puppy ears, or
Giving Mother Nature a helping hand...
I've had lots of questions about how to brace puppy ears, so I thought I'd document my method for everyone, and provide a little of my thoughts on training ears.
First thing - DON'T ever weight ears. Weight is what you do with lead (tungsten) if ears weren't trained as a puppy and you need to get them over in the show ring! Which, as we all know is illegal, messy, and not fun to do. So.......
Always start with clean ears. Clean out ears with alcohol on a rough rag (one without fabric softener) to remove wax, grease, and dirt from the ear prior to bracing or gluing. Clean each ear 3 times. Allow to dry.
I brace most ears at about 8 weeks, but only if needed. I use moleskin braces if Japanese Tape is unavailable, and tie the ears on top of the head to set ear carriage. Between 8-10 weeks, I pull the braces tight enough that the ears almost touch. Usually, it is not necessary to glue the ears until the puppies are 9 or 10 weeks old, but may be glued down at the same time if needed. After 10 or 11 weeks, you cannot change the puppy's ear placement, so the braces are not pulled as tightly together. The purpose at this time is to provide support and prevent folding the ear back into the ruff. Until the puppy is 14 -16 weeks, I always brace the ears when I glue them over to prevent the formation of a crease in the back of the ear.
I use moleskin, yarn, and engine starter fluid for tackiness. I will describe the brace, then include a diagram (pattern) later. The braces are cut from heavy duty moleskin, two identical pieces for each ear. I pierce one piece of each moleskin pair in the middle of the piece. I cut two pieces of yarn about 7 inches each. Thread one piece of yarn through each hole, I use a small crochet hook. Pull the yarn halfway through, and remove the paper backing on the moleskin, careful not to unthread your yarn. Fold the yarn pieces to the side, opposite for each pair. and place the piece with the yarn on top of the matching piece without the yarn. The yarn pieces should face each other when the moleskin pieces are placed next to each other with the rounded end down. Remove the paper backing, give the tacky side of the moleskin a quick shot from the engine starter fluid, just enough to barely dampen. Let set (30-60 seconds) until it is tacky, not gooey. Place in ear with yarn pieces extending out over the top skull. Repeat for the other ear. Let braces set in the ears for about 3-5 minutes. Then tie the ears in place using the yarn. Double knot, tightly, and cut off excess yarn. Don't pull ears so tight together as to place severe strain on the ear back. This may actually weaken the ear. I like to also lightly shape the ears afterward by curving the braced ear forward around my finger to simulate the natural curve of the lower ear, rather than the flatness of the moleskin.
The proper way to glue ears is to put the glue on the TOP inside edge of the tip. Fold the ear straight down and smooth the hair from the front of the ear over the glued tip. This should place the ear tip at the front of the inner corner at the base of the ear. Speed Sew, Jiffy Sew or Sally's Beauty Supply Hair Bond (this is the cheapest) are the glues that should be used for this. Strip Ease and Sally's Hair Bond Remover are the solvent used for glue removal. If there is not hair enough for gluing, or you are trying to save hair for matches/shows on older puppies, you can fasten an ear over with moleskin. Cut 2 pieces for each ear (same pattern as for a brace). Glue the pieces, felt side together. Place in the clean ear, fold ear down onto the moleskin. Be sparing with glue, a little placed correctly glues as well as a big glob, and is healthier for the skin.
Low ears. There are no tried and true
ways to correct low ears. There are a couple methods that you can try,
hopefully - with a good dose of luck, the ears will turn out fine. First off,
puppy ears go up an down like yoyos, so don't panic right away. The first thing
to try is to placing a piece of plastic tie wrap (long enough to fit between
the layers of tape or moles skin on the bottom half of the brace below the
break line. Be sure the piece of tie wrap does not extend past the edge of the
moles skin or tape. It must be completely covered or it can irritate or injure
the ear. Glue the portion of tape or moleskin above the break line to the tape
or moleskin inside of the base of the ear. DO NOT tie low ears tight on the top
of the head. This will pose excess strain on an already weak ear. Tie the ears
loosely. If ear leather is very thin and weak or very heavy, using thinning
shears, thin and trim the hair off the upper 3/4 of the ear and brace for a
proper break line. Be persistent. Low ears may take bracing until the pup is a
year old, but the outcome can be well worth the work. Good luck.
Make the braces:
Place in ears:
Then tie the laces together.
Place the tape in a clean ear as shown below. Take a piece of the tape and wet it with the starter fluid and rub the glue on the inside of the clean ear to flatten hair and make a tacky surface for the tape to stick better. The tape will stay much longer if the glue is made tacky with a quick spray of engine starting fluid. Allow some of the starter fluid to evaporate before putting the tape inside the ear. Please use in a well ventilated area. Place a dab of Speed Sew, Jiffy Sew or Sally's Beauty Supply Hair Bond (this is the cheapest) on top half of tape, then fold ear over where the crease is desired. Shape ear by rolling the ear length-wise forward around your finger. After it sets for 30 seconds to 1 minute, glue ears together on top of the head by pulling a few strands of hair from the back of the ear- low on the inside edge of the bottom of the bell. Twist the hairs together, then pinch with a dab of glue. Always remember; the less glue, the better. You’ll save more hair, and have less to try and remove later. You can also cut a piece of tape to bridge across between the ears. Make the tape the length to fit between the ears so that the ears will be spaced close on top of the head. Glue the top fold of the ear onto the bridge, tape to tape. It will be much easier to remove, using a cotton ball sprayed and wet with starter fluid.
For a quick set without glue, roll a strip of tape around your finger into a tube with the sticky side out. Place tape in the ear (open ends to the top & bottom) like you would the moleskin above. Fold ear over onto tape, smoothing ear to fully attach.
This ear training method was copied from Echowyn Shelties website http://www.echowyn.com/Ears.html and adapted for use by Goodtime Shelties. Some of the methods have been modified by Joy Good. Please visit the above link if you wish to read the original web page. Thank you Krys Messer for your excellent web page on Sheltie Ear Training!