==> "Healthy dogs navigate the world maybe 40% by hearing, 30% by scent, 20% by vision, and 10% by memory"
Keep your dog's hearing intact means: Keep your dog's ears clean - the right way
GSD Ear Care
When it comes to Dog Ear Care some GSD owners have literally ruined their dog's ears in the past, and many vets can tell sad stories about this seemingly 'negligible' area of 'dog care'...!
With this week's MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL we aim to ensure that we all can advise our friends with GSDs how to best care for their dog's ears! - When having a GSD with its upright ears, this is of course all the more important.
Fundamentals about Hearing
Contrary to common wisdom, the sound sensitivity of dogs in general is not that much greater than that of humans as generally thought (see for example this hearing range study from the Louisiana State University).
To understand this you need to know that sound is vibrations of air, and the hearing range is determined by the sound sensitivity (loudness intensity of a sound) and the sound receptability (tone frequency), and both are interdependent.
Dogs in general show a sound receptability with an approximate range of 67-45,000 Hz, compared to 64-23,000 Hz for humans.
One of the greatest frequency ranges of the dog breeds analyzed has the Poodle: 40-46,ooo Hz. The Poodle also can hear the faintest noises: A 4 kHz tone at -4 dB! (yes, minus because dB is a logarithmic scale, hence -4 dB is a much fainter sound than the standard intensity on which the scale is based).
I could not yet find a scientific study examining specifically the hearing range of the German Shepherd, however the German Shepherd can be expected to have a hearing range greater than the average range shown above.
By the way, if you are worried about your pup's or dog's hearing(?), you can consult a veterinary clinic to have your puppy or dog BAER-tested. The most comprehensive list of BAER test sites I found here.
How the Hearing Works
When sound (vibrations of air) is collected by the ear flap (pinna), the shape of and the hair on the inside of the pinna direct these sound waves into the comparatively large ear canal to end at the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The movements of the eardrum are then transmitted through a chain of small bones to the cochlea of the inner ear. From there, nerve axons are the receptors for signals to be sent to the brain.
Explained Anatomy of the Dog Ear and Ear Cleansing as explained in the text
The ear canal of GSD puppies is not physically open until about 2 weeks of age, which is why all young puppies are virtually deaf until then. The ear canal will open by itself at that time (through the growth of the ear), so don't worry in case you get to know such a young pup - and certainly NEVER move any object down the ear canal, as explained further below!
The ear canal descends first vertically and then horizontally to the eardrum, and exactly this crude L-shape is the cause of many dog ear problems since debris and moisture can hardly get back out.
Dog Hearing Protection
To ensure your dog's hearing works for as long as possible, you may want to consider some dog hearing protection. This is essential if you take your German Shepherd to firework displays, to concerts, on hunting trips, in an airplane or heli, and the like!
Personally I swear on these human earplugs (material, shape, noise cancelling, and wearing comfort make them simply amazing!), but this exact model is not available at amazon.com (the closest US match are these, but the material is different and they are corded).
However, don't use such earplugs on dogs, see further below why. And certainly I am against the widespread recommendation to simply put cotton wadding into the dog's ears!
The safest canine hearing protection are muffs. Note though that all muffs have much weaker noice cancelling properties than human earplugs - nonetheless much better noice cancelling than cotton wadding. The bestselling dog muffs are mutt muffs. They are pricey, but widely used in aviation and amongst hunters because they are the best of what's available.
Note though that we humans have ears all at the same place: conveniently about mid-way on the sides of the head, thus we can fix muffs via the holder on the top of the head. But: Dogs have their ears all over the place (well, almost!), depending on breed. And no dog breed has its ears conveniently mid-way on the sides of the head, thus why standard muffs with the holder on the top of the head don't stay fixed when the dog shakes the head!
So: You need to train your dog, you need to gently accommodate your dog to the muffs, and you need a bit of practice fitting them. Then they stay on, and your dog will appreciate the MUCH reduced noise level. The dog owners who complain don't realize/understand the above (and likely are the easily-give-up type of person anyway).
I do indeed have an idea how to make dog ear muffs that stay fit on most dog breeds, but no money to develop it: Maintaining this website is a drain!
Importance of Dog Ear Care
Since the hearing of dogs is so acute, dogs rely much more on their hearing than on their vision to navigate the world (although, the percentages mentioned at the top are made up to demonstrate probable weightings; no one knows the exact weightings).
Also, your German Shepherd's health, behavior, and overall activity level is much dependant on its EARS: Your GSD relies on its hearing a lot more than we humans can ever imagine - since we rely more on our vision, and even that most people only realize when they go blind.
So, keeping your dog's ears clean and well-functioning can:
- keep your dog's health in order
- keep its activity levels high
- thus keeping the dog calm during the rest of the day
- keep its behavior under control
- relieve you of much of the pet-health-related stress
- and relieve you of many high vet bills too!
This basically explains the importance of dog ear care.
Relevance of GSD Ear Care
The crucial point for the German Shepherd dog owner is that its upright ears offer various benefits:
- amplifying sound reception
- good air circulation, thus reduced build-up of moisture
- reduced bacteria growth and infections
- intimidating head shape better deterrent for offenders
- easier cleaning, etc
But the upright ears also involve disadvantages:
- extremely high exposure to catch and accumulate grass seeds, insects and parasites
- high risk of injuries caused during play, dog fights, or adventurous dog sports
- increased risk of ailments relating to the impact of weather (eg frostbite, burned ears, draft-induced Otitis Media), etc
So, the benefit of reduced moisture build-up (as the primary source of infections) is somewhat outweighed by the risk of collecting all kinds of debris in the ears of your German Shepherd. This we need to address with our German Shepherd Ear Care.
Risks to Avoid/Address