Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You CAN fix anything with duct tape

When I got my first sheltie, Jess, I had no idea you had to do stuff to Sheltie ears to keep them from sticking up. So I didn’t. And they did.

By the time I got Connor, I had wised up and spent the next 11 months being crafty with moleskin and duct tape to ensure a perfect ear set. I got lots of help from people who actually knew what they were doing and in spite of numerous false starts and discombobulated efforts, Connor’s ears didn’t turn out half bad.

This might not be a marketable skill but I was proud of my ability to hold a squirmy puppy while adhering ear braces that would not only last longer than it took to put them in but perform well enough to ensure the puppy’s ears were well set on his head and properly tipped. I could usually get an ear brace to last at least a week, depending on which dogs Connor got to play with during that time. He had one PWD friend who specialized in ear brace removal.

When I got the Belgians, ear worries generally went out the window. I spent Jamie's and Phoenix’s puppyhoods watching their ears flop this way and that, then miraculously overnight, spring upward and stay there with no assistance from me.

By the time Banner arrived, I had happily retreated into ear oblivion, only to be snapped out of it by people repeatedly asking me if I was going to “do his ears.” I hadn't really thought about it. Accidentally. On purpose.

When one of my blog pics showed Bann’s ears flying around at oddball angles, his breeder tactfully suggested I needed to “do ears.” Sigh. It was time to dust off yet another one of the skills that would leave the Farmer scratching his head and saying, "You're going to do WHAT?"

Banner may or may not have a breed ring career. It's not my first priority but you never know where life will lead. I didn't want to look at him at 16 months and think, geez, wish I'd paid more attention to his ears when he was little. Obedience trainers often suffer enough guilt over things gone wrong without adding ear remorse to the list.

Debi had shown me the accepted method of taping Aussie ears and let me tell you, it looked a darn sight easier than the engineering schematic for bracing sheltie ears. It basically involved one long piece of duct tape running from the inside of the ear leather under the chin up to the inside of the other ear leather. How hard could this be? I got out my duct tape and got to work.

Fifteen minutes later I had duct tape stuck in a variety of places on my skin, my clothes, the kitchen table, the kitchen floor and in Banner’s ears. In the latter, it was actually some semblance of where it belonged. I admired my handiwork. All right then.

Banner gave me a baleful look (I would say a hateful  look but he is entirely too sweet of a puppy for that) and immediately started trying to remove the duct tape. I must have done a pretty good job because that tape job stayed put. When it finally came out, days later, his ear set was very pretty but the inside of his ear flaps were full of sticky duct tape gunk that defied being removed. Well, yuck.

Having been cautioned to keep his ears braced during the teething period (which is amping up into full chomping mode as we speak) I decided I would try gluing them next. Surely that would be easier. And much tidier. No icky, sticky duct tape residue. What could go wrong?

Having procured a bottle of Tear Mender glue, the label of which assured me it was “Fast Drying!” I plopped Banner in the Farmer’s lap with admonitions to “Hold the puppy” and set to work. The object was to glue the tips of his ears to his cheeks to ensure the ear leather was shaped downward, not sideways.

It soon became evident that directions to “Hold the puppy” were subject to the same loose interpretation as those to “Watch the puppy.” Banner was doing his best to present a moving target and the Farmer seemed to think that as long as the two of them were occupying the same chair, this constituted “holding still.”

By some miracle (probably the element of surprise) I got Banner’s first ear glued to his cheek without too much fuss. I was admiring my handiwork when I realized, with sinking heart, that now I had to get the other one to match.

I am not good at getting things to match. Trimming ears on my shelties and Jamie was a process that involved a great deal of lip-biting and critical scrutiny while the dogs tried to retract their ears into their skulls. I could trim one ear to perfection, no problem. Getting the other one to match was something else. This often involved trimming “just a little bit more” and “no, wait, just a little bit more,” until the ears in question looked like they were belonged on a ROTC recruitment poster. I never trimmed ears the night before a show. Never. They usually needed at least a week to grow out.

By now Banner was getting impatient, the Farmer’s puppy wrangling skills were getting worse and my aim with the glue bottle left a lot to be desired. Within minutes, I managed to glue Banner’s other ear appropriately. Yay for me! I had also glued my hand to his ruff, glued the Farmer’s T-shirt to the chair and administered a glob of glue to the outside of Banner’s ear for reasons unknown.

This "set" lasted for six days. A merry romp with a litter brother over the weekend freed one ear tip from its sticky confines and a malinois-induced wrestling match took care of the other one the next day. Again, Bann’s ears look lovely  . . . if you can ignore the big wad of gluey cheek fur attached to the inside of one ear tip. And the bald spot on the outside of the other ear where I finally brushed out the residual glue deposit.

I am totally over gluing ears.

We’re going back to the duct tape.


  1. Being quite new to this ear taping myself...I came across an awesome video that is as simple as it 5 1/2 month old male pup doesn't even mind is soft and holds in place....AND...doesn't irritate the inner ear! I use NexCare flexible cloth tape....and it doesn't leave a residue!

  2. \outl0\strokewidth0 \strokec2 I don't know if this will work for you because I don't know how perfect you want your ears. But I use ear weight to tip my shelties ears. You use the same glue and put a little bit, depending how far you need them to tip, of ear weight on the glue. Hold the dog for a couple of minutes for the glue to dry because they will shake their head when you are done. But it stays on for about 3 weeks and then just falls off. They can play and bite the ear and it does effect the ear weight. Not the way to go if you need perfect ears. " winners circle ear weight"

  3. I so feel your pain! This was hilarious! You have a great sense of humor. I have an Australian Shepherd pup (10.5 mths now) whose ears I've been working on. After delicately trying to remove the last of the glue without hurting my sweetly patient little girl, I promised myself I'd never use that stuff again!