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Ears

Chihuahua Ears

Chihuahua with floppy ears
Overview

Chihuahua dogs are described as looking alert and a huge element of this is the shape, positioning and standing of the ears. Per AKC breed standards, the Chi’s ears should be ” Large, erect type ears, held more upright when alert”. 

Essentially, what this means is that the ears are large in proportion to the head and body…And that they should stand up and even more so when the dog is attentive. 

Chihuahua ears should not be cropped; this is a disqualification as ears should be as nature intended.  

Many owners worry about floppy ears, the age at which they should start standing up, lopsided issues. when the ears won't stand up and more.

This section will go over these concerns to help you better understand what is normal and elements that can affect how a Chihuahua’s ears stand.
Newborns

If you look at a litter of Chi’s you will notice that all have floppy ears. The muscles at the base of them are not yet strong enough to hold them up… This will change in time, however it will be a gradual process.

Puppies

It is not uncommon for owners to worry about when a Chihuahua's ears will stand up. It should be noted that ears may drop and stand erratically, until the muscles located at the base of the ear are fully formed and strong enough to hold ears permanently erect.

By the age of 8 to 12 weeks old, many puppies do have erect ears. This means that for many owners, when it is time to take the new puppy home, the ears are already standing. With some pups this young, the ears can actually curl back a bit at the tips.

While not a guarantee, most Chihuahua puppies that have a good standing or even a curl back at this young age will have erect ears after the teething age that can cause temporary limpness.
Teething Age and How It Affects Ears

Beginning as early as 4 months old and as late as 6 months old, a puppy’s milk teeth will begin to fall out. As they do, new permanent adult teeth grow in. Just like human babies, this process is called teething and not only does it cause discomfort and sometime intense urges to chew (in order to relieve soreness and itchiness), for many Chihuahua puppies, it also affects the ears.

During this phase, ears that were previously erect can begin to droop…And this can happen to one or both of them. Why does this happen and what is the connection? Well, during this time a puppy is chewing a LOT… jaw muscles are connected to the muscles at the ear base. It is true for us as well and you can test this out… place your fingers on your temple while you move your mouth open and closed. Do you feel it?

Therefore, due to intense chewing motions, those muscles can become overworked and strained. This in turn, can cause the muscles that hold up the Chihuahua’s ears to weaken and consequently lose their shape. In most cases, this is temporary. Once this puppy phase is over and all adult teeth have dropped down, ears will begin standing again.
During this time it is completely normal for there to be changes on a near daily basis… One may flop down…The next day the other may fall… both may begin to stand erect, only to have both droop the next day. It can be a bit of a roller coaster ride, however when all is said and done, the ears will sit as they were meant to.

It should be noted that long haired Chihuahuas tend to take a bit longer to have fully erect ears than short hairs.
Genetics

As mentioned above, that the “ears will sit as meant to”, this means that genetics plays a huge role. Erect ears are part of the breed standard and therefore, a desirable trait.

Responsible breeding includes the careful pairing of 2 dogs, striving to produce litters that will be as close to the breed standard as possible. If a pup’s parents (and grandparents…and up to 5 generations back) had excellent ear conformation, so should a pup.

With this all said, sometimes even a purebred AKC Chihuahua can have droopy ears….It can be a genetic quirk that simply happens once in a while and this does not mean that the dog is not a purebred. When this happens, it is considered a “fault” and the term for this is: broken down.

While the Chihuahua would not be able to be in conformation show events, this of course does not take away from him or her being the perfect pet. In regard to breeding, while drop-eared Chihuahuas are very cute, since this deviates from the standard and thus makes for dogs that are not genetically sound, they should not be bred as this trait can (and often is) passed down to the next generation.
Chihuahua with erect ears
Taping Methods and Other Techniques to Encourage Standing
  
There are some that are convinced that taping works, however it should be noted that just as many others are convinced that those same taped ears would stand erect on their own, in due time.

Massaging the ear base is a popular method of encouraging ear muscle strength and while it is not a proven method, many owners claim positive results. 

There are conflicting theories regarding additional calcium supplements to encourage a build up of ear cartilage.  While some suggest it can be helpful, there are a few studies that show it may contribute to higher incidences of hip dysplasia when given to growing puppies.
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