German Shepherd Ear Chart & Position Meanings (+ Ear Stages)

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Have you ever wondered what your German Shepherd’s ears mean? Or what their ear stages are when growing up?

There is a lot of meaning behind a GSD’s different ear positions. So we created a German Shepherd ear chart to determine each position’s meaning. We even covered all the stages GSDs ears will go through when growing.

So, whether you are just curious about your dog’s ears or are looking to become a GSD expert, keep reading!

German Shepherd Ear Chart & Position Meanings (+ Ear Stages)

Why Do German Shepherds Move Their Ears?

Before discussing what each ear position means for a German Shepherd (GSD), let’s briefly go over why they move their ears in the first place.

There are three main reasons: communicating, showing emotions, and hearing better. Let’s explore each of these a little further.

Communication

Dogs use their whole body to communicate with other dogs and us, but their ears play a big role. By moving their ears, they can send different messages.

If you approach a dog and their ears immediately pull back, they communicate submissiveness towards you. How their ears move can determine what they are trying to communicate. Since dogs cannot speak like humans, they must use every part of their body to convey a message.

For example, if a dog is slowly moving their ears back and forth, they may try to figure something out. But if they rapidly shake their head, it usually means they are trying to get rid of something (like water in their ear).

Emotions

While emotions could technically fall under communications, sometimes a dog’s ears will move solely because of an emotion. For example, when dogs are submissive, they position their ears a certain way.

Their ears will respond automatically when a dog feels a heavy emotion like anger or fear. So emotions are another reason a dog’s ears will move.

Hearing Better

Dogs have much better hearing than humans, and their ears play a big role in this. Dogs can move their ears to help them hear something better.

For example, if your dog is trying to figure out where a sound is coming from, they will likely move their ears back and forth until they lock in on the source. If you have seen your dog’s ears perk up when they hear something, you know this to be true!

Now that we know the main reasons dogs move their ears, let’s discuss each ear position.

German Shepherd Ear Position Chart

Ear PositionsEmotions
Ears RelaxedNeutral, usually clam
Ears BackSocial, nervous, or submissive
Ears Down / FlatFearful, anxious, Illness, or defensive
Ears Perked UpAlert, curious, defensive, or aggressive

The Different German Shepherd Ear Positions & What They Mean

There are a variety of different ear positions for German Shepherds. And each has a different meaning.

Here is a list of the most common GSD ear positions and what they mean:

Ears Relaxed And Standing

The most common ear position is, of course, their regular and relaxed ears.

You will see this ear position when your GSD is just being them. Generally, GSD ears are erect and relaxed. If their ears look normal, they will likely feel comfortable, safe, and happy.

However, not all GSDs will have erect ears. Some can have floppy ears even into adulthood (more on below).

Most of the time, this is the position their ears will be in, and you shouldn’t worry if you see them in this position.

Ears ‘Pricked’ Forward

German Shepherd Ear position meaning

When a German Shepherd’s ears are “pricked” forward, you will notice their ears are no longer relaxed and natural. Instead, they may seem pointier, and their body language may seem more stiff and alert.

A dog’s body will usually move in tandem with a dog’s ears, so a GSD with pricked forward ears will have an alert posture in combination.

Why Do German Shepherds Prick Their Ears?

There are a few reasons your German Shepherd may prick their ears. They may be trying to listen to something, be on high alert, or have spotted something that has caught their interest.

Pricked ears usually mean your GSD is paying close attention to something. For example, this often happens when a German Shepherd sees another dog or animal.

In addition, a GSD with their ears in this position can sometimes follow aggression. If they feel threatened or anxious about something, they may prick their ears to try and look bigger and more intimidating.

In addition, this ear position is often seen in reactive German Shepherds. For example, if a GSD is reactive to other dogs, as soon as they see one, their ears will stick up and move slightly forward, followed by their whole body tensing up.

What to Do When Your GSD Pricks up His Ears?

The best thing to do when your GSD pricks their ears is to see what they are reacting to. If they are just spotting another dog and don’t seem aggressive, then you likely don’t have anything to worry about.

A well-trained dog will still be alert to their surroundings. So long as they are just taking everything in and not misbehaving, you don’t have anything to worry about. However, if your GSD is reactive, then you want to take a step back and assess the situation. For example, if they are reacting to another dog? Is the other dog friendly? Is your GSD feeling threatened? 

You may need to put some space between your dog and the trigger. If you can’t do that, then you may have to remove your dog from the situation altogether.

Reactivity is a behavior that needs to be worked on, and it will take time, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t fix it overnight.

Further Reading: 7 Simple Strategies To Help Quickly Calm A Reactive Dog

Ears Back

German Shepherd Ears back

When a German Shepherd’s ears are back, they may appear sad or nervous. However, they could also seem happy just with their ears pushed back. Their body may even appear relaxed while their ears are in this position.

This can sometimes be a subtle move of their ears that is not always obvious.

Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Back?

German Shepherds will put their ears back when they are nervous, submissive, or friendly. To determine exactly why they might be doing so, look for clues in their body language.

For example, if their head is tilted and they seem anxious, the dog could be nervous, or they’re just being submissive. On the flip side, if their tail is wagging and they seem happy, they may just have their ears back because they are being friendly.

If their ears are back, but there is no other body language to indicate why it is likely they are just being social.

What to Do When Your GSD Puts His Ears Back

When your GSD puts his ears back, pay attention to the rest of their body language. This will give you a good indication of why they are doing so and how you should respond.

Most of the time, this is not a cause for concern, so no action will be needed.

So If they seem happy and friendly, then there is likely no need to do anything. On the other hand, if they appear nervous or submissive, then all you can do is put them at ease. Speak to them in a soft voice and offer them some reassurance. 

Suppose they continue to seem nervous or skittish. In that case, you may want to consult with a trainer or behaviorist to help address any underlying issues.

Ears Down

German Shepherd ears down

It will be very apparent when a German Shepherd’s ears are down. Their ears will be flat against their head. You may commonly read that people say this means a dog is sick, but that is not always the case.

Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Down?

There are several reasons a German Shepherd may put their ears down. This could indicate an illness, fear, or anxiety about something. Dogs in certain environments may be afraid, and their ears will go down as a reaction.

German Shepherds can also fear certain people or animals that can cause their ears to react this way. This ear position is usually accompanied by a hunched or rigid body, whimpering, or other signs of fear. They may even hide their face if they are really scared.

What to Do When Your GSD Puts His Ears Down?

German Shepherd ears down

If your GSD is putting his ears down, then you need to take a step back and assess the situation. If they are in an new or unknown environment, give them some time to adjust.

If they show no signs of improvement or if their fear seems excessive, then you may want to consult with a trainer or behaviorist. They can help you figure out the root of the problem and how to best address it.

If your German Shepherd’s ears are down and seem sick, you need to take them to the vet as soon as possible. This is not an ear position that should be ignored, especially if it’s combined with other body language cues.

Ears In Opposite Directions

German Shepherd Ears In opposite directions

A German Shepherd with ears pointed in two separate directions often occurs when trying to focus on two things simultaneously. This is usually pretty apparent, and their ears may twitch back and forth.

Suppose you notice some noises coming from multiple directions. In that case, your GSD may perk up their ears and try to focus on each one separately. This can also happen if they see something that catches their interest in one direction and then hear something else that piqued their curiosity coming from another.

It’s definitely one of the most adorable ear positions a GSD can have.

Why Do German Shepherd’s Ears Stand Up?

The most common reason a German Shepherd has their ears standing up is because they are alert and paying attention to something. This could be anything from somebody walking by outside to a noise coming from another room.

German Shepherds are known for being attentive, and having erect ears is part of that. So if you notice your GSD’s ears perked up and pointing forward, it usually means they are trying to listen to or see something.

In addition, this ear position is often seen in reactive German Shepherds. For example, if a GSD is reactive to other dogs, as soon as they see one, their ears will stick up and move slightly forward, followed by their whole body tensing up.

Do All German Shepherd Ears Stand Up Straight?

No, not all German Shepherd ears stand up straight. In fact, some GSDs have very floppy ears that may never stand up completely erect. This is due to different ear types and is nothing to worry about. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 German Shepherds end up with floppy ears.

A common reason why german shepherds’ ears don’t fully stand up is that the cartilage in their ears is not strong enough. This can be due to genetics, parasites, or an ear injury that has damaged the cartilage.

If your German Shepherd has floppy ears, but they are healthy in every other way, there is no need to worry. Their ears may just always remain slightly droopy.

Here are the percentages of German Shepherds that ear will stand up by age:

  • 3-4 months 28%
  • 5-6 months 25%
  • 7-8 months 16%
  • 9-10 months 6%
  • 11-12 months 3%
  • After 1 year 4%
  • Never 18%

German Shepherd Puppy Ear Stages

So now that you know a German Shepherd’s ear positions, what they mean, and the percentage of GSDs with floppy ears, you may be wondering about the natural ear stages of a German Shepherd puppy.

All German Shepherd puppies are born with their ears flopped down over their head. They will usually start to stand up around three weeks old, but it can take months to fully erect.

Here are the German Shepherd puppy ear stages:

Newborn To 5 Months

Between being born and 5 months, a german shepherd’s ears will begin to slowly stand up. Every GSD is unique, some may take longer than others.

During this time, it’s important to not put any pressure on the ears or try to force them up, as this can damage the cartilage. Instead, just let them naturally stand up on their own.

During this period, you will notice the cartilage getting stronger and the ears becoming less floppy. As mentioned above, 53% of German Shepherd puppies have their ears stand up between 3-6 months.

At around 3 months old, your GSD will begin teething. This can also have an effect on their ears. In fact, their ears may be partially standing, only to fall down again during this teething period. This is completely normal, so don’t worry.

And remember, if your GSDs ears are still not standing, many don’t until 6-12 months, and some never do!

5-6 Months

At this point, most German Shepherd puppies will have their ears standing up most of the time. Of course, they may still fall down from time to time, but they should be getting stronger and more erect.

If your GSDs ears are not standing by now, don’t worry. Some will take longer. At 5 months is when teething ends. This is a common time for their ears to become noticeably erect.

7-8 Months

At 7-8 months, if your German Shepherds’ ears are still not standing most of the time, there is a chance they never will. However, 16% of GSDs this age get their erect ears, so there is still a chance.

They should be relatively strong and mostly erect. If they are considerably floppy with no sign of improvement, you may want to consult your vet, as this could be a sign of an ear infection or other issue.

After 8 months

After 8 months, if your German Shepherd’s ears are not standing most of the time, it’s unlikely they will. While 13% of GSDs ages 9-12 months develop erected ears, the chances decrease substantially after that.

If your German Shepherd is over a year old and their ears are still not standing, they won’t have erect ears. However, it’s still probably a good idea to get them checked out just in case of an infection or other health issue.

Let’s discuss why some German Shepherds’ ears never become erect.

Why Are My German Shepherd’s Ears Floppy?

when do German Shepherd Ears stand up

There are a few reasons your German Shepherd’s ears may be floppy. Let’s discuss them.

#1 Not Developed Yet

This is the most common reason for floppy ears in German Shepherds. If your GSD is less than a year old, their ears may not be fully developed. Just like human babies, it takes time for their cartilage to grow and strengthen.

If you have a German Shepherd puppy with floppy ears, the best thing to do is wait. In most cases, their ears will eventually stand up on their own.

If your German Shepherd is over a year old and their ears are still floppy, there may be another underlying reason.

Let’s discuss the other potential causes.

#2 Genetics

German Shepherds with floppy ears may just be genetically predisposed to having them. This is often the case if both of their parents also had floppy ears.

If this is the case, there is nothing you can do to make their ears stand up. You will just have to accept that they will always be floppy.

However, just because your GSD has floppy ears does not mean they are less of a dog. They will still be just as loyal, loving, and protective as any other German Shepherd.

So if you have a German Shepherd with floppy ears, don’t worry! They are still amazing dogs.

#3 Teething

Another potential reason for floppy ears is teething. During the teething process, a puppy’s gums and teeth are growing, and this can cause their ears to flop.

In fact, you might see their ears starting to become erect, only to fall down again when teething starts. Again, this is completely normal and nothing to worry about.

#4 Breeding

In some cases, floppy ears may be caused by bad breeding. For example, suppose a German Shepherd’s parents were not bred correctly. In that case, this could cause health problems in their puppies, including floppy ears.

Some breeders want to sell ‘show-quality’ GSDs and make their ears too big to hold themselves up.

If you got your German Shepherd from a breeder, do your research and only buy from a reputable source. This will help ensure that your GSD is healthy and has a low risk of health problems.

A good breeder can tell you if floppy ears are common in the parents or grandparents of the puppy you are interested in.

#5 Nutrition

Another potential cause of floppy ears is poor nutrition. If a German Shepherd does not get enough of the right nutrients, this can affect their overall health and development.

Make sure your GSD is eating high-quality dog food rich in vitamins and minerals. This will help ensure they get all the nutrients needed to stay healthy and develop properly.

Without proper nutrition, a dog can have a developmental issue such that the cartilage in their ears does not grow correctly, leading to floppy ears. So if you want to ensure your German Shepherd has healthy, erect ears, feed them a nutritious diet.

#6 Hygiene

If you don’t clean your German Shepherd’s ears regularly, this can lead to ear infections. Ear infections are a common cause of floppy ears in dogs. When ear infections are left untreated, they can damage the cartilage in the ears and cause them to flop. So if you want to prevent floppy ears, clean your GSD’s ears regularly.

Further Readings: How To Clean Dog’s Ears When They Hate It: 9 Simple Steps

Final Thoughts

A German Shepherd’s ears can mean a lot of things. How they are positioned and their body language can give insights into how they feel.

The position of German Shepherds’ ears can act as communication and an expression of emotions. For example, when a dog’s ears are pricked forward, it usually indicates your dog is alert and interested in what is happening around them.

If a dog’s ears are back, it can mean they are nervous or submissive, or they could actually be happy. You can usually tell how your dog feels when looking at their ears and body posture. In this example, if GSDs’ ears are back and their head is down, they are probably submissive or nervous.

The position of your German Shepherd’s ears can also give you an indication of their health. For example, if their ears are floppy, it could signify teething or poor nutrition. In addition, ears that are down and flat against the head can indicate illness.

This is why it’s important to know your GSDs ear positions and what they mean!

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