how to: ear posting
There are a lot of methods ranging from backer rod, paper towel, tampons, metal frames, to zip ties. More than one will work if the principles are applied correctly. I've practiced a few different ways and seen pros/cons to them all. I can only give guidance on the method(s) I use and am comfortable with.
For "PRIMA puppies" we expect our puppies to be posted with the method/tips below and have available a kit at discounted cost (contact me if you are Prima owner needing kit) with the necessary supplies and unlimited consultation to help them get done easy and perfect.
If you do not have one of our puppies, and need help posting, this page is here to teach you too. Please consider supporting our time and effort by purchasing one of our convenient ear posting kits (HERE). I am happy to help all that I can! Please note I cannot and will not be able to help anyone doing different methods or alternate materials that I am not familiar or comfortable with.
videos of zip tie method:
Click to buy (HERE)
Thickest zip/duct ties you can find (re-use same zip tie until a new size is needed and then cut a new one!)
1" zonas tape
3M Spray adhesive
Cotton squares (not cotton balls)
Rubbing alcohol/adhesive remover solution
Gold bond medicated powder
*Wire cutters/shop shears (not included, needs to be strong enough to cut the zip ties)
1. Get your kit out and ready.
2. Remove puppy's existing ear posts (or cup), with rubbing alcohol or adhesive remover solution on a cloth to loosen the tape.
3. Clean out ears (you do not need to get all the sticky residual tape/adhesive off since you will just be adding more, but do get the inner ear canal cleaned out with the cloth.) Let it totally dry before taping again or the tape/adhesive will not stick. I massage the ears while they dry, they love it!
4. Hold the bare zip tie to the ear so you can get a measurement of how long to make it. Remember it will go all the way in the ear. It is better if it is slightly too long, it can be trimmed. If it is too short you have to throw it away and redo the posts.
5. Make the posts and have tape sections ready. Go right along with the video until you can do it by memory.
6. One person hold puppy, one person apply tapes. Go right along with the video until you can do it by memory.
7. Once finished, give the ears a good squeeze with the tapes on them, just to make sure it is all adhered well and secure. The ears do not hurt and the tape/posts do not hurt the puppy.
8. YES they will shake their head and scratch and paw at the posts. They should not come undone or pop out. If they do, immediately re-do them. (Tip: really shove the post down in the ear, be firm, it is like putting an ear plug in your own ear, it does not hurt but should be very secure.) They will eventually get used to posts and won't even notice them.
9. Give puppy a treat! And tell em good job!
10. Text or email me a pic. Not necessary every single time but definitely the first one or two and if you have any questions along the way.
*It helps to tape ears on a grooming table or other non slip raised surface. You can even get a yoga mat or nonslip mat to put on your table or counter. Then they will hold still MUCH better. I also dremel on a grooming table for same reason.
The basics of any posting..
When the puppies are born the ears are soft and floppy. At about 8-10 weeks age (give or take depending on their genetics and quality of nutrition) the ear cartilage begins to harden. If the ear is cropped and properly taped in an upright position, they will harden "upright." (They still have ear muscle control they can flatten or perk up the ears, but the ear set is up rather than down.) Time out of ear posts during this hardening phase will pull the ears down or permanently crease the ears in a floppy position. They NEED to be consistently posted until totally done or they will NOT stand.
They will (or should) be cropped between 7-9 weeks of age. I have seen some puppies cropped later, even up to 16 weeks of age and they are more risky to get standing but if posted correctly and consistently they should stand.
At first puppy's ears will be taped to a styrofoam cup on the head, it's pretty ridiculous and cute looking. This is while the ears heal from surgery. After 7-10 days the breeder or or your vet will remove the stitches but leaving the cup still on. After 10-14 days the cup can come off and they are ready to be posted.
They should be re-posted every 5-7 days. Or immediately if they get wet, fall out, or look super crooked. With other ear posting methods (backer rod, paper towel, etc) I would recommend to change ear posts every 3-5 days. With this zip tie method they may stay in longer (5-7 days) as long as they are secure and dry. The first couple times that you post the ears you may want to take them out sooner just to check how things are looking.
When I have been posting the ears for a few weeks (NOT right away), I start to test them for as long as they can stand fully straight and then re-post at first sign of weakness. I only test them once they look and feel hard and straight on their own all the way from the base to the tip. If they feel soft I post right away and do not test. So every 5-7 days I recheck. And then I start testing or re-testing when they feel hardened and secure.
When you test them... At first the ears will stand only 20min, then two hours, then half a day, a whole day, even a week or two weeks and then need reposted before testing again. Just test and post as needed until the end. Be careful not do undo any hard work by leaving them out too long or when they are not completely secure.
The general rule of thumb is that every few hours they spend unposted and are falling/tipping/bending (any position other than the whole ear straight up) equates to two weeks added posting time. At some point the cartilage is fully hardened and set so it can get too late to fix. If in doubt- post! Doesn't hurt.
Right at the end (on average 2-3mos of posting for medium length crops and 3-4mos or longer for show length crops) the base will be strong and hold the ear up. You may think they are done since they are upright but the tips may curl at the ends and want to drag the ear inward or downward. They are done but just the tip tip top is weak. Rather than keep posting the whole ear, I only do the tips. That's when I use breathe right strips for about a month or two on the tips only.* more info below
Important to note: at approximately 6mos of age puppy will be teething. During this time the ear cartilage may temporarily weaken. It's important to post through it as you'll loose all your hard work if they are left to flop. Sometimes owners will panic as the ears may have been all done and then all of a sudden weeks later start to go down again, this is because of teething. Just post a little more as necessary.
The do nots...
- Do not put elastikon on the outside of the ear, it will rip the skin off (if using backer rod method). I had a vet do this it was a bloody infected mess (so sticky it rips skin and hair). Do not put duct tape on the ears they are sensitive to the adhesive.
- Do not use any other tape than what is on the list- we have tried them ALL, they do not stick and/or cause irritation reactions.
- Do not use vet wrap (stretchy self sticking wrap comes in all colors, also called co flex or flexy wrap etc)- it tightens and shrinks from heat and can cut off ear circulation and require ear amputation. That may be in extreme circumstance but I just do not chance it and avoid that material all together. Some reputable breeders admit to using vet wrap, although it is a colorful pretty wrap and convenient- they have to constantly check it. I just do not use it and become very worried if I see it used on my puppies.
- Do not let puppy sleep overnight with un-posted ears unless they are done-done-done very secure. Not until you're SURE they can stay up on their own for days/weeks at a time. Sleeping is when the ears make the most progress, for better or for worse depending if they're posted or left to fall down.
- Do not feed food that is labeled as "puppy formula" unless specifically instructed by breeder or vet. Do not feed calcium supplements unless specifically instructed- if you are and don't know why you shouldn't, ask me. Basically it can really mess up their joints by causing too rapid of growth. In certain situations there is a calcium supplement I have used and found helpful to speed up the process. Consult with breeder or veterinarian before use though! It's called "Sure Grow."
- Try not to let the ears get soaked wet (like from a bath when they're unposted), they turn to wet noodle.
- Do not have your vet post the ears, the only vet I have ever seen post ears in an even remotely successful fashion is a breeder/judge of Dobermans that has raised them himself and does some of the country's nicest crops. Veterinarians are not trained in vet school how to tape ears cosmetically, they generally know how to dress wounds which is different then cosmetic taping for ear posting. But they will get creative or try different ideas. I have seen all kinds of crazy tape jobs from vets that usually results in A LOT of tape even tape all over the head and under the jaw. Very uncomfortable for puppy and no breathing room in the ears. If your vet/assistant are willing to go through this page (they're welcome to contact me as well) then they would do a fantastic job. I would still learn to do this yourself since puppies will need re-taped at odd hours/weekends/trips when the vet is not accessible.
- Call/text/email any time with pics or questions if it looks right.
- Really stretch the ear up tight when taping, the tape need not be tight around the ear but the ear itself should be pulled up taught while its posted. This is what speeds up the process.
- I recommend posting at night after puppy gets a good play romp. Have one person hold and one person tape. Give treats at the end.
- Spend time massaging the ears when you get the tape off- it's relaxing and also helps them heal/harden faster.
- Vitamin C supplement may help, but too much can result in diarrhea. You could try adding scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, and/or yogurt in meals to help process but it is only a minor aid and sometimes makes them dependent on "goodies" to eat their food (not good). I have not supplemented my puppies with these things they have just stood after our diligent posting, but I have heard other breeders recommending the supplements.
- Keep posting supplies with you always, you never know when you might need to quickly repost.
- Send me finished picture! And give yourself a pat on the back for sticking to it.
breathe right strips
Used at the very end when the ears are up but the tip tops are curling in or out and need straightened but not fully posted.
Breathe Right Strips (best to use the "Breathe Right" brand, the largest strongest tan ones)
Either: the 3M spray from the kit OR eyelash glue like to put fake eyelashes on OR Torbot glue a surgical glue*
*the strips will NOT stick without glue! I hear great reviews from the strips and eyelash glue from Target. I've personally gotten my breathe right strips at Walgreens and ordered the Torbot glue on Amazon.
With fresh, dry, clean ears... paint the glue on the sticky side of the breathe right strip. Allow it a minute or two to start setting up and get "tacky," if you put it on right away it is too wet and slick. Press the strip onto the inside of the ear at the tip, in a vertical position, in a way that braces the tip straight up. Keep your fingers pressing it onto the ear until it is secure. Keep an eye on your dobe the first few min so they don't wipe or shake it off until it is set in place. Let them stay on as long as they will stick, could be a couple days or could last a week or more. Depends how rough your dog is on their ears.
photo of breathe right strips on doberman:
Everybody asks me, "Are the ears done? When are they done?" This is individual to each puppy. They are done when they stand fully straight up all the way from base to tip, not bending in or out, and stay that way for weeks at a time. The key is to keep posting! It never hurts to post a little longer. You'll know when they're done and can always check with me.
Ear posting is not rocket science. I hear of some "bad experience" stories and people wanting to give up, that is only when they have the wrong method/materials, or a bad crop/vet. If you follow along with the videos with the right materials, firm to apply the posts, and stay dedicated to keep them posted for as long as they need- it will be just fine! You will become a pro in no time and can tape ears in your sleep almost! It is a 2-3mos period on average (some dogs require longer), but for the next 9+ years of beautiful standing ears it is well worth the effort.