Floppy ears in German Shepherds - genetical issue? - Page 4

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by Jenni78 on 22 April 2021 - 18:04

Late to the party and still laughing about Rik having a problem with women...

My experience is ears are both genetic and environmental. Predisposition to floppy ears- genetic. However, I have seen firsthand how different rearing will (time and again, not just once or twice) affect the rate at which ears come up AND stay firmly up. Anecdotally only, I have noticed that pups with heavy ear leather who are kept very heavy and tend toward loose, "wet" conformation anyway have ears that take a lot longer to stand than their littermates kept lean and worked early on. Smaller, slighter pups also have ears that are up at 4 weeks, whereas often the larger, heavier pups have Lab ears long after they have gone to new homes. So, I do think while genetics are at play for a dog producing more than one case of a soft ear, there is a little more to it than genetics in terms of how fast they come up and stay up permanently, whether they go down with teething, etc.

Additionally, a trivial, likely useless story- my mentor once shared that he had a case of a dog returned with soft ears. The dog was living in an apartment with a disabled person after a death in the family. Consequently, the pup didn't get out much. It had very little exercise or mental stimulation. His ears were like a Lab's. The dog was already 6-7 months old at the time, at least. He was chubby, soft and had little muscle. When he took the dog home and put it in the yard of his boarding kennel, got it more exercise, leaned him out, gave him things to look at and take interest in, the ears stood! He was floored. He was sure it was too late and didn't even bother taping. So, there's a case where environment had made things a bit sluggish, but genetics won when the environmental issues were corrected.


by Hundmutter on 23 April 2021 - 02:04

Oh WHERE is that 'Like' button !


by Rik on 23 April 2021 - 07:04

HM, in no way intended that you were sensitive or stresed I guess I should say.. you certainly never seemed the sort.
sometimes things don't travel over cyberspace as intended.

edit to add-as far as ethics, that is a subject that probably deserves it's own thread and has the potential to be interesting.




by Rik on 23 April 2021 - 08:04

another bit of advice I was given early on is never keep a puppy in a smaller crate that doesn't allow them to fully exercise the ears. I guess I need to add that this came from an experienced breeder and not a veterinarian.

and yea, I did find it odd that I was accused of having an issue with women and thought well next I'll probably be called racist.

I can't imagine a more inclusive world than the USA show world. probably one of the largest gatherings of different sex, orientations, race and I have never seen anyone not welcome. I don't think anyone could last long if they had these issues.

I did try to hide the fact that I was a former show person, but then I decided "Rik, you just need to come out and admit it".
It was as if a heavy weight was lifted and I sleep better now.

caveat lector,

by ValK on 23 April 2021 - 14:04

as i see it - best solution would be to washout from breed the faulty specimens. look from this perspective:
1. dog has some physical flaws
2. dog owner artificially corrected this
3. in reproductive stage this dog will produce dozen or more offspring with similar physical faults.

same should apply to situation, discussed in another topic in regard of pup's mortality.
pups was born as non-viable. due to breeder's sentimental or financial reason the artificial support gave them chance to survive most critical period of their life (in wilderness such newborns simply dies).
but what such surviving specimens will pass to their descendants?


by Hundmutter on 24 April 2021 - 02:04

ValK I think the problems can be those of 'degree'; surely nobody is suggesting a dog with soft ears would fail to thrive in the wild (should it ever have to FACE 'the wild') JUST BECAUSE its ears did not stand up straight on its head, even if it was otherwise in peak physical condition ?

by ValK on 24 April 2021 - 10:04

Hundmutter, i don't know how dog's dangling ears can impact survival rate in wild environment. at least i never seen floppy ears in wild specimens related to dogs kind.
whatever, in case of GSD breed the "wild" been substituted by "beauty pageant" in which dog with faulty ears won't "survive" and accordingly will have very little or no at all chance to be used in breeding.
artificial correction is nothing but plain attempt to cheat and does nothing real to improve the breed.

b.t.w. seems like faulty ears way more common issue among show breeding. 

by Klossbruhe on 24 April 2021 - 13:04

Most so called pure bred dogs, i.e. dog breeds, are the creation of man, not something that existed in the wild. Most pure bred breeds were bred for a purpose, for example terriers and dachshunds to catch rats and vermin. Others were bred to herd. The Doberman was bred by Louis D. to protect tax collectors who in those days went door to door. It is said the first pure bred dog that was bred to be nothing more than a lapdog was the Cavalier King Charles.

The GSD was no exception. Von Stephanitz purportedly liked the long haired collie and found that the "fancy dog people" had bred the herding ability out of the dog. Whether this is true, I do not know. However, he did set out to create his own Shepherd dog and used several regional breeds until he was happy with what he had in his minds eye. And what he had was the wolf, of which like most Germans he was quite fond. Wolves have pointy or prick ears. Hector Linksrhein (i.e. Grafrath) had upright ears. I have never seen pictures of Hector's ancestors such as Pollux von Sachsen or Kastor or Rolland so I do not know what kind of ears they had. But most of the early dogs within a few generations of Hector, such as Tell von der Kriminalpolitzei did have prick ears. But if you examine their pictures, their ears were not as large as todays GSDs and they were slightly forward leaning. Utz von Haus Schutting (1929) still had ears like this. But Pfeffer von Bern (1937) shows larger ears. So things were already starting to change in the 1930s vis a vis ears.

By the time we get to after WWII dogs like Axel von der Deininghauser Heide, Rolf von Osnerbruckner Land and Lex Preussenblut more or less have modern sized and positioned ears. And these are dogs who all existed before the so called break between SL and WL dogs which clearly shows that breeders tastes had changed. Whether this is what Stephanitz had in mind is an open question and probably moot.

The GSD is an ongoing creation of man and not just one man the founder. Stephanitz wrote, no intelligence, no working ability--no German Shepherd Dog. He wanted an all rounder, not just a dog that bit alike an alligator which is why the Schutzhund test involved tracking and obedience as well as protection. And he also wrote the GSD was to be a family companion. And while WL people constantly moan that the IGP is watered down (and it is from what came before), let them find another breed which cannot compete in the championship conformation show unless it has passed a tracking, obedience and protection test, even if they are not what they were in 1955.


by Hundmutter on 25 April 2021 - 04:04

Great last point Klossbruhe, I don't think there is one other breed where that is true. Even gundogs, and even in Germany, are not traditionally compelled to do any competitive work in the field before they can enter a beauty Show, though there have been many Dual Champions which both Work and hold qualifications, and compete in conformation classes.  And Working Sheepdogs / Border Collies can compete in both forums without needing to do one or the other first.

Maybe the thing we all owe for the adherence to 'Work (Sport) before Beauty competition' in Germany (sadly, though, not a requirement every where) is that body we know as the SV.  I can't think of one other Breed Club anywhere that was effectively started under the auspices of one person, that person being the 'creator' of that breed; and the SV still remains a distinctly different and effectively controlling organisation in an unmatched way (whatever its faults). Certainly still the largest membership Breed Society ever. Perhaps some other 'working' breeds could have benefitted from a similar structure ? Although a few seem to have retained a mixture of working ability and conformational precision without anything similar. [Just musing, here, I'm not sure which would be best, really.]


Your comment about the Rough Collie is interesting; AFAIK, the Collies the Captain saw were never really the peak of herding dogs, although used extensively, in Scotland and then Australia, at the end of the 19th Century. At least not here on the England / Scotland margins, where from something like the 1100s, shepherds increasingly preferred another sort of sheepdog, which then spread out from the areas where they originated. While it is true early Rough Collies were often used with sheep, they were outclassed by the black & white, medium-coated Border Collies, which were developed along a rather different ancestral route. The BC quickly took over among UK shepherds. Its interests were eventually promoted by the International Sheep Dog Society, I believe long before the UK's Kennel Club saw fit to Register the BC as a Breed, the ISDS still looking after non-KC 'purebred' Working Sheepdogs too. [Some snobbish Class division operating there, methinks.]


Photos of some of the early GSDs you mention (and others) exist, e.g. in very early breed books such as Joseph Schwabacher's 1922 volume "The Popular Alsatian", but I think it is safe to say that all the early Siegers (such as Roland Starkenburg, 1906/7) and other dogs thought breed-typical enough to go in the SVs Breed (Stud) Book had upright ears. There will be variation in how they are set-on and how large & heavy, or small, those ears were; but nobody is talking about which or how many litters threw up some soft-eared throwbacks to those early  Wurttemberger dogs (nor any which I believe probably existed in the Thuringian and Frankonian stock, even if most of those were prick-eared). Wolves do sometimes (admittedly apparently rarely !) have soft ears, or more often ears so widely & low-set that they could not honestly be described as 'erect'.

Roland and Courage of the Wachsmuth kennel, the pairing who produced Pollux, presumably had upright ears. Schwabacher doesn't give anything away when he writes about them and Pollux, or the ensuing generations, but its a fair bet they all had 'good' ear carriage.  The von Plieningen kennel was based in Wurttemberg stock but managed to produce much excellent early stock that complied to Standard, as well as Mores, the breed's 'Eve'. The only reference I can find to an originating 'German Sheep Dog' with soft ears is a mention of a bitch Von Stephanitz bought from Hanau on Main in 1897, he named her Freya of Grafrath and she seems to have become the mother of 4 litters of  Horand / Hector's pups.


by Rik on 25 April 2021 - 10:04

kloss, that was about as well presented and thought out post as I have ever read here. and the ability to go from the beginning to present day in just 4 short paragraphs, yet contain so many things to think about was brilliant.

I had thought, on my own with no evidence, maybe they went with the upright ears because there seems to be fewer issues than with down ears, such as infections etc. but the wolf analogy does seem to fit the bill perfectly.

anyway, I enjoyed reading it, several times so far and thanks for sharing your thoughts,



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