No dog is born with straight, erect ears, and few breeds have ears that naturally stand on their own when they are adult dogs. Due to the common practice of cropping at an early age, many people are unaware that dogs such as Dobermans, Great Danes, boxers and many terriers have their ears altered to give them their distinct appearance. The Chihuahua is a breed that, with maturity, will have naturally erect ears, however, there are some Chihuahuas that will not. Owners who have floppy-eared Chihuahuas should consider whether they should let the ears stay in their natural state or if they should be manually or surgically altered to a standing position.
Causes of Floppy Ears
If your Chihuahua has floppy ears it may because they have not matured long enough for their ears to stand. If you have an older dog with floppy ears then this trait is likely to be genetic. This can happen because of several reasons. Your dog may not be a full breed Chihuahua. It may be the offspring of a Chihuahua and another dog that did not have erect ears. This may have occurred several generations back and beyond a breeder's knowledge. Responsible, reputable breeders, however, would know that about their line and desist in breeding them. There is also the possibility of excessive breeding of pure breed dogs. Puppy mills,where the puppies found in pet stores come from, will often breed animals indiscriminately and allow undesirable genetic traits such as floppy ears on a Chihuahua to come through. Canine DNA tests are available for around £32. Dog owners send in a sample of their dog's hair or saliva and, in return, get a report on their dog's true breed(s).
Normal Ear Development
When a Chihuahua puppy is born its ears are not erect. They are smooth and flop freely next to the head. It takes 3-6 months before they become fully erect. This is due to growing muscle and cartilage development within the ear of the puppy which causes the ears to begin to stand and stay in this position. Little can be done to manually start this process. If your dog's ears have not settled in their standing position by the time the dog is six months old, they will probably never stand up. You can accept this or seek out other options, such as cropping.
Cropping of Ears
Cropping the ears of a Chihuahua is not recommended. Cropping is essentially cosmetic surgery for animals and while up to the personal preference of the owner, it's a procedure that is not without risk, especially for an older dog. It involves cutting the ears and bracing the areas with tape and aluminium bars. The animal must be sedated. You should speak with your veterinarian about this and consider the risks to your pet. Note that if you have a dog that you consider show quality, the AKC disqualifies Chihuahuas with cropped ears.
Depending on the age of your Chihuahua, you might try to assist the ears in standing erect without cropping. This is only recommended for puppies that are going through the natural ear maturation process. If you're concerned that the ears may not stand up, you may consider this. If the puppy is more than eight weeks old but less than four months, it's possible to place a soft brace on the ears made of tape and small first aid splints. What you are trying to do is assist the muscle and cartilage to form in a certain way. Remember to keep these on constantly but for no more than 21 days. There is no guarantee, however, that the ears will stand erect.
Natural Ear Care
If your Chihuahua's ears do not stand up by the time it is six to eight months old, it's unlikely that they ever will. Oftentimes, this is just a genetic issue -- a difference, not a flaw. You simply may need to adjust your expectations and accept that this is the natural appearance of your beloved pet. There's no harm in having floppy ears, but you will need to pay close attention to cleaning them regularly, particularly after bathing or wet activities.