In my opinion, Shelties have one of the most adorable faces of all dog breeds. Their little tipped ears give them a soft melting expression unique to this breed!
Shelties’ ears should tip forward at about 1/4 of the way down leaving the other 3/4 of the ears standing upright. This creates a bit of a roof to protect the shelties ear canal from debris and dirt as they are bred to be working dogs herding sheep or doing ranch work.
Since puppies are born blind and deaf they must develop the most critical aspects of their bodies first. Missing cartilage or pinna (the flap of skin that is covered by fur and composed of muscles that are attached to the cartilage) is the cause of Sheltie puppies having floppy ears at birth. The cartilage in the ear increases significantly after development in areas such as sight and hearing.
Patience is key when waiting for your Sheltie’s ears to set properly. In most cases your dog’s ears will be completely fine; however, if it is taking a long time for their ears to stand up and tip in the right place, having your dog examined by a vet is the best option to find out what is going on with their ears.
General Appearance of Sheltie Ears
The general appearance of Shelties ears includes a distinct triangle shape. The breed was originally used as herding dogs, hence why their ears are an important feature.
A Sheltie’s ears are small triangles set high on their heads. The tips of a shelties ears generally break forward about 1/4 of the way from the top. Some shelties may have prick ears (ears that stand upright). Some owners will glue or tape their Sheltie’s ears to get them to set properly.
The AKC standard for a Sheltie show dog states “the ears are small and flexible, placed high, carried three-fourths erect, with tips breaking forward. When in repose the ears fold lengthwise and are thrown back into the frill.
Faults – Set too low. Hound, prick, bat, twisted ears. Leather too thick or too thin.”
Although Shelties can all look different, purebred Shelties’ ears will normally either be tipped or prick ears.
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A hound ear is when your Shelties ears are floppy and hanging low like that of a hound dog.
Even though the AKC does call pricked ears a flaw in the Sheltie breed a large portion of Shelties will have prick ears, or ears that stand completely upright. If your Sheltie is a pet or companion dog this is really nothing to worry about.
Some breeders of show dogs work very hard to try and genetically preserve that iconic tipped ear of a Sheltie. They worry that the unique quality and appearance of the tipped ear may be fading away as many Shelties do have ears that stand straight up.
Since Sheltie’s ears can be slightly different in areas such as color or structure, even with the distinct appearances listed previously, their ears still play a critical role in the facial expressions that each Sheltie makes.
Each time a Shelties ears tilt a certain direction, they are expressing themselves and their emotions, concerns, etc. This in turn makes their faces portray different expressions. This attribute is very unique and helps owners to decipher how their dog is feeling.
Although appearance is often noted, the feel of Sheltie’s ears is interesting as well. Oftentimes their ears are thick not only because of their strong cartilage but because they are a double-coated dog breed.
A Shelties’s coat is composed of 2 layers, one dense undercoat which is like an insulator, and their outer coat which acts as a cover against weather, dirt, or other aspects that would make your dog uncomfortable if it were to touch their skin.
A Shelties distinctly tipped ears are thick with this double-coated fur, not only making them super cute, but able to stay warm in cold weather as well!
Sheltie Ears While Teething
Generally, you won’t know 100% what your Shelties ear type will be until after your dog is finished teething. Teething is such a strenuous process on dogs that it can affect your Shelties ear position causing them to do all sorts of interesting things.
Chewing is thought to be the main cause of your Shelties ear positions changing. As your dog exercises its jaw muscles the muscles in the ears which are connected get exercise as well. Generally, this causes a dog’s ears to become more floppy. This may mean that a dog with floppy ears may have ears that stand back up after teething.
Sometimes teething will cause your puppy’s ears to do different things. One ear may be floppy while the other ear stands straight up. Some Sheltie owners have even observed their dog’s ears turning inside out during teething.
Learn more about teething by reading this article: Sheltie Teeth Complete Guide (Cleaning, Problems, and More)
Floppy Ears in a Sheltie
It is normal for a Sheltie puppy to have floppy ears. There are a few different reasons why your full-grown Sheltie may have floppy ears. Two of the most common reasons are ear infections and collagen deficiencies. It is also possible they may not be purebred but are mixed with another breed that has floppy ears.
When a Sheltie gets an ear infection oftentimes one or both ears become floppy; this is frequently accompanied by a bad odor, scratching, and redness.
Collagen deficiency is a medical condition that can cause floppy ears solely because the ears are unable to stand on their own.
Oftentimes Shelties who do not receive the care they need have ears that may never lift. This is due to cases of malnutrition, illness, fungal infections, parasites, and many other causes.
How to Glue Shelties Ears
For anyone who has a desire for their Shelties ears to have a correct set, they have a few options. The first one we will discuss is gluing the ears.
What age should you start glueing or taping a Shelties ears?
The best age to start training your dog’s ears to set properly is around 8 weeks and until the adult molars are seated in the jaw, which could be 9-12 months of age.
Materials you need to glue your Shelties ears
- Ear cleaning solution
- Speed Sew, Jiffy Sew, or Tear Mender
- Adhesive Remover: Unisolve, Detatchol, Zo-Eze, or Medi-Sol.
- Gauze pads
- Toothpick or small stick.
- Make sure your dogs ears are prepared by cleaning them well with the ear cleaning solution. It is not recommened that you use Hydrogen Peroxide on your dogs ears. Let them dry for at least 10 minutes. Hair in the inside of the ear flap should NOT be removed!
- Put a small amount of glue on the tip of the ear closer to the inner side. If you place the tip in the center, you will get a
curl in the center part of the tip. Then take the tip and glue it under the long hairs growing on the lower
inside edge of the ear. You can use a toothpick or small stick to apply the glue.
- Do the same with the other ear being careful to glue each ear at the same level so that the ears break
evenly about 1/4 of the way down. If you get glue on the skin, do not worry.
- Comb the hair to the outside edge of the back of both ears. Apply glue to the hair on one edge, pull
the ears together and glue the hair from each ear together between the ears. This will give you a tighter
- The glue should last for a few weeks and will start to become loose as the hair grows out. When it becomes loose gently peel what you can of the adhesive off. Use gauze pads as well as the adhesive remover to clean the rest of the glue off. A flea comb can be used to get any bits of remaining glue.
- Let your dogs ears air out for a few hours then repeat steps 1-3.
Pro Tip: You should only be gluing hair to hair.
Don’t overdo it on the glue. The less you put in the less you have to wash out.
Be careful not to twist the hair that you have glued together this will bother your dog and may make it itch.
Can I Tape My Sheltie Ears? How to Japanese Tape.
If you are worried about your dog having floppy or prick ears into adulthood and you want to be sure to have the perfect tipped ear you can tape your dog’s to help train the muscles to fold at the proper proportions.
Japanese tape such as this tape is generally the most popular and most used by dog breeders as it doesn’t leave a sticky residue in the dog’s hair, but it is strong enough to hold for a week or two so you aren’t having to retape every other day.
Here is s helpful video on how to brace and tape your Shelties ears.
What do Shelties Ear Positions Mean?
Ear position can tell us a lot about how our dogs are feeling. Shelties specifically have very unique communication signals that often involve the ears.
As a Shelties’s ears gain more cartilage and begin to stand straight or tip they will become very expressive. By being able to move their ears in certain ways they not only can pick up on certain sounds but are also able to inform their owners of what they are feeling.
Some common communication signals that Shelties may use are:
Your Sheltie may indicate their emotions and feelings by placing their ears in multiple positions to show what they are feeling. Although, each Sheltie is different and you must learn what your own dog is communicating to you.
What does it mean when your Sheltie puts its ears back?
Your Sheltie may move his ears back or flatten them against his head when he is feeling submissive, anxious or afraid. … Ears that are held tightly pressed back signal a canine in a defensive position.
Common ear positions and the emotions related to them:
Flattened / Back
Nervous, Fearful, Anxious, Submissive, Lack of confidence
Forward to Flat
Lack of attention
Looking for Information (Receptive)
Trimming/Grooming Sheltie Ears
Trimming your Sheltie’s ears will be a little bit different depending on what type of ear set they have.
Prick or upright ear: You don’t need to trim much of the hair around their ear as the hair helps to hide the upright ears and the weight of the hair may help a young dog’s ears tip after teething.
For a clean look trim the wild hair around the ear with thinning shears.
Hound Ears: Ears that are floppy and fold down all the way can have quite a bit more hair trimmed. This will help to get more air circulation to the ear canal and hopefully help prevent ear infections. Trimming more hair also helps lighten the weight of the ear which will give it more of an appearance of a tipped ear.
Tipped Ears: Comb the hair around the ears up, using the ear as a guide cut along the same angle about 1-2 inches out use thinning shears to cut the hair even with the angle of the ear. See the video below for more details.
How To Clean My Shelties Ears
Shelties with prick ears are less likely than other breeds to obtain ear infections due to their perky ears that promote good airflow throughout the ear canal; however, there are still opportunities for issues such as ear mites and inflammatory problems.
Cleaning your Sheltie’s ears is a crucial step in avoiding any potential issues that could arise. There are several steps to take that will ensure your Shelties ears stay clean and healthy!
Two main ways to maintain your Shelties’s ear health are cleaning the ear gently with a mild solution (canine ear cleaning solution) and cotton balls as well as trimming your Shelties’s ear hair.
It is also helpful to squeeze veterinary-approved ear cleaner into your dog’s ears and massage the ear gently for 30 seconds to dislodge any buildup from the ear canal; however, do not let anything but the cleaning solution touch the dog’s ear to avoid causing more bacteria.
It is not recommended to use peroxide or cotton swabs in your dog’s ears. This can cause damage to certain areas in the ear as well as inflammation and further infection.
You may be able to tell when your Sheltie needs their ears cleaned. A healthy ear should be light pink with no smell and little wax if any. If you notice a strange color, a mild odor, or see that your dog is scratching its ears or shaking its head, it may be time to clean its ears. It is a good idea to ask your vet how often you should be cleaning your Sheltie’s ears because each dog differs.
You may also want to check your Shelties’s ears often for:
- Wax buildup
- Hair loss
- Ear discharge
Ear Infection, Mites, or Allergies in Your Shelties
It may be difficult to determine whether your dog has allergies, an ear infection, or mites. All of these issues first occur with the symptoms of whining, head shaking, and scratching. Since Shelties in particular are very prone to normal allergies, it is sometimes difficult to determine why they are scratching.
You may notice your Sheltie is beginning to act strange, this could be due to an outer ear infection caused by the many issues listed previously; or an inner ear infection that occurs when the outer ear infection is left untreated.
Causes of ear infections in Shelties:
- Bacteria in the ear
- Ear mites
- Foreign objects lodged in the ear
Symptoms specific to mites include head and ear scratching, dark/crumbly reddish-brown discharge, dried blood, inflammation, and infections. Scratching at the skin is oftentimes an issue because if your dog cuts the skin more infections can occur.
Shelties are prone to a skin allergy called “atopy,” where the ears are heavily affected. Symptoms typically start around 1–3 years old and can get worse every year. You may notice your Sheltie licking their paws, rubbing their face, or developing ear infections more often. There are many treatment options available for atopy and it is normally easily treatable!
You may also notice your Sheltie cannot hear as well as usual and is perhaps dizzy or nauseous. If you begin seeing any of these symptoms it is recommended for you to get your Sheltie to the vet right away.
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A veterinary clinic may prescribe ear drops or cleaning solutions that will help rid the ears of infection or a solution to treat the skin allergy. If your dog has an infection only in one ear, be careful to avoid spreading the infection to the other ear while using certain cleaning methods.
Long-Term Complications of Ear Infections
Typically ear infections do not go away on their own. It is important to get your dog checked by a veterinarian immediately if you notice an ear infection has gone on too long.
If the infection is left untreated it may become even more difficult to get rid of the infection. An untreated ear infection can lead to serious long-term complications or may result in your dog needing surgery.
Some signs that your Sheltie’s ear infection has been left too long include symptoms of:
- Rubbing at the infected ear
- Redness inside the ear
- Swelling of the ear canal
Long-term complications can arise if the ear infection is left untreated. Some more serious issues include hearing loss, balance issues, deafness in the infected ear, or in extreme cases, Horner’s syndrome, which is a condition that causes a loss of stimulation in the nerves surrounding the eyes.
Other Useful Articles All About Your Sheltie
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.