Bracing Puppy Ears

~ Extra Tips ~

In addition to the step-by-step instructions and photos on bracing and taping collie puppies' ears that we have offered here, we would like to include the following extra "tricks of the trade":
  1. Put the ear braces in when the puppy is tired. The best time of day to brace ears is at bedtime. With a little luck, the puppy will be sleepy and he will be less wiggly while his braces are being put in. Also, he will spend a few hours sleeping overnight while the adhesive on his ears "sets." This is a better plan than trying to put in the braces at the beginning of a long day of active play.

  2. Make up extra sets of braces ahead of time. This way you will not be tempted to leave the ears unbraced if they come unglued. Also, the adhesive on the braces themselves will have fully dried and will be less likely to loosen.

  3. Braces not sticking well? Be sure that the inside of the ear is very clean and dry and free from oils before you begin. If the ears have never been braced, wipe them out with adhesive remover at least twice before you brace them. Under normal circumstances, the braces should stay in for about 7 to 10 days before starting to loosen, due to the natural oils in the skin. If a piece starts loosening, sometimes a little additional adhesive deftly applied can add keep the braces in place longer. If you have been using duct tape without success, try the Japanese surgical tape instead.

  4. If the puppy keeps scratching at his ear braces, it nearly aways means there is a hair caught in the tape. Free any trapped hairs with your fingers. You can even trim the long hairs along the inside edges of the ear leather with scissors to help keep them from getting caught. We always give the puppy a new chew toy to distract him from his ear braces - especially if he has never had his ears braced before.

  5. If the puppy's canine playmate or littermate licks and chews on the earbraces, apply a few small dabs of oil of clove with a cotton swab to the tips of the ear hair. Oil of clove is used for making potpourri and can be purchased at drugstores and hobby shops. After you have applied it to the puppy's ears, be sure to let the littermate smell the swab and touch it with his nose or tongue. It will create a strong burning sensation that is very distasteful. This sensation will only last about 20 seconds, but the "chewer" will associate it with the smell of the oil and will most likely leave the ears alone if they carry that scent. The oil of clove can be re-applied every few days, but a little goes a long way!

  6. If the braces need to be removed, do so very carefully. Use plenty of adhesive remover on a cotton ball to soften the adhesive. If you simply pull the brace off, it will irritate the skin and will probably pull off some ear hair, too. Keep applying adhesive remover to the back of the brace and the adhesive will start to soften and form little "pills." Once you have gently removed the brace, the glue residue can be softened with more adhesive remover and then combed out using a fine comb, such as a flea comb. Use a damp washcloth and plain water to wipe the ears afterward.

  7. If the braces come out after being in place for several days, it is fine to leave them out for a day, but only IF the ears stay in picture-perfect position during that time. At the first sign of an ear "flying" (standing straight up) or flopping too low, put the braces back in! Certainly, there will be times when you are tired or feel like procrastinating, but don't! A little effort now can really pay off in the future.

  8. What if the ears get red or sore inside? First of all, make sure you are not causing the irritation by removing the braces without sufficiently softening the adhesive. For red or sore ears, leave the braces out for a day or two and apply a soothing ointment such as Panalog or a human first-aid creme to the ear. Carefully re-brace them when the skin has healed. Some puppies' skin is sensitive to certain adhesive removers. If you are using Zo-Eze, try switching to ether instead.

  9. Crossbracing should be discontinued when the puppy is 4-1/2 months old. Continuing to connect the ears together after this point will be counter-productive. However, do continue to use the dots and duct tape to keep the ears folded over, if needed. The taping process is exactly the same except for the omission of the crossbrace piece. If the ears still want to "fly," then keep them taped!

  10. Most important: Be patient! The ear-training process can be completely exasperating at times, especially while you are learning. If you feel your frustration level rising to a high level, stop and wait a couple of hours before trying again. Working on a "moving target" in the form of a wriggly puppy can be a challenge, but take heart in the knowledge that it really does get easier with practice and as the puppy grows.

With a little luck, all of your efforts will pay off and you will be rewarded with beautiful ears!Photo of Burlywood Breeze Along

~ Text and photos by
Melinda & Duane Sunnarborg.
All rights reserved.

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