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Natural Ears

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  • o In some countries Boxers are normally shown with their ears cropped. In other countries it is illegal to crop dogs' ears. I live in Australasia where I am pleased to say, it is illegal to crop (not that I have any problem with cropped ears, I'm just very glad that it is something we don't have to do with our dogs).

    Since my first forays onto the Internet in 1994 I have often been asked how you get natural ears to sit correctly. I get a little bored from emailing the same information to lots of people so I have put this information onto my Web site. Here are my opinions about natural ears...


    I am aware that some people in America and Canada say that the ears of Boxers in their countries cannot sit properly because they haven't been 'breeding for ears' over the years. In my opinion, this is an argument used mainly by those who are personally opposed to natural ears. The fact is, there are many people in countries like UK, Australia, New Zealand where cropping is illegal who have bred very closely to American/Canadian lines but have few problems with having natural ears sit nicely. Plus, in uncropped countries most breeders do not breed specifically for ears. Most breeders know how to get the ears to sit right, but even if we had a dog who's ears didn't sit right, although we might not show them, we'd still breed from them. (I have seen some horrendous ear sets in brood bitches!) My theory is that in countries where most breeders crop, the breeders simply have no way of learning how to help the ears to sit correctly and so dogs in those countries who do have natural ears end up with ones that sit funny.

    Perhaps I'm totally wrong about all of this. I'd be happy to hear other opinions.

    Getting Natural Ears to Sit right.

    Some pups' ears sit correctly without help - wonderful! But usually when the pup teethes the ears go very strange, sitting at odd angles and I believe that you need to reinforce the correct fold to make sure they don't stay that way. Once they sit correctly on their own most of the time, you don't need to do anything more with them - it is natural for the ears to fold back sometimes - we use the technique of dropping then raising bait suddenly to get the ears to fall into the right position when showing - they tend to sit back after the dogs have run around or when they're hot.

    First step is to be sure you know how the ears sit when correct. Study photos of natural eared Boxers from both side & front views - make sure you're happy about the correct look. (Some photos appear around this page.) I have seen several Boxers owned by inexperienced people who have tried to correct the ears but in fact made them worse by helping them grow into the WRONG position.

    It is the top fold that you should be reinforcing if you are concerned about how the ears are sitting. If you leave it too late, the fold may already be defined in the wrong place and it is hard to change. When viewed from the top the ears should fold almost like an 'L' with one side of the L against the skull and the other side sticking out perpendicular to the skull.

    By massaging gently with the thumb coming down over the front of the ear and rubbing downwards, and the rest of the fingers against the back of the ear you can reinforce this top fold. If your thumb is positioned in the corner of the 'L' shape (ie between the part of the ear that sits against the skull and the part that sticks out) you can be reinforcing this 'fold' slightly at the same time you are pressing gently to reinforce the top fold. Note though that if the top fold is correct (this top fold should be quite a 'defined' crease) then the other fold will occur naturally anyway. The bend in the 'L' shape is a much gentler fold, not so defined, and I don't think it's a good idea to keep pressing the ears into this fold when they won't naturally be in a TIGHT fold there. I've heard other breeders recommend folding the ears against this fold, but I really haven't seen any need.

    Viewed from the front the top fold should be a slight slope down from the top of the skull with quite a bit of the side of the ear touching the skull. If the side of the ear isn't touching the skull enough, you probably have the top fold not sloping downwards enough (a common error is for people to fold the ears straight across the top), causing the ears to sit too far out to the side.

    The massage itself is something you can just do when the pup is asleep beside you. You fold the top fold just as though you were reinforcing the fold in a piece of cardboard (but very gently) and rub it. Do it whenever you have a chance, and always correct the position of the ears if you see them sitting funny, rub a little if they won't seem to sit correctly. So you're doing two things:- (1) massaging the fold once or twice a day and (2) correcting the ears whenever you notice they're sitting wrong. If you keep doing both the ears will sit correctly in adulthood.

    Me Offending People with My Opinions

    I see massage as a humane and reliable way of working on natural ears. I know that some breeders tape natural ears or stick weights to them to make them sit correctly. I have seen gentle rubbing work on enough Boxers' ears to convince me that more 'intrusive' measures are unnecessary...of course if your dog is stuck out in a kennel all day & night and only let out for exercise you might find massaging ears inconvenient compared to sticking something onto your pup's ears. If this applies to you, I would suggest perhaps going into keeping birds, farm animals, or hamsters and giving up on Boxers.