppy than others. For these dogs, the ear cartilage may be extra flexible or the muscles particularly weak. This can prevent the ears from standing up on their own, even after maturity.
For Doberman owners who prefer the look of standing ears, seeing floppy ears on their pup can be disappointing.
But there are ways to help strengthen the ears so they stand without painful cropping procedures. The following sections will cover safe, effective approaches to make those ears stand up tall.
Problems With Cropping Doberman Ears
While cropping Doberman ears to make them stand upright has been a common practice for decades, there are good reasons this controversial procedure is now banned in many areas.
First and foremost, ear cropping is a surgical procedure that causes pain and discomfort for dogs. The surgery requires fully anesthetizing the puppy and removing a substantial part of the ear flap.
Like any surgery, cropping also comes with risks of complications such as infections, hematomas, and poor healing. The aftercare for cropped ears is extensive as well, involving weeks of bandaging and taping to train the cropped ears to stand.
Beyond the pain and medical risks, cropping is controversial because it is primarily done for cosmetic reasons rather than any medical benefit. The procedure does not improve hearing and claims that it reduces ear infections are unproven.
Many people also see cropping as inhumane, causing unnecessary suffering for cosmetic purposes only. The public perception of Dobermans is often negatively impacted by cropped ears, which some see as a disfigurement.
For all these reasons, cropping has been banned in the UK, Europe, and many other regions. Only veterinarians are permitted to crop ears in the few places it is still allowed.
Rather than put a Doberman through painful cropping, many owners now prefer to explore humane approaches to make the ears stand naturally. The following sections will cover safe, effective ear taping methods.
Methods to Make Doberman Ears Stand Without Cropping
There are several effective methods to strengthen Doberman ears so they stand without surgery. It does require more patience and persistence than cropping, but avoids the pain and risks.
Taping and Splinting the Ears
The most common approach is taping or splinting the ears into an upright position. This involves placing special tape or a splint along the ear to support it standing upright. The tape or splint is worn continuously, replaced every 1-2 weeks as needed.
Over time, the cartilage will strengthen into the upright position. Many Doberman owners report success with consistent taping over 2-4 months. For dogs with very weak cartilage, it may take up to 6 months. There are tutorials online demonstrating proper taping techniques – when done correctly, it is gentle and painless.
Ear splints work on a similar principle, but use a customized rigid splint inside the ear rather than tape on the outside. Splinting may be quicker than taping, but can be more uncomfortable for dogs.
Supplements containing chondroitin and glucosamine can strengthen cartilage and connective tissue in the ears. These are the same supplements often used for joint health. When given to puppies during ear development, they may help ears stand better.
Vitamin C is also important for collagen production and cartilage health. Your veterinarian can recommend safe dosing of these supplements tailored to your Doberman’s needs.
Training Exercises and Games
Training the neck muscles to hold the head high can encourage ears to stand tall. Simple exercises like having your Doberman follow treats held above eye level can help build up neck strength.
Games like ‘fetch’ get your Doberman excited and alert will also naturally perk the ears up. Over time, the brain may associate upright ears with this alert state. Consistency is key with training exercises for the best results.
When to Consider Cropping as a Last Resort
While non-surgical options are ideal, there are some cases where cropping may still need to be considered as a last resort:
Extremely Floppy Ears
Some Dobermans have such weak cartilage and floppy ears that no amount of conservative treatment will make the ears stand. For these dogs, cropping may be the only way to get upright ears. However, this is relatively uncommon.
Consulting With Your Veterinarian
Reputable veterinarians will not crop ears solely for cosmetic reasons. However, if your Doberman’s floppy ears are prone to serious recurrent infections that do not resolve with other treatments, your vet may determine cropping to be medically warranted. They will advise you on risks and benefits.
The Surgical Procedure
If cropping is recommended, the surgery will be performed by a licensed veterinarian under anesthesia. Sections of the ear flap are removed and the remaining ear is taped into an upright position during healing. Pain medication will be prescribed for several days post-surgery.
While cropping should always be a last option, there are some scenarios where it may be considered after exhausting more humane approaches.
As with any surgery, there are risks involved that must be carefully weighed.
Being Patient With the Process
Getting your Doberman’s ears to stand naturally does require dedication and patience. Most experts recommend giving the process at least 4-6 months before determining if a dog’s ears just won’t stand on their own.
During those months, it’s important to be consistent with whatever method you choose, whether taping, splinting, supplements, or training exercises. Persistence is key, even if progress seems slow.
Set small goals like seeing the ears stand for a few minutes at a time. Or getting through a full week without the ears flopping over. Celebrate these little milestones along the way.
Keep sessions positive, with lots of praise and treats when your Doberman cooperates with handling their ears or doing exercises. Never punish or scold them for floppy ears, as this can create negative associations.
While it’s tempting to keep checking for progress, resist messing with the ears too frequently. Frequent handling can weaken the muscles needed to hold the ears up.
Most importantly, remember that your bond with your Doberman is about far more than just their ears. Focus on building a loving relationship, and the ears will come in time. The rewards of avoiding cropping go beyond just the upright ears – it’s also the trust built through patience and mutual understanding.
The Reward Goes Beyond Just the Ears
Getting your Doberman’s ears to stand tall without cropping takes time, consistency, and patience. But the reward is far greater than just the upright ears.
Avoiding unnecessary surgery allows you to build trust and strengthen your bond through positive reinforcement training. The process focuses on communication, not confrontation.
You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for your Doberman’s unique personality as you gently guide their ears to stand. Subtle milestones become cause for celebration and pave the way for more advanced training.
Beyond standing ears, you’ll have a best friend whose self-assurance was nurtured, not forced. A partner whose loyalty was earned through compassion, not pain. That relationship is the real prize.
So be patient, be persistent, and let those ears stand in their time. The journey together will only bring you closer in the end.
Frequently Asked Questions About Doberman Ear Care
How long does it take for a Doberman’s ears to stand up on their own?
It usually takes 4-6 months for a Doberman’s ears to stand fully upright on their own. Be patient and avoid handling the ears too much during this time. The cartilage and muscles need time to strengthen and repeated handling can delay the process.
Is it normal for one ear to stand up before the other?
It’s very common for Doberman puppies to have one ear stand sooner than the other. Often it’s a matter of weeks or even just days between the two ears standing upright. Unless it’s been over 6 months, don’t worry about a lopsided look.
My Doberman’s ears were standing but now they are floppy again. What should I do?
It’s normal for Doberman ears to go through periods of standing followed by flopping again while they are still developing. Just continue the same training methods you were using before without messing with the ears too much. Usually they will stand permanently after the teething/adolescent phase passes.
Are home taping methods safe for making ears stand?
Home taping can be safe and effective if done properly under a vet’s guidance. Use hypoallergenic medical tape and avoid taping too tightly. Check for irritation and re-tape weekly. Never use tape not designed for pet use.
Can I massage my Doberman’s ears to help them stand?
Gentle massage of the base of the ears in an upward motion can help improve circulation and strengthen the muscles that hold the ears up. Take care not to over-handle the ears. Massage for just 1-2 minutes daily at most.