Will my German Shepherd mix’s ears stand up?
Crossbreeds have boomed in popularity in recent years due to their status as “designer dogs”. It can be difficult to determine exactly how a mixed dog will look. Breeds with totally different qualities will produce pups with characteristics from both parents, and there’s no way of guaranteeing exactly what the pup will inherit from each one. Different pups from the same litter can also present with different traits from their siblings.
That said, certain traits, like short hair, for example, are genetically dominant and therefore will be passed on over others, like long hair, which is genetically recessive. Dominant traits are those that require only one copy of a specific gene for the trait to be passed down to a pup. Recessive traits, on the other hand, need two copies; one from each parent.
However, just because a trait is passed on or carried, doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will be physically present and visually identifiable in the pup. They could just carry it and pass it on to their own offspring, even though they don’t look as though they have it themselves. It’s unusual, but it does happen!
So, which is dominant; pricked or floppy ears? The answer is – floppy ears! Floppy ears are genetically dominant to pricked ears in dogs. So, when predicting what your German Shepherd crossbreed’s ears will look like, look at their parents. Or, if you don’t know the parent dogs, consider the other breed in the mix.
For example, according to the German Shepherd website Sheppedsome of the most popular German Shepherd crossbreeds of 2021 are Golden Shepherds (a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix) and Siberian Shepherds (a German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix).
Golden Shepherds are more than likely to have floppy ears because the majority of Golden Retrievers have floppy ears, whereas Siberian Shepherds will almost certainly have pricked ears because Siberian Huskies’ ears are always pricked.
Can a dog’s ears affect their temperament?
No, the shape of a dog’s ears does not affect their temperament. It is well-known that some genetic physical traits can marginally affect a dog’s personality. For example, long-haired German Shepherds are generally known to be sweeter in temperament than short-haired ones and black German Shepherds are said to have “an edge” over other colors of the breed.
However, there is nothing to suggest that ear size, shape, or type affects a dog’s personality in any way – and nothing shapes a dog’s temperament more than the way that they are treated by humans.
That said, different ear shapes in dogs does tend to reflect their original working purpose. For example, the Spaniel, a gun dog, has floppy ears that gather and hold scent particles. This helped them track down what they were looking for much faster back in the day.
German Shepherds, on the other hand, along with other wolf-like breeds, such as the Siberian husky, have pricked, pointed ears. This is thought to aid their hearing during guard work, keep their body temperature under control during strenuous hunts, and give them an alert look to ward off predators.
This may be why people are statistically more likely to perceive dogs with pricked ears as more threatening, according to research conducted by James Madison University, USA, in 2015. This is not necessarily true, however, as any dog lover will know. It is likely down to something old and instinctual, as they also discovered that people perceived coat colors differently, too.
Does ear shape affect a dog’s hearing?
The type of ears that a dog has can affect their hearing. More specifically, heavy, flopped ears that cover the canal can slightly muffle sound and lessen a dog’s hearing distance, but only marginally.
Whether a dog has pricked ears or floppy ears, they have 18 different muscles that control them to funnel sounds from all different directions. A healthy-hearing dog of any kind can still hear from 40 to 60,000 hertz, which is more than double what human ears can hear!
The bottom line
Whether your German Shepherd’s ears are pricked or floppy, so long as they are safe and loved, that’s all that matters.
However, if you are concerned about them, watch out for other signs of potential problems and ask your vet for a check-up if you’re worried.