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

4 years ago

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

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.)

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.

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).

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.

I bought the most-often recommended glue, Tear Mender, which is a flexible natural-latex glue, and did a test last weekend. (The site even offers instructions.) Jake didn't seem to mind too much. Occasionally he would sit down and scratch at it to loosen it, nothing more. But after one day, I got nervous, and got down on the floor with Jake and some Goo Gone and removed the glue. But you know what? The ear stayed down, and looked amazing. For two whole days. But then it went back into its old position, across the top of his head.

So then I tried the other oft-prescribed method of using duct tape, which is also shown and talked about a ton in the dogosphere. YouTube videos, even! You create a kind of headgear with the tape, folding it over itself so it makes a band that goes under the chin without pulling the hair, and then attaching it on either side to each ear. Then you lap two pieces of duct tape over the top of the dog's head to hold it in place. It's a great idea -- but it didn't work. Well, it DID work at making me laugh until my sides hurt. See evidence below. Looks like grandma is wearing a shower cap. Or one of those olde-tymey football helmets. Or wrestling headgear. Or… duct tape!!

But Jake was able to pull it off quite easily and quite quickly. I tried three times. One morning he woke up wearing a duct-tape necklace; the other times, he just got it loose with a paw until he could get his teeth around it.

So I tried, again, to make my peace with the ears. But I can't. I just can't. Especially because a new version of the ears is the "combover," and I'm so sorry I don't have a picture of that. I was too busy weeping to take photos. He lets one ear flop to the side in a rose ear shape, with the other lying across his head, so he looks like a middle-aged middle manager trying to fool us all into thinking he has PLENTY of hair. Or, er, ears.

So I decided to commit and do the work that's needed to fix the ears once and for all. And that entails gluing the tip of his ear to the side of his head, and to keep regluing it as the glue works loose (one of the plusses of the latex glue is that it is flexible, and therefore, more comfortable, but that means it comes loose easily). This past weekend, I welcomed him as he came out of his cage in the morning, ready for our morning snugglefest. As he stretched and preened, I petted and stroked and rubbed and cooed and kissed. And while he was relaxing, I gently applied Tear Mender on the tips of his wayward ears with my fingers, and pressed them lovingly against his cheeks for 120 seconds and… glued his ears into the shape they were meant to be.

Insane? Justifiable? Too weird to be true? Have you ever done weird things for your pet?

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