🦴 Updated on January 7th, 2023
I remember the day Floppy became a part of our family. I swear it was the cutest thing I ever saw, however, we named her like that for a reason. Her ears.
At first, we thought she looked funny and did not mind how she looked. But later, when we started to walk her constantly, we became aware that not many Australian Shepherd ears looked like hers, so we began to worry.
We did not know if they were hurting her or if that was something that needed to be corrected.
Although it did not seem like a major issue, we wanted to take care of Floppy to the best of our abilities and we made our way to the vet to find out all about our little one’s ears.
What are Australian Shepherd Ears Supposed to Look Like?
Australian Shepherds have moderately-sized ears that are triangular and may flop forward or backward. They aren’t droopy or erect either. According to the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA), the tip of the ear must reach the nearest ear’s inner corner.
Unlike the AKC which doesn’t stipulate the length of the ear, the ASCA specifies that the ear should bend between 0.25-0.5’’ from the base of the ear to the tip.
Australian Shepherd Ear Types
These definitions culminate into different Australian Shepherd ear types, including:
- Button ears
- Rose ears
- Floppy ears
- Erect or pricky ears
Australian Shepherd Button and Rose Ears
The AKC and ASCA recognize only two ear types for the Australian Shepherd—rose and button ears. The ear designs are nearly similar, but upon close inspection, you may identify some differences.
Button Ears vs. Rose Ears
According to the clubs’ standards, button ears are also called hooded or drop ears. They are upright at the base and the top half of the ear folds over to cover the inside of the ear.
Button ears have been the breed’s standard since 1977. The Australian Shepherd Foundation committee worried that most dogs were not purebred and button ears were the top qualification of a pure-bred Australian Shepherd.
As a result, the committee decided other Australian ear types, like erect or pricky ears, were a serious fault and needed to be corrected to conform with the existing standard.
Conversely, rose ears are folded slightly at the back and erect at the base. They resemble button ears, except rose ears have a fold that makes them break sideways instead of forward. Aussies with rose ears are often seen in dog shows but aren’t the most referred by exhibitors.
Australian Shepherd Floppy ears
Aussies with floppy ears don’t stand up; rather, they droop, covering the ear canal entirely. They grow slightly lower on the head than rose ears and don’t have noticeable folds. This ear design can inhibit a dog’s hearing ability as sounds feel muffled.
Australian Shepherd Prick Ears
Aussies with this ear type have ears that stand upright without folding or drooping. They are also referred to as erect or pointy ears and are the least common ear types in Australian Shepherds.
Aussies may develop prick ears in their adulthood, albeit having a parent with rose or button ears. This happens when both parents have pricky ears as a recessive gene.
Dogs with erect or pricky ears can’t participate in dog shows because they don’t conform to the breed’s standards. As a result, dog owners glue or tape the ears to set them differently.
However, this practice can harm future breeds as it can be challenging to know if the puppies will develop erect, floppy, button, or rose ears.
Are Australian Shepherds With Prick Ears Purebreds?
You may be thinking that Australian Shepherds with prick ears aren’t purebreds, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Aussies with such prick ears are still purebreds.
Foundation Aussies like Smedra’s Blue Mistingo, Wood’s Dandy, and Mansker’s Freckles had prick ears long before the breed was established. Some Aussies may have inherited the trait, albeit extremely rare.
Can I Fix my Australian Shepherd’s Prick Ears?
The best way to fix an Australian Shepherd’s pricky ears is to glue them. It’s necessary for owners whose Aussies compete in dog shows, but if you’re keeping an Aussie as a pet, you don’t have to.
Since the standard requirement is button-shaped ears, some dog owners result to gluing their dogs’ ears to conform to the standards.
The process is simple: bending the ears and attaching them to the coat using glue. The glue should come off within a few months if applied correctly. This method is most effective when done at the right time.
Aussies typically develop erect ears during the teething stage (10-12 weeks or 18-19 weeks of age) as the body uses most calcium in teeth and bone formation.
Since little calcium amounts are left to facilitate the growth and formation of the ear’s cartilage, the ears are likely to develop an awkward shape, e.g., erect or prick ears.
How Do You Know What Ears Your Aussie Will Have?
The parent’s ears shapes should help you determine your pup’s Aussie ears. However, predicting the ear type can be challenging until teething stops because they take different forms.
If the puppy has fully erect ears since birth, they may change to semi-erect after teething. Similarly, puppies likely to develop button or rose ears may only develop 5-7 months after teething. Moreover, if both parents have a recessive gene for prick ears, the pup may take on that gene.
Here are some of the commonly asked questions.
Do Australian Shepherd ears stand up?
Australian Shepherd ear shape changes dramatically during the first 12 weeks of development. During this period, the cartilage hardens before taking on any shape. The teething phase is often presumed to cause Australian Shepherd ears to stand up because most nutrients, e.g., calcium, are used in teeth and jaw formation.
What are Australian Shepherd pointy ears?
Australian Shepherd’s pointy ears are also referred to as prick or erect ears. Aussies that inherit this trait from their parents may develop pointy ears during adulthood. However, pointy ears are regarded as faulty hence many breeders are working to eliminate this trait.
When is the best time to tape Australian Shepherd ears up?
The best time to tape or glue Australian Shepherd ears is at the beginning of the teething phase, i.e., 3-6 months after birth. During this period, the ear cartilage softens, making it easy to change them to the desired shape. If taped later, they might not conform to the desired shape.
How do you know if an Aussie’s ears will stand Up?
It’s not easy to determine if a pup’s ears will stand up. If their parent breeds had pricky ears, there’s a chance they will stand up, and if you fail to glue them during the teething phase, they might stand up.
You can also use a few tricks to know if they will stand up. For example, you can call the puppy or produce a sound that brings them to attention, and if the ears stand, there’s a chance they will grow pricky.
Understanding how Australian Shepherd ears develop goes a long way in helping dog owners take appropriate steps.
As a general rule, the perfect Australian Shepherd’s ears should be moderately-sized, triangular, breaking forward (button ears) or backward (rose ears).
However, some Aussies develop pricky or pointy ears as adults, and the best way to correct their shapes is to glue or tape them to the coat.