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All About Ears

EAR SET AND TYPE          


I wanted to talk a little about ears and ear set in Aussies.  There seems to be a lot of confusion about what is correct.  I will quote the ASCA standard here:


The ears should be of moderate size, triangular in shape, and set high up on the side of the skull. The base of the ear leather should originate slightly above eye level.  There should be some lift at the base to allow for air circulation, while breaking over enough to offer protection from foreign objects. The correct ear leather size should reach the inside corner of the nearest eye.


Prick ears and hound type ears are severe faults


What does this look like?  Prick ears are pretty easy to discern. They will stand completely erect like those of a German Shepherd Dog.  Hound ears  are all too common though, as some folks seem to have a hard time figuring out what that means. I see a lot of hound ears in conformation (show) lines.  Sometimes they are just lower set, bigger ears but some are very, very houndy.  Hound ears come off the head lower, closer to the line from the outside corner of the eye, and will hang down to the jawline or lower. This not only detracts from breed "type" but also predisposes the dog to more ear infections, since no air can get in the canal.   Prick ears are less prone to such things but also detract from breed type.  Some say dirt and debris can get in the ear, but I am a little skeptical as other herding breeds have erect ears with no detriment to the dog. 

I will add a few photos of various ear sets to help illustrate.  

Australian shepherd blue  merle ears
red tri toy Aussie prick ears

These are two extremes, almost hound ears on the left, where the tips nearly reach her jaw line, and prick ears on the right.  The reason the left one's ears are not true hound is they are set higher on her head and have a little lift, but are really big ears.

Australian shepherd black tri ears
Miniature American shepherd black tri ears

These two have more correct ears, with nice ear sets (where they come off the head.)  The one on the left has more lift and a nice break, where the tips of the ears land about at the line from the corner of the eye. The one on the right is close to that and still a nice typey girl.

Australian shepherd black tri ears
Australian shepherd black tri ears

These are two photos of the same dog, one when she was younger and had button years, the other when she was older and had rose ears, which she had most of her life. I even glued them but she was genetically going to have rose ears and gluing couldn't change that.  I find that is often the case. However, both ear types are equally acceptable in the breed standard.

To Glue or Not to Glue

To glue or not to glue, that is the question!

There are various opinions on the topic of gluing the ears of an Aussie.  Since there are a couple ear sets that are acceptable for conformation showing, and some that are faulted, some people raising a show potential puppy will glue them, especially as they go through the months of teething.  At that age, the ears may do a lot of funky things, and sometimes get stuck that way.  Think of your mom saying "if you keep making those faces it will get stuck that way!"   Ha ha!

Seriously, if the dog is going to be a pet, and the owner doesn't care, there is no reason to bother.  If the owner is more interested in having "standard" ears, you can use a little "Tear Mender" or other latex glue product to help keep them in the right position. Done correctly it's not harmful to the dog, and the product isn't hard to get out of the coat.   Gluing may be something you do one or two times, or off and on for several months. 

There are various opinions on whether one should glue ears however, especially in a dog that may be bred.  One side says if the ears are glued, you will never know what they have genetically. I agree and understand that point of view. The other side says that if the dog is superior in other ways, why not glue ears so it can be more competitive in the show ring.  A third group may say they just want their dogs to look like the typical Aussie.   I can see all points of view and will let people make up their own minds on the topic.  I also decided to put up a few photos (coming soon) of the process, for those who may want to do it. 

I would recommend starting whenever the ears start to go funny.  That could be as soon as 10 or 12 weeks of age, or later.  

gluing ears Australian Shepherd Faithwalk Aussies breeder Michigan

This picture above is from a person who bought this pup.  They saw the one ear start to stand, so glued it for a couple days.  The picture on the left is before that, and the center is right after, and the far right is after a couple days post-gluing.  It shows how puppies' ears can do all sorts of odd things during the teething process.  Both this pup's parents have natural ears which never came close to standing at this age.

Aussie glue ears

Here is a quick drawing showing about where the ears should be.  It may vary a little depending on the size of the dog's ears.  If you are going to glue, you put the dab of glue on the underside, about where I put the pink "O", and stick them to the sides of the face about how they look in this picture.


"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride."

Ecclesiastes 7:8


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