The dog’s sense of hearing is better than ours; actually he hears twice as well as man. And though he has an ear very much like our own, its flap or leather is quite different from the ear shell of man. Made to catch the sound, it also moves to find the direction from which sound comes.
Selective breeding has resulted in a wide variety of ear types. In certain breeds the flap stands erect or pricked; in others it rises halfway and then tips over. In still others it is “buttoned” or turned down though slightly raised at the base, while in many breeds it falls flat to the head, when it is said to be dropped. The kind of ear flap seems to have no bearing upon the dog’s hearing but it does influence the amount of care required. The drop ear or turned down flap interferes with ventilation, and must be watched more closely.
When a puppy is born, the ears lie flat to the head. In breeds whose ears stand up at maturity, ear cartilage strength changes so much difring the process of growth that the exact age when the ears should come up cannot be stated. They may begin to stand quite early in life, and then, while the teeth are changing, drop again or flare around uncertainly for weeks or months, after which they finally stand strong and straight.
During play a puppy may injure an ear tendon. The up right ear may then drop and never recover. Some people have helped weak or injured ears to stand by bracing them with surgical adhesive tape or moleskin. Cut the material you are using into the desired shape and length, then apply it to the inside of the ear in order to stiffen it. Most puppies won’t mind this very much, while others will give you a hard time. The first few hours usually are the worst, and if you can get through this initial stage, a big part of the battle is won. How long you should leave the ears set depends on the individual dog. Faulty ear carriage is sometimes rectified within a few days; others require several weeks and a number of resettings. Apply an antiseptic when you take off the tape.
Ear flaps that stand when they should drop are fastened down lightly with surgical tape for short periods. But do not attempt to shape the ears in any manner without first check ing the breed section, which begins on page 204. Make sure you know exactly how your dog’s ears should be carried when he is fully grown.