Training Your Puppy's Fly Away Ears

Diesel, out of Mercedes, has well set ears that lay forward forming a triangle.

Rottweilers can sometimes have "fly away ears." What are fly away ears? On a Rottweiler the ear is meant to sit forward and take on the appearance of an upside down triangle. This look gives the appearance of broader cheek bones and a wider, stronger head. It's a part of their 'style.'

Sometimes, especially with puppies who are teething, their ears take on a mind of their own. When the ear folds and sits up too high, we call them fly aways. What's the problem with fly away ears? Let's be frank -- if your Rottweiler is a pet, fly away ears are totally harmless. They just look silly. But, if you're planning to show your Rottweiler or if you want to obtain a really beautiful head set it's important to tackle fly aways.

Look carefully. Kaiser's right ear sits normally here. His left ear is folded at the very top of the ear where it meets his head. Kaiser is an example of a puppy we won't bother with training ears on because normally they sit fine, he just has goofy days with only the left ear!

What causes fly aways? The first cause is often just genetics. Some lines will have smaller ears, thinner ears, or ears that sit high and so will be more prone to sitting in a less than ideal position. No harm, no foul. We can fix fly aways without any pain. More on that later. The second cause is a lack of calcium in the diet. Growing puppies go so fast that calcium is distributed between bones, teeth, and the ears.

Now we're talking! Both of these puppies have ears flying away. Notice how the tips of their ears sit out to the sides instead of flat against their cheeks?

Jasko with ideal ear carriage. His ears are folded forward forming an upside down triangle. Image owned by James Marrone.

Mercedes with ideal ear carriage. Her ears are folded forward forming an upside down triangle.

However, if fly away ears are any indicator you might consider upping the calcium in your puppy's diet. Too much calcium can cause issues as well so I do not recommend any sort of calcium supplement pill. We like to give our puppies, especially those with fly aways, raw bones to chew and consume for a calcium boost. Lastly, fly away ears are, in part, caused by teething. Puppies will tense their jaw and chew much more when teething which allows their ears to sit in a higher, tenser position.

When do I need to tackle fly aways? If you do nothing in many causes the ears will go back down to a normal position. Easy as that. After they're through teething and growing their ears may sit fine. But this does not happen in every case. The only way to know if your puppy's ears will eventually sit normal is to wait until he or she is full grown. However, by then it's too late to fix the issue if their ears do not ever sit correctly on their own.

How do I fix fly away ears? There are 3 ways we're going to discuss to help fly away ears sit correctly. The goal in any method is to keep the ear from folding improperly and then growing into that position. As the tissue in the ear matures and grows thicker the ear may stay in a folded or fly away position, never to sit correctly. We want to avoid this. So, we train the ear in the right position using 1 of 3 methods.

The first method is to tape your puppy's ears. Get the strongest tape you can find such as black Gorilla duct tape. Holding the ear flat, tape under the ear and over the top. Your goal is to flatten the ear into a triangle as it's intended to sit. Fly away ears fold across the top of the ear next to the head. Taping the ear into the right shape prevents the ear from folding incorrectly. This works on very young puppies because they have trouble getting the tape off. I wouldn't use this on, say, a 6 month old puppy who would get the tape off in minutes!

The second method is to fold the ear like a taco. Now, you can fold the ear inward or outward, both will accomplish your goal which is to keep the ear from folding incorrectly across the top on it's own. Take note: a fly away ear folds across the top of the ear next to the head. A taco ear is folded length wise from the head to the tip of the ear. You can tape the ear into the taco shape or glue it. Again, tape is easier on younger puppies than older ones.

The third method is my favorite. You can glue the ears down into position. This works on old and young puppies. And the best part, for me, is that the glue holds the ears in place for 1-3 weeks (depending on how well you glue and how much your puppy messes with it!) Take the very tip of your puppy's ear, apply glue, and adhere the tip to your puppy's cheek just above the highest brown spot on the side of his or her cheek. Hold in place until the glue dries. I like to run the tip of the glue applicator along the edged of the ear to make sure I got good coverage.

Gretel's sister, Zivah with her ears glued. See how the tips are stuck down to her cheeks? This will encourage them to sit correctly. 

It is very important to use a non toxic glue! We like rubber cement or tear mender (which is essentially rubber cement). It's easy to apply and easy to wash off with some rubbing alcohol. You're not trying to permanently glue the ears down, cause bald spots, bleach the hair, create sores or in any other way harm your puppy. This isn't torture. It's just some rubber cement and a silly looking puppy for a little bit. Keep this in mind when considering this option!

How long does my puppy need it's ear tapped or glued? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. How old your puppy is--the older they are, the longer it'll take. How many times he or she gets the tape off can lengthen the time frame. Genetics and calcium in the diet may play a role here as well. Expect to spend a few weeks on this and hope it doesn't take longer. We've had some persistent ears and we've also waited too long to start dealing with fly aways and ended up with ears we never could get to sit right. Start young and stick with it for the best ear set!

Not all puppies need help with their ear set. Most, in fact, do not in our experience. This information is for those stubborn flyin' ears that think folding forward is for loosers!