Whilst some dogs are born with floppy ears that stand as they grow, and some are born with their ears already standing to attention the majority with pointy ears are ancestrally from herding stock.
This includes the Blue Heeler. Officially an Australian Cattle Dog the term ‘Blue’ referrers to his color and ‘Heeler” from his propensity to snap at the heels of the cattle he is tasked with herding.
In this article, we will look at the Blue Heeler and his ears. Do they stand up, when do they stand up, and what if they don’t stand up? Once done, there will be nothing that you don’t know about the Blue Heeler and his ears!
Australian Cattle Dogs are born with floppy ears. They will usually begin to stand from around four to six months of age as the cartilage and muscle strengthen. Blue Heeler’s ears don’t always stand. Some remain floppy and some have one floppy ear and one pointed ear.
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What is the Blue Heeler?
The Blue Heeler and the Red Heeler are, in fact, the Australian Cattle Dogs. Also known as the Queensland Heeler, the Australian Heeler, and Halls Heeler he was originally bred to work on farms and herd cattle across the vast and rough terrain of Western Australia.
Crossed with the indigenous Dingo and the colonial working dog of the Australian settlers these hardy hounds were bred to withstand the harsh Australian environment. He was first registered with the AKC (American Kennel Club) in 1980 as a working bred but was transferred to the herding register in 1983.
Whilst still a popular breed amongst farmers many Blue Heelers of today are kept solely as pets. However, with such a strong working background he needs to be placed with an active family and will always be at his happiest with a job to do.
Are Blue Heelers Born with Floppy Ears?
The Blue Heeler has remarkable hearing and are known for their alertness. They have pointed ears to enable them to hear any predators or dangers better.
However, they are not born with their trademark pointy ears, which, by virtue of the AKC should be “of moderate size, preferably small rather than large, broad at the base, muscular, pricked and moderately pointed neither spoon nor bat eared. The ears are set wide apart on the skull, inclining outwards, sensitive in their use and pricked when alert, the leather should be thick in texture and the inside of the ear fairly well furnished with hair.”
When they are born the ears are floppy, like many other dogs. This is due to the bone and cartilage being much softer when they are puppies. In most cases, the ears will stand to attention as the dog grows but occasionally, they may need a little help. Some will remain floppy.
Even though a pointed ear is part of the breed standard for the Australian Cattle Dog unless you intend to show them then it really is just an aesthetical issue should they remain floppy.
What Age do Blue Heelers Ears Stand Up?
You should be able to start to feel a firmness at the base of the ear at about 4 to 6 weeks. This is the cartilage beginning to harden. However, it could be a good few weeks yet before you start to see the ear straighten.
In order for the ear to be completely pointed upwards the muscle and cartilage within need to be strong enough to hold it. These both strengthen as your puppy grows. You should begin to see a marked difference in the stance of the ear at about 6 months but sometimes it can be later than this, even up to a year.
The ears can sometimes begin to stand quite early and then become floppy again when your puppy begins teething. This is because the teething process can ‘steal’ the nutrients which were being used to strengthen the cartilage used to keep the ears upright.
Calcium deposits can also form making the ears too heavy to stand. Once all those gnashers are in, the nutrients will divert back, the calcium deposits will fade, and the ears will begin to stand again. It is advised, unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian, to avoid extra calcium in their diet, especially during this period.
Most of the time both ears will reach a point where there are standing up permanently. However, in some Blue Heelers, only one ear will eventually be upright, and in others, both may remain floppy.
Why Does my Blue Heeler have Floppy Ears?
Firstly, ask yourself how old your Blue Heeler is. If he is still a puppy this is why his ears may still be floppy. However, if he is over six months of age it may be that the ears need a little help to point.
Take a look at where your puppy’s ears sit on his head. Generally, ears that will eventually point will be set both higher on the head and closer together than ears that don’t. This could give you your first indication as to whether your Blue Heeler will have floppy ears.
If your puppy is older than six months and there is no sign that their ears are beginning to straighten it may be that there is a nutrient deficiency, or they are lacking the muscle they need to keep them pointed.
It may just be that your Blue Heeler has softer ear cartilage which doesn’t have the strength to hold the ear straight. Another reason is that larger ears may be too heavy to support.
It could be a genetic disposition, so there is probably very little you can do. This doesn’t mean that your Blue Heeler is unhealthy in any way but just that he is going to be your floppy-eared best friend. His ears not growing to a standing position should not affect him at all and is purely cosmetic.
If your Blue Heeler’s ears are failing to stand of their own accord, there are some steps you can take to help them along.
How to Make a Blue Heelers Ears Stand Up?
If your Blue Heeler is a pet then it shouldn’t be of any concern that their ears, or ear, don’t stand up. However, it does mean that they won’t meet the breed standard.
If you are planning to show your Australian Cattle Dog and you are worried that their ears are not going to stand there are a few measures you can take to encourage the process:
- You can manually manipulate the ear by gently moving it up and down to encourage the muscle strength required for the ear to stand unaided.
- An alternative natural option is to give him a chew toy. The natural act of chewing will help to strengthen the dog’s head and jaw muscles including those used to support the upright ear. More chewing will always equal stronger jaw muscles.
- Another way to help strengthen the muscle, allowing the cartilage to grow sufficiently to keep the ears erect is to use medical tape to keep them in position. Many breeders would advise that taping early, from around 2-3 months, gives the best results. Please do not attempt to tape your Blue Heelers ears without first checking with your veterinarian that it is safe to do so.
- Lack of nutrients could be a possible factor. If your puppy isn’t receiving the nourishment he needs to enable him to grow properly then this could have numerous negative effects. Ensure that the food you are feeding him meets all his dietary requirements and is of high quality and is not packed with fillers.
- Just how much hair is inside those canine lugs? Too much can mean they’re too heavy to hold up. A quick and careful trim can help not only the ears to then stand upright but be more comfortable for your dog.
- Cropping is another option. However, we at KYD would never endorse this practice. Whilst the practice is illegal in Australia, New Zealand, and the vast majority of Europe unfortunately it is permitted by both the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs and within their respective countries.
Blue Heeler Ear Problems / Do Blue Heelers Go Deaf
Ear conditions are more prevalent in dogs with floppy ears. However, that doesn’t mean that your Blue Heeler can’t contract an ear infection. The ears should be checked weekly for both unpleasant odors and excessive redness or soreness.
He may also show you that he is having ear problems with excessive scratching, hair loss around the ear, or rubbing his ear and the adjacent area on the carpet or furniture.
Cleaning his ears regularly will help to keep them infection free. It is important that you never insert anything into the ear canal itself and just concentrate on the outer ear. A swift wipe with a damp cotton ball is enough to remove any dirt if you clean them frequently enough but you may also choose to use specific pH-balanced ear cleaners.
Always contact your veterinarian if you are worried or suspect an ear infection.
The Australian Cattle Dog is one of the breeds most frequently affected by deafness. Congenital hereditary sensorineural deafness is most often inherited by ACDs whose faces are plain and without patches of pigment across their bodies. It can affect both ears (bilateral deafness) or just one (unilateral deafness).
The BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test is a reliable method of ascertaining that your dog is deaf. It can also accurately determine whether the issue is bilateral or unilateral. The test is relatively inexpensive and works by checking the brain’s response to noise which is most often a clicking sound.
How to Tell if your Dog is Deaf
There are a few signs to watch out for which may indicate that your dog is partially or fully deaf. These can include:
- Unresponsive to common, everyday sounds. For example, the vacuum cleaner or the doorbell
- Hard to train, does not respond to verbal commands or his name
- Excessive barking
- Hard to awaken when sleeping
- Not as active as you would expect
If you are at any time concerned about your Blue Heeler’s hearing, you should speak with your veterinarian in the first instance in order to arrange tests to establish whether there is any hearing loss.
How Can you Tell if a Blue Heeler is Purebred?
There are a few visual checks that you can make to determine that your Blue Heller is purebred. Firstly, take a look at the color. He should either be blue, blue speckled, or blue mottled.
Check out his size. The Blue Heeler should weigh between 35lbs and 50lbs. The male will stand between 18” and 20” at the shoulders whilst the female is slightly shorter at between 17” to 19”.
The ears are of medium size, preferably small than large. They are wide set, moderately pointed, and muscular.
His muzzle should be deep, powerful, and of medium length. He has a scissor bite with tight, clean lips.
His tail should reach the joint between the thigh and his lower leg. When at rest it should show a slight curve with a good brush.
These points are taken from the breed standard. Should any characteristics deviate from this it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog isn’t an Australian Cattle Dog, but you would be unlikely to be able to show him.
There are doggy DNA tests available but if you choose to take one in order to confirm your Blue Heeler’s status ensure you shop around and read reviews. Some labs have notoriously incorrect results.
Blue Heeler Ear Meanings
Once you learn the meanings you should be able to read your dog’s mood from the position of their ears.
If the ears are pointing forward then your dog is well engaged, paying attention, or is curious about the current situation. If they are flat against his head this is a sign of aggression or fear.
Ears that are back mean that your dog is feeling unhappy or sad.