Can Australian Shepherds’ Ears Stand Up?


Can Australian Shepherds’ Ears Stand Up?

Australian Shepherd’s ears are surprisingly complicated. They have gone through a number of evolutions over the past years. Some lines have different ears than others. It may also depend on the area that you’re buying your dog in, as different kennel clubs recognize different ears shapes. 

The traditional ears of the Australian Shepherd are triangular and flop forward. They aren’t erect, but they aren’t exactly droopy either. 

However, that doesn’t mean that all Australian Shepherds have these ears. The AKC currently recognizes erect, prick, and droopy ears as a “fault,” so most dogs in the U.S. do not have ears that stand up. But it is possible for a completely purebred Australian Shepherd to end up with erect ears. 

This occurrence is rare, and most of these dogs are sold as “pet-quality” animals. They can still make great pets but typically won’t be used for showing or breeding.

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Do Australian Shepherds Have Pointy Ears?

In most cases, no. While pointy ears are technically possible in this breed, it has largely been bred out. Show dogs cannot have this sort of ears in the United States, as it goes against the AKC standard. Therefore, most breeders eliminated this trait previously. Still, some dogs may appear with erect ears. 

In most cases, these dogs are not shown since it is considered a fault. Instead, they are kept as companions and usually not bred further. 

There isn’t anything wrong with pointy ears, per se. It is just that the AKC doesn’t find erect ears to be the traditional ear form for this breed and therefore marks dogs off if they have this trait. As far as health is concerned, it really doesn’t matter what type of ear your puppy has. 

Generally, breeders will not encourage this trait. Therefore, erect ears are becoming more and more uncommon in the traditional Aussie as well as his cousins, the Miniature American Shepherd and the Toy Australian Shepherd.

Australian Shepherd ears on the white background

If an Australian Shepherd Has Prick Ears, Is It Purebred?

Probably. This trait does run in their breed, though it is rarer. The exact genetics of ear placement is confusing. It isn’t a matter of a single trait or even a lot of traits. Instead, erect ears can seemingly pop up out of nowhere, even if a breeder is specifically trying to avoid it. 

At the same time, in some breeds with erect ears, puppies with floppy ears may randomly appear. Genetics are simply complicated and not completely understood. Even if you breed two Australian Shepherds together with traditional ears, a puppy from their litter may end up with erect ears. 

Therefore, purebred Australian Shepherds with erect ears do appear, though they won’t be as common as dogs with “traditional” ears.

Australian Shepherd with stick in mouth

Can I Fix My Australian Shepherd’s Prick Ears?

In some cases, owners and breeders may want to “fix” their Australian Shepherd’s earset. This is often more of a problem for breeders than it is for owners. In many cases, pet owners won’t care if their dog has a particular type of ear. 

However, if you do care what your dog’s ears look like, you should perhaps purchase an older puppy that already has the “correct” earset. Otherwise, you could end up with a puppy that develops prick ears. 

There is no easy way to “fix” a dog’s earset after it has been established. There are some precautions that can be taken before the puppy’s ears have developed all the way. But this is often not recommended. If a dog’s ears are altered at a young age “just in case,” then there is no way for breeders to tell what that puppy’s ears would have been without the doctoring. This can make future breeding difficult. 

Artificial alterations are also a disqualifying factor for show dogs. It is a form of cheating, as you’re changing a dog’s appearance to make it appear closer to standard. This is not allowed. In practice, though, many authorities will turn their eye away from gluing and taping. However, surgical alterations will usually lead to disqualifications, and the owner may experience consequences.

What Age Do Australian Shepherds Ears Stand Up?

Like most breeds, Australian Shepherd puppies’ ears will develop over the course of a few weeks after birth. They are not born with the ears that they will have as adults. Instead, the cartilage has to harden before you can say what kind of ears they might have. 

Ear movement can occur dramatically anytime in the first 12 weeks of a dog’s life. A dog may have completely floppy ears that suddenly turn into prick ears after they’ve already been adopted. This can be a problem for some dog owners, as you will usually choose your puppy before they are 12 weeks old. Your puppy’s ears may continue changing after you bring them home, depending on when you take them home. 

While the puppy is teething, its ears may do any number of things. All the muscles in the head are interconnected, so you can never really tell what a puppy’s ears will look like until after they are done teething. 

The ears may be floppy for a week, then suddenly turn erect, and then turn floppy again. What a dog’s final ears will look like is nearly impossible to tell. There are a lot of theories, as people tend to dislike unpredictable things. But none of them work completely and often aren’t better than the 50/50 chance of just guessing.

Australian Shepherd on the grass

Can I Tap My Dog’s Ears?

There is some success taping down an Australian Shepherd’s ears. This must be done while they are growing. Basically, by taping the dog’s ears into the correct position, you are ensuring that they harden in that position, which can control what ears your dog ends up with. You’re overwriting the genetics. 

But this is typically not done or recommended. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, dogs typically need this to be done while they’re still at the breeder. Most breeders won’t do it, as they then won’t know what a dog’s natural ears would have been. This gets in the way of them figuring out what genetics their breeding dogs might have. 

If their dogs are producing puppies with floppy ears, they’ll want to know!

Secondly, there is little practical reason to tape a dog’s ears. In some breeds, it is important for a dog’s ears to be taped down, as erect ears can get in the way of their profession. However, erect ears do not get in the way of an Australian Shepherd herding animals. Therefore, it is purely cosmetic. Most vets won’t do it simply because there is no reason to. 

With that said, taping typically doesn’t hurt the dog. There is no evidence that it is painful, though many dogs are quite annoyed by the tape. This will vary from dog to dog. Some puppies don’t seem to mind at all, while others will mind quite a bit.


The ear genetics of dogs are quite complicated and not completely understood. In most cases, Australian Shepherds do not have prick ears. However, they can under some circumstances. Usually, it isn’t so simple that one of their parents had erect ears. In many cases, dogs with completely normal ears may give birth to puppies with erect ears. 

You just never know what you’re going to get. 

Most dogs will fall in line with the traditional earset. In general, if you adopt an Australian Shepherd, you can plan on their ears being a bit floppy. However, don’t be particularly surprised if your dog ends up with a different sort of ear.

Author: Kristin

Author: Kristin

Kristin was born in Tennessee and currently lives there with her husband and children. She is passionate about educating pet parents and helping them make the best possible decisions for their pets. She currently owns one dog, two cats, a lizard, and a variety of fish.