Thinking about getting a cute little Border Collie puppy? Congrats! But what’s the deal with those adorable pointy ears of theirs?

border collie puppies ears


What is a Border Collie?

Border Collies are hilarious, adorable, and very active dogs. They are known for being very affectionate and physically agile. Border Collies were originally bred to be animal herders—specifically sheep herders. They have actually been referred to as “the world’s greatest herders,” which explains why they love working hard and having a job to do.

Border Collies are high energy, very intelligent, easy to train, and athletic. This fun-loving dog breed has been around for more than 130 years. Winning competition after competition, and dominating in competitive sheepdog trials and agility competitions ever since.

border collie running in water

Do Border Collies' Ears Stand Up?

Border Collies have medium-sized ears that come to a point at the end. Sometimes they stand up in a totally alert position. Or sometimes they are just “semi-alert.”

According to the American Kennel Club, the breed standard description says, “Ears are of medium size, set well apart, one or both carried erect and/or semi-erect (varying from one-quarter to three-quarters of the ear erect). When semi-erect, the tips may fall forward or outward to the side.”

So although you may be hoping for the type of Border Collie that can stand both ears completely erect all the time… That’s just not the rule, it’s the exception.

brown border collie with tipped ears

Should a Border Collie's Ears Be Tipped?

If a Border Collie’s ears are “tipped,” that means that ¾ of the ear can stand erect, with the top ¼ of the ear flopping forward. Even though this isn’t the breed standard specification, a lot of Border Collie owners expect them to naturally and consistently be like this.

There is definitely a big controversy over Border Collie ears. “Fans of the border collie breed are divided into two broad camps: those who emphasize its role as a working dog, and those who encourage breeding for a standardized appearance.”

The Border Collie groups who care more about the working role of this breed believe that getting even more specific about the ear alertness, shape, and symmetry will overshadow the actual talents of the dog. And that will take away from the reason these pups were originally bred over 130 years ago… To be athletic, agile working dogs.

Can You Change a Border Collie’s Ears?

Some people want that “tipped” ear look so badly, they will actually change the natural shape of their dog’s ears to get it. Even though this tipped look is so highly desired, it’s actually not as common as the “pricked” ear shape. A “pricked” ear is where less than ¾ of the ear stands erect.

Although there are ways to change and shape your dog’s ears, this has nothing to do with the health and wellbeing of your pup. It’s completely cosmetic, and only satisfies the owner’s desired look for their dog. There is nothing of benefit for the Border Collie.

How Do You Keep a Border Collie's Ears Tipped?

To achieve this “tipped” ear look, people will tape or brace their dog’s ears as a puppy. And some will continue to do this into their adulthood. If you decide to do this, it’s best to do before they are 7 months old, and not continue after that age. This will help shape their ears while they are growing as a puppy to train them to stand upright.

But remember, this has no health benefit. And it will not change the DNA they send on to their future puppies—if your dog is going to breed at all. Please be careful with your pup's ears if you do this. They are sensitive, and you don’t want to tape or brace them too tight, and accidentally cut off circulation, or cause any pain.

How to Clean Border Collies’ Ears

Speaking of ears, let’s talk about how to clean them, and help prevent ear infections for your sweet Border Collie. Cleaning your pup’s ears is super easy to do, and it can save you both a lot of headache later on!

You’ll want to use a dog ear cleaning solution. They all come with instructions on the bottle in case you forget. But just squeeze the liquid to fill their ear canal with the solution. Then, “massage the vertical ear canal from the outside. Wipe out the canal with absorbent gauze.”

Jeff Grognet, DVM—a columnist for AKC Family Dog—tells us that it’s best to avoid using paper towels or cotton balls to dry out your dog’s ears. These materials could leave fibers behind. And depending on how sensitive your dog’s ears are, these extra fibers could irritate their ear canal.

If you think your dog may already have an ear infection, don’t worry. Just take them to your veterinarian for medications, and they will heal up soon.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

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