Sheltie Ears Training Tips

Personally, my goal is to breed for tipped Sheltie ears so I eventually produce them naturally. I’d just as soon not have to go through the trouble of all this gluing and taping and weighting. But if I want them in the show ring, they need the proper ears to win.

And since tipped ears is strictly a cosmetic issue not a health issue, it is lower on my wish list than other things I consider more important. So if I find a lovely dog with a good pedigree but prick ears, I do what I can to train the ear properly.

Usually, one starts as early as possible, but I like to wait to see what the ears are doing naturally before positioning them. I like to keep an eye on how many of my dogs are coming close to the natural ear.

In addition, when the puppy begins teething the ears do all sorts of wacky, wonky things. They can go up, they can go sideways, one can go up, while the other goes down or any variation of these is possible.

Sometimes the ears go back to normal afterwards, sometimes not. There is no way of knowing for sure.

Most sheltie ears unfortunately, still need help. In order for any of these methods to work, the ears need to be correctly positioned immediately upon noticing they are prick and kept that way 24/7 until they tip consistently.

Some never do. The smaller, thicker ears are the toughest.

The longest I have glued ears is up to two years of age and it never fixed them. In that case, you are going to have to just love them the way they are. Which isn’t too tough.

So here are a few methods you may like to try:

Gluing Sheltie Ears

This is Callie, who graciously volunteered (HA!) to let me demonstrate on her. It was a tad difficult to use glue on a squirming puppy and actually hold a camera to take some shots but we did it.

sheltie ears

Nevertheless gluing sheltie ears is not a neat process. Anticipate getting extra glue on fur you hadn’t planned on unless you have help holding the puppy.

Most breeders will glue the ears together on top of the head in order to pull them up. A high set ear is desirable. Quite frankly I’m not sure how doing this will change where the ear sits in the future. Is it supposed to allow the muscles on top of the head to shrink and therefore the ears stay higher?

I doubt it, but I do it just in case…

In order to pull the ears up, take them both, back to back to see about where you will be able to glue them together. If the ears are naturally very low, you may not be able to pull the ears up very close to the base but only be able to glue halfway up the ears.

When you figure out where you can put the glue, release and put a dab of glue on fur on each ear. Let it set for about 15-30 seconds. Then pull the ears gently together back to back again and pinch the glued fur together.

gluing ears
positioning ears with glue

Add more glue if needed. Hold it for a few minutes. (Which is an eternity in puppy-time). If the fur is particularly long, you can fold the glued area over to further stabilize it. After a few minutes let go of the sheltie ears.

Then put a dab of glue on the outside tip of one ear and a dab of glue on the underside of the fur just in front of the ear. (You could put the second dab on the outside of the top side of the fur in front of the ear, but I think it doesn’t look as nice.) Wait a few seconds to let the glue set a little then press together. Repeat this with the other ear.

The puppy will look like she has curlers in her head when done.

tip of ear and glue
glue placed in front of ear
position sheltie ear with glue
glued sheltie ears
sheltie ears positioned with glue

This can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Then you have to re-do them. You can use adhesive remover to get the old glue off, then wash out the remover, dry and start over. Sometimes it’s just easier to snip off the old glue.

Taping Sheltie Ears

I find taping sheltie ears easier once the dog has grown a little and the ear is big enough to handle with tape. Most use moleskin.

I find using Leukotape P Sports Tape to be thinner, and handle a little easier.

Wash the inside of the ear to get any wax or grease off the inside so the tape will stick. You can trim the long fur on the inside of the ear as well if you wish. (Glue has a tendency to get everywhere if you aren't used to doing this).

Begin by applying glue to the top 1/4 to 1/3 of the inside of the ear, wherever it is you want to fold the ear over.  I use Speed Sew. I like to use the glue in addition to whatever adhesive may be on the material I plan to use (in this case, Leukotape P Sports tape) so it lasts longer. I wait about 30 seconds to let the glue get a bit tacky. 

Then apply the sport tape, press it in place and trim off the excess. OBVIOUSLY, be careful not to cut the ear itself. If the tape is a little wider than the ear, it isn't a problem. 

Apply glue to the exposed side of the tape, wait another 30 seconds or so.

Fold the ear over where the tape on the ear ends. Press the glued end ontothe insie of the ear. Hold it in place about 30 seconds and then you are done.

The function of the tape is to make sure you aren't gluing skin to skin.

If you want to pull the ears together at the top of the head you can do that at this point.

This will hold anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Be prepared to repeat this many times

This is Little Bit, with her ears folded and then glued up to the center of her skull

glued sheltie ears
completed gluing

Collie Ears Getting Taped

Weighting Sheltie Ears

This is the easiest way to get the ears to tip. Many breeders feel it just makes the ear muscles stronger and when the weights are removed the ears will snap up.

The reason I don’t believe that is because, while I see shelties move ears laterally or pressed down again the skull, I have never seen a tipped ear shoot up voluntarily by the dog, so I don’t think there are muscles that are involved, just cartilage that needs bending.

mix the two togetherGlue and ear weight mixed

Traditionally, fine tungsten powder was used by applying small amounts by rubbing into the hair on the tip of the ear to weight it and be undetectable to the judge in the conformation ring. Since I don't do that sort of thing, I've never applied the powder in that way. I simply mix tungsten with glue and take that glop and apply to the inside of the tip of the ear. It's obvious but it works.

To begin, take some fabric glue and mix with tungsten powder. Tungsten is very heavy for the volume and is not toxic like the old lead powder or pellets that used to be used. Put a dab of glue on the tip of the ear and stick the tungsten mix (pretty much solid and non sticky in a minute or two) to the tip of the inside of the ear. More weight on one edge or the other will make them tip sideways or towards the center. Add more as needed to get the right dip in the ear.

weighting sheltie ears
apply tungsten to tip of sheltie ear
sheltie ear tips with weight

This is Annie, finished with her beauty treatment.

weighted glued sheltie ears

Miscellaneous Methods

There is a water soluble clay poultice that breeders used instead of the tungsten and glue which doesn’t last long but is easy to wash off. Problem is that it comes in 5 lb. containers, more than most people (including me) could use in a lifetime.

In addition to positioning them, when you are hanging out watching TV, you can gently massage the tipped ear to further break down the stiff collagen at the crease.

There are other methods that are a little more involved but these three should keep you busy. Happy training!

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