Why I Glued My Dog's Ears to His Head. No, Seriously.

Why I Glued My Dog's Ears to His Head. No, Seriously.

Have you ever found yourself doing something in life you thought you would never, ever, ever do?

Jake pre-cone

That's where I am right now. I am getting ready to glue my dog's ears down, to help reshape the cartilage before it sets.

I know, whaaaaat? I feel like it's a crazy dream and I'm making it up that this is something I have decided to do. And, in fact, have already done once, and am going to do again.

Totally inhumane, right? Well, not really. Breeders do it. Regular dog owners do it. There's a whole world of information available about how to get dogs' ears to set properly, according to their breed characteristics. I never knew that there are FOURTEEN different kinds of dog ears, and that each breed has a specific ear therein associated.

Who would ever have guessed I would give a hoot about such a thing? Not me. I mean, I purposefully went out and adopted myself a mutt, for crying out loud. I wasn't looking for particular traits, other than short-haired and ridiculously adorable. (Which we got in spades.)

Jake puppy

But then Jake (the name of my ridiculously adorable, shorthaired Fox Terrier-Labrador Retriever mix) went and sliced his leg open on the metal frame of my bed while wriggling around underneath it trying to get the cat, necessitating a late-night visit to the pet hospital. He left with three staples in that leg, and the cone of shame.

He dealt with the cone pretty well, for a spirited puppy. He fought with it for a day, and then he just ignored it. But then something strange happened: He started carrying his ears folded on top of his head. Apparently the cone just nudged up against the fold of his ears (his pre-cone ears are held in a "button" shape, folded over just in the middle with the ear pointing down toward the face) and he didn't find that comfortable, so he starting pointing his ears forward when he walked, and lapped over the top of his head when he was sitting or sleeping, like a kerchief. I kid you not.

UCLA library

It was funny at first, adorable even. But then he stopped carrying his ears in button fold, ever. Surely this will all go back to normal after the cone, I thought, since I see plenty of dogs with cones, but I have never seen a dog wearing his ears folded on top of his head like some kind of canine granny.

But no. The cone came off, and the ears stayed strange. Except now it looks even stranger without the shape of the cone to explain just what, exactly, he is doing with his ears. They did recover a little -- just enough to go into a triangle on top of his head, which a friend coined "prayer" shape (which is not on the list of the official ear styles of dogs, because it is ridiculous-looking).

prayer ears

Here is the church

Here is the steeple

Here is me wondering just what the hell happened to my dog's ears

So when I took him to the vet to have the staples removed, I said, "So his ears will go back to normal, right?"

The vet took a good look at Jake, having been previously focused on the leg, and burst out laughing.

"I don't know," he said. "I've never seen that before."


My vet is not short in the tooth, so this was quite shocking to hear. Apparently my dog really is as unique and special as I'd thought. Boo-hoo!

So I tried not to care. I thought about how original it makes him. I dreamed that maybe his prayer ears would bring us fame equal to that of Grumpy Cat's. But what to call him: Triangle Head? Kerchief Ears? The helpful friend told me he would be useful in teaching my son what an isosceles triangle is. Gee, thanks!

So I did what any dogmother would do and hit Google. Some careful searching and a few visits to popular forums for dog owners netted me the information that many, many people tape or glue their dog's ears. (Well, that is except for the dog owners who dock or crop their dog's ears, i.e. cut them, as is the common practice for Great Danes.) The cartilage in dogs' ears remains soft and flexible through teething, and the ears can and will change position quite easily and without pain—which is how Jake's ears ended up this way in the first place.

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