Easy Ear Training!
When you picked up your *adorable* Collie puppy from us, we talked about ears; and now that you've had some time to think about it, maybe you want to make sure your Collie keeps that classic Collie expression by training their ears to tip. You might have read our other blog post on Ear Training and been overwhelmed, which might sway your decision to let your Collie pups ears do what they want. But for those of you who want a tipped ear to keep that soft Collie expression, yet also are not going to be showing so the finer details aren't as big of a deal, there is a easy way to get those tipped ears without tape, bracing, and frustration!
Using glue to simply hold the ear tip in position as calcium in deposited in the cartilage, making it more firm as your puppy ages, is a easy way to ensure your puppies ears tip! This process does need to start at a young age, and be continued until they are fully done teething (and for females though their first heat cycle); about 6 to 10 months of age. It doesn't hurt them, nor is it uncomfortable for puppies. Starting when their cartilage is still soft, and simply holding the ears in the shape you want them to stay in, allows the cartilage to firm over time in the correct shape.
The work involved in this method is minimal, about 5 to 10 min every 10 to 14 days, or so. The more you do it, the faster you'll get and more more both you and your Collie pup understand the process! Ear training also helps your pup get used to having their head and ears handled regularly, and spend time on a table, which will benefit them later in life.
The products needed are inexpensive and easy to find on Amazon, links and product names will be listed below. And they will last you most, if not all, of the ear training timeline for your pup!
I highly recommend putting a yoga mat or towel on a table to set the puppy on while you do ears, as well as regular grooming. A grooming table with arm to hold a lead is very useful, and not a big investment. Many fold down easily to take up little space when unused. You can often find them lightly used for sale as well!
Since your Collie puppy probably was sent home with their ears set from us, we'll begin with how to remove any glue from the ear hair. If your puppy came home with a tape brace (a strip of tape holding the ears together at the top of the head), it will peel off easily with some adhesive remover. If it didn't already fall out from rambunctious puppy play!
This video shows the liquid Uni-Solve Adhesive Remover being used, which makes it easy to apply a good amount to soak the area. Other options include the Uni-Solve Adhesive Remover Wipes, Medline Adhesive Remover Pads, or other similar adhesive removing wipes products. Wipes keep the amount of oil you need to clean off later to a minimum. Other adhesive remover products that are safe for use on skin, or good old rubbing alcohol (not as effective or quick to use, but it does work!), are also options.
A metal grooming comb is also used to get any glue out of the ear hair, a small comb such as the 4.5 Inch Master Grooming Tools Greyhound Comb is easier to manipulate around the ears then the standard 7+ inch size used for full body grooming. However, the fine toothed side of a standard sized greyhound comb works fine, as does carefully picking out glue with your fingernails!
Note: These videos are both of Sheltie puppies, Collies have their ears trained in the exact same manner, and these tutorial videos are the best currently available on YouTube.
Once you have all the old glue removed from the ears, you will need to clean the ears and let them dry before re-gluing. Letting the ears be loose for a day is a good option, but as long as the ears are clean and dry you can re-glue them in the same setting if you'd like. If your Collies ears came undone on their own, as they often do around the 10 to 14 day mark, you can also just let them be "free" for a day before cleaning and re-setting. If the ears have not come undone on their own, it is a good idea to remove the glue, clean and inspect the ears before resetting them after 2 weeks.
Cleaning the ears is easy, simply use a cotton ball, cotton round pad (my preference), even a paper towel in a pinch; soak a few in some rubbing alcohol, and wipe the ear leather clean. Wipe from the base of the ear to the tip, so nothing is pushed down into the ear canal. You'll want to make sure to remove any oily residue from adhesive remover from the hair around the ear, as well as the skin if the ear leather. You do not need to go down into the ear canal, only ear cleaning solution should be used to clean dog's ear canals. But do make sure to clean well around the base of the ear where the tip will be glued down too. Any leftover oil from adhesive remover will make your ear set not last near as long, and can irritate skin when left on for an extended period of time.
Once the ears are clean and dry, you can use Tear Mender glue to hold the ear in place as shown in this video. Keep in mind a little glue goes a long way! Dabbing the glue on using the tip of the glue bottle works better than letting full drops drip on. Full drops will also run and make a mess, where dabbing the glue on keeps it in the place you want it to be! Just wipe off the tip of the glue bottle when you are done, before closing it up.
This video shows where to put the glue, and how to tip the ear over into place. While your holding the ear to let the glue set, I like to give a little ear massage and fuss over them to make it a nice experience. Some treats are always appreciated too!
The last step, starting at the 2:15 mark is not necessary, and if you do choose to brace the ears together at the top of the head, it only needs to be done until about 12 weeks old. The additional step shown in the video to use a dot of glue to attach the ears together over the top of the head, using hair to hold them together; is not as effective, or comfortable, as a tape style brace, in my opinion. It does not help with the tipping of the ears, only with ear set. Collie ears (and Sheltie ears, as shown) are to sit high on the top of the head when at alert, if your puppies ears are already set high bracing is not needed. If you want to raise a low ear set, bracing from 8 to 12 weeks or so, can help. However, I recommend a tape brace as shown in the other Ear Tipping blog post for comfort and effectiveness. Again, a brace is not needed for the ears to tip, and most of our puppies have a nice high ear set without any help!
So there you have it, easy ear training! This method makes it simple to get that classic Collie expression with the tipped ears for non-show puppies.