What To Do If Your Boston's Ears Won't Stand Up!
~ All dogs pictured on this page are/were owned by us here at Brindle Hill ~

All Boston Terrier's ears should stand up on their own without being cropped. Some dogs who have large ears or heavy ear leather have ears that continue to flop forward at the natural "break" in the ear. Floppy ears are normal in puppies, but they are not desirable for adults who will be shown or for pets because proper air circulation is important to help keep ear infections down. It is very important to not let this break get too strong by allowing the ears to remain in this flopped forward "puppy-like" position.

If your Bostons ears are not up by 4 months of age, they must be taped to strengthen the ear so they will stand up on their own eventually. You can start taping as early as 5 weeks if the ears look like they are going to be very large or heavy. The sooner the better. If you start early, it may only take 3-4 weeks for the ears to stand on their own. But if you start late such as at 4 mo., it will take longer or it may not ever happen. The tape must be kept on 24 hours a day, every day until the ear is strong enough to stand on its own. It could take a few weeks or it could take a few months. The oldest dog I had with ears still needing to be taped was about 10 months old. The ear leather was very heavy and took this long to stand. See this dog here. You will not have much success if you start to tape when the dog is older than 4-5 months as it is usually too late to improve the strength of the ear at this point. If the ear is just tipping forward at the top but not breaking at the horizontal break at 4-5 months, this ear will stand eventually without needing to be taped. In a situation where one ear is up and one ear is down, you needn't worry, the other one will normally come up on it's own.


When a puppy is teething, their ears will curl backwards (see below). This is normal for a puppy in the 3 to 4-1/2 month old age range and no cause for concern. The ears will stand on their own after teething is completed (approx. 5 months). The puppy below is 4 months old.


How To Tape Natural Ears So They Stand
Updated 2012

I have used many different methods over the years, and I continue to keep finding better ways to do the job. The first method shown below is the best so far - it's the easiest, the tape does not irritate like other tapes and strips, and it sticks the longest. Plus, if a puppy gets it off and tries to eat it, it will pass through unlike the Breathe-Rite strips. It also does not pull hair off the back of the ears as the tape is not wrapped around the whole ear. I have left the older methods below in case you cannot find the Medpore tape or you feel you need another method.

Medipore-H Tape (1 inch)

ear tape

  • Buy the kind of tape as shown in the photo, it is called Medipore-H Soft Cloth Medical Tape made by 3M and I get the 1 inch size. It is a roll of segmented tape, and I pull off 2-3 pieces and lay one on top of another to provide varying degrees of support depending upon how heavy the ear is. For the most part, I end up using 3 layers.

    The tape can be purchased online or found at medical supply stores if you have one nearby. For online shopping, you can purchase 2 rolls of 1" tape here - in the pulldown list choose 1" x 10yds/Pkg of 2:

    Medical Supply Depot

    For the best price, you can buy a 24 roll box from 3M here. If you are a breeder and have friends that also need it, you can go in together with a few people and divide up the rolls making it economical for everyone:

    Order 24 rolls from 3M

    Preparing the Ears Before Placing Medipore Tape In Them:

    If you have a small moustache trimmer or other hair clipper, trim away any excess hair on the INSIDE of the ear around the area you will be taping if there is any. You can also use blunt-ended baby scissors to trim the hair. Then clean the inside of the ear well with alcohol and let fully dry. Then to get any excess residual oil off, use a cotton ball dampened with Betadine solution (not Betadine that has any soap in it such as the surgical scrub, just plain solution, Equate brand from Wal-Mart is fine too found in First-Aid section). Wipe the inside of the ears a few times with betadine, then use a new cotton ball dampened with alcohol to fully remove the Betadine. Make sure your fingers have been wiped with alcohol too after you use the Betadine. Let fully dry. Rip off 3 segments of the tape and sandwich them on top of one another so your tape is 3 layers thick. Then trim the corners of the tape so it fits the shape of the ear better. The photos in the first row shows the tape tapered slightly at the bottom (but not at the top which I taper now). Both photos show the tape overlapped, one is just a little longer than the other. The picture of the 2 puppies show it placed straight in the ear with no trimming. Just do what fits the ear best. Make sure you press to flatten it over the horizontal break in the ear so it keeps this break flat. Repeat the process by replacing tape that no longer sticks until the ears stand on their own. Remember that after a few days the ear will begin to secrete natural oils which will cause the tape to stop adhering to the ear. The tape must be removed, the ear must be cleaned with alcohol/Betadine again, and fresh tape should be applied.

    ear tape
    ear tape

    ear tape

    Three Other Methods I Have Used In The Past:

  • Another method you can use WITH CARE AND SUPERVISION is the Breathe Right nasal strip method. These act as "stays" in the ear. NOTE: These are dangerous if swallowed which is why I don't use them anymore if I have multiple puppies together as they tend to rip them out and eat the stays which can be very dangerous. They are also irritating unless you cushion the strips by wrapping with tape beforehand - use your judgement on this. But if you have just one puppy alone that can be supervised (watch to see that they don't itch them out and eat them), you can try this. Use this method if you have very heavy ears with a strong break or if the puppy is older. Breathe Right Strips are sold to help people who snore at night, and can be found at Wal-Mart for about $10 a box - also at Costco. Buy the LARGE size. There are other brands as well with slightly different shapes. Clean the ear well with alcohol and Betadine. Really scrub it good with gauze, changing to fresh gauze 3 different times. Let dry well. Trim the funny shaped ends of the strip square, and round the corners a bit. Remove the paper backing to expose the adhesive and place the bottom end just above the large knob down inside the ear, pressing the rest up towards the top of the ear OR you can use cloth Zonas/sports tape to wrap the strip in before putting it in the ear which will irritaet the ear less than putting the adhesive strip directly on the ear. You will need 2 people if you wrap the strip as it will not stick in the ear if wrapped, so one person will hold the wrapped strip in place and the other will wrap the strip and the ear together horizontally around the ear using more Zonas/sports cloth tape OR long strips of Medipore Tape. If the Breathe Right strip is not wrapped, I stick it into the ear and I continue to tape horizontally around the ear with tape and the Breathe Right strips standing vertically in the ear (as shown in the section below). I tape over the non-wrapped strip too because when they loosen naturally in a couple of days, you have some time to keep the strip in because of the extra tape covering it. The strips are plastic inside, but they are very sharp (especially if trimmed to a point) and we don't want them swallowed! These hold the ear even straighter and more naturally than taping alone. They can be used after cropping as well, and can be used in place of racks and taping.

  • This next method was the original taping method I used for years. I found that it irritated the ears some, it somewhat ripped the hair off the back of the ears, and it didn't stick long because the dogs itched at it a lot. But it's fast and can give good results. Any hair lost on the back of the ear grows back quickly in puppies. NOTE: You can use longer strips of the Medipore tape to wrap around the ear and there is no irritation and less hair loss than with Zonas/sports tape.

    This tape is called either Zonas Tape (Johnson & Johnson) or simply "Sports Tape". Choose the width you think with work best on your dog, 2" is good if you can get it.

    ear tape

    Clean the inside of the ear well with alcohol and Betadine as described above. If you have a clipper, trim away any excess hair on the INSIDE of the ear around the area you will be taping if there is any. Do not clip the hair on the backside of the ear, only the fine hairs on the inside!! Tape as shown in the black and white photo below. Remember that after a day or two the ear will begin to secrete natural oils which will cause the tape to stop adhering to the ear. The tape must be removed, the ear must be cleaned with alcohol and Betadine again, and fresh tape should be applied.

    ear tape

    The finished job is seen in the color picture below of my sweet Bianca when she was a baby :-) I remember I was still taping her ears when she went to her first show at 8 months old. Yes, she did have big ears, but we finished her with no trouble anyway because she was so good.


  • Another method that can be used on very heavy and/or stubborn ears is the Molefoam method. This is especially good for ears that must stay taped for long periods when you do not want to keep changing the tape.

    Buy some Dr. Scholl's Molefoam (sticky backed felt pads for the inside of shoes) and cut a piece similar to the piece shown in the photo below (pale tan insert). Roll the base over on itself (sticking it to itself) into a shape that fits down slightly into the ear canal and use a very thin strip of Zonas/sports tape to encircle the base to hold it together in a cone shape. Clean ear with alcohol, and trim any excess hair away on the INSIDE of the ear. Use EAR CEMENT (ask your vet) to glue the molefoam piece into the ear & let dry. As the ear oils come up, it will eventually loosen the cement, but it will hold much longer than the tape will. The down-side is that if your dog has a reaction to the cement and starts itching, it is very difficult to remove the molefoam, and this certainly can be painful for the dog. Make sure you have the liquid remover for the ear cement!! Another down-side is that the Molefoam is heavy and this bothers the dog. The shape also restricts airflow to the inner ear and it tends to cause infections. See Trixie below hating this procedure. Still, if your dog is older and you need the big guns, this may be the best solution. I don't just stick flat molefoam in their ears anymore as it is just too heavy for most puppies.


    About Cropping

    Some people who are showing their dogs choose to have their Bostons' ears cropped. Cropping in Bostons is NOT done to make an ear stand the way it is in breeds like Dobermans and Great Danes. As I have said, the ear of the Boston will stand on it's own without cropping. In fact, you would NEVER crop a Boston's ear unless it was standing well on it's own. The age for cropping a Boston is older than it is in most breeds - you want to wait until the dog is fully grown, usually between 8 months and 1 year old. You would not normally want to crop ears on a Boston who is less than 6 months, but if the ear is very stiff and has been standing well on it's own for 1-2 months, a 5 month old can be cropped.

    Cropping in a Boston is done to narrow an ear that is too wide and/or shorten a very long ear. Generally speaking, little length needs to be taken off unless the ear is unbelievably tall and it is a very small dog. 99.9% of the time the vet should be told to leave as much length as possible, if not all, making sure the ear will still stand at this long length.

    In my opinion, there are only a couple of vets who can crop Boston Terrier ears successfully. Why not just go to your local vet and ask him to do it? Because cropping is a true ART and it is VERY DIFFICULT to put the correct trim on a Boston and do so consistently. Anesthesia is another concern and these vets have had experience in administering anesthesia to Bostons having ears done. Cropping ears is very serious business because 1. You want your dog to live through it and 2. You want the ears to look perfect, to heal correctly and be cut evenly. Sounds simple, but believe me it is not. The healing of the ears can be painful, but if you have a really good vet that utilizes special cautery instruments, the ears look almost as if nothing was done to them after surgery. In the old days, they didn't have the specialized techniques that they do now, plus they never gave the dog anything for pain. Now they use drugs like Torbujesic for pain, and this makes the whole process much more tolerable. Again, you MUST find someone who know what they are doing.

    In the picture below, note good anesthesia and monitoring protocols being used by an experienced vet. The dog is placed on a warming mat, hooked up to heart, blood pressure and 02 monitors, intubated with a breathing tube and isoflurine gas is used. Special cautery instruments are used to control bleeding. DO NOT allow someone who is not a vet to crop your dog's ears. There are breeders-turned-ear-croppers and others who say that they specialize in ear cropping only. They may even come to your home to do it. And some of them may even cut a very pretty looking ear. The problem is that performing surgery on a dog unless you are a vet is illegal. But even more importantly, they do not use gas anesthesia which is the safest way to anesthetize a dog, nor do they do heart monitoring or use properly autoclaved instruments (boiling in hot water is not a substitute for autoclaving!) They also are not trained in how to handle true emergencies such as having emergency drugs and assistants on-hand if something goes wrong. They obtain drugs such as Rompun illegally. Injectable drugs are NOT appropriate for ear cropping anesthesia and are not a substitute for Isoflurane or Sevoflurane gases. These people fly by the seat of their pants, "hoping" that things will go well. Do not allow your dogs to be cropped by anyone who is not a vet and make sure you get referrals from others and see photos of crops done by the vet before you commit to using them. And while you always want to use a licensed vet, remember that just because they are a vet doesn't mean they can do a good job cropping ears.

    Just cropped

    It takes 1 month for the ears to fully heal, but the best cropper's can do ears so that they are almost fully healed in 10 days. The dog must be watched 24/7 and they should wear a small Elizabethan collar so that they don't itch their ears and infect/break them open. Panolog/Animax or a similar antibiotic ointment needs to be used twice daily, and if they are not up in a rack or taped, you need to keep the Breathe-Rite strips in at all times.

    Just cropped
    Photo above was taken just a few hours after cropping an 8 mo.
    old by a master cropper - look how smooth and neat the
    ears look for just having been done. They are also
    standing erect with no bracing of any kind. These
    are two of the hallmarks of an excellent procedure.
    Just cropped
    Another "just cropped" photo of a different dog (5 months old)
    taken just a few hours after cropping by the same master cropper.
    She had very strong ears so I chose to crop her a little younger.
    Do not crop this young unless you are an experienced breeder who can
    predict how the head will finish up when mature. The crop must fit
    not only the dog's head but the overall size and proportion of the dog.

  • Photos showing an uncropped dog (left) and the same dog after cropping (right). Look at how much more special she looks now. She has an air of maturity and sophistication that can only be achieved with a cropped ear (and a good dog!) This is my "Ch. Elite's Trippin The Light Fantastic".
  • Just cropped
    Just cropped

    This crop couldn't be more perfect!

    Just cropped
    Just cropped

    When Cropping Goes Bad

    Photos below shows how things can go bad after cropping if they break open, bleed and you run for some yellow Quick-Stop powder to try and stop the bleeding. This was not a clean, well cropped ear, as the vet just was not as experienced as the one who did the dog above (though they didn't end up looking awful like they do in the photos here). Cropping techniques have come a long way since I started doing ears in the 70's - that is if you find someone on the cutting edge, pun intended! They use pain meds we didn't have back then, but I have rarely had a dog that need any meds. The edges are sealed/cauterized as they are cut and this results in a very neat after-look, fast healing and much less pain for the dog. I would not crop EVER if I had to deal with the old-fashioned way that took so long to heal with the dog being in miserable pain for a couple of weeks.

    icky ears

    icky ears

    If you are careful not to let the dog near other dogs and keep the Elizabethan collar on for 2 weeks straight, you shouldn't have any bleeding disasters. It IS an intense first 10 days after cropping for the owner as many things can go wrong with the healing. The ear may stand fine before cropping, but 3 days or so afterwards, one or both may just fall over when you remove the stays! This can make one VERY nervous! But, if you keep up with the stays in the ear, the ear should strengthen on it's own and stand by 10 days if not sooner, that is if you started with a really strong ear to begin with.

    Another worry are ears that curl back when healed. There are many factors involved in this - one is how the vet cuts, cauterizes and sutures the ear. Sometimes you will see dogs who are done by one particular vet who all have ears that curl back, owned by different people. This is a bad sign, and one that would tell you not to use this vet. Another reason they curl is if they dry out while healing and shrink, causing there to be a permanent tension up the edge of the ear. Short of opening the ear back up and taping it so it is stretched while healing, there is little that can be done once it is healed. Keeping the edges moist and removing the crusty scabs plus keeping the ears upright with stays or a rack should keep most of the curling from happening. Sometimes, the natural ear itself curves back some, but because it is wide, it isn't noticeable unless you are really looking for it. When the edge is taken off, the curve becomes very noticeable because the ear is thin with a sharp edge. There is nothing that can be done to straighten it in this case. That's why it is very important to examine the natural ear to see if there is any curvature backwards before it is cropped. It will either stay the same or get worse, but it won't get better. Just prepare yourself for the fact that the cropped ear will also curve back. If you don't like that, DON'T have the ear cropped at all.

    Uneven ears are the worst and this seems to be one of the biggest problems I see. Unless the vet is pretty well ambidextrous, you will see one ear not matching the other, especially in the amount of curve at the bottom of the bell - one will often curve nicely to the head and the other will have less of an outward curve. It is of the utmost importance that you find a vet who can cut both ears to match each other as much as humanly possible. You must also find a vet who sees things the same way you do. Sometimes you do not find out until after the fact. You can tell them you want an area to curve more or less, to be wider or narrower, but what you end up with does not at all resemble what you were hoping for. If you have the skills to do a computerized "crop" this can help the vet visualize what you want. Take a photo of the dog's head at a 3/4 angle and use the clone tool to draw the cropped edge the way you want to. It will also give you a chance to fuss around with it till you see something you like and that looks good on the dog. Taking in a picture of someone else's crop doesn't do a lot of good as your dog will have a different head and an ear that starts out with a different upper edge shape than someone else's.

    I strive to breed for small ears that do not need to be cropped, but every once in a while it needs to be done. In fact, the majority of dogs I see being shown today have natural ears which I am very happy to see.

    Yes, I do like the way a good cropped ear looks, but "good cropped ears" are very few and far between these days, as most all of the "master croppers" are long gone, and it is now what I consider to be almost a lost art.

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