Should I or shouldn't I.....you may be asking yourself. Most Irish Terrier puppies need to have their ears trained in order to attain proper ear carriage. Between 6 and 12 weeks of age, some puppies start to lift their ears naturally, and some don't lift at all. Most of the "lifted" ears at this young age will soon change as the teething process continues. At this point in time, most of the calcium in the body is being used to form teeth, rather than staying in the cartilage of the ear.
The goal of ear training is to affix the position of the ear when the dog is alert and carrying his ears up. The ear is carried in many different positions when the dog is at ease.
The ears are trained by gluing them to the skull for months on end. A setting can last up to 3 or 4 weeks, depending on how well it was done, and how diligent your puppy is at prying them loose! Training ears requires a real commitment on your part; meaning time, patience, and persistence! Even with this, there is no guarantee that your dog will end up with "absolutely perfect" ears.
As a breeder, and a person who truly loves Irish Terriers, I encourage all new owners to train their puppy's ears. I do realize though, it is YOU who has to make the commitment. I don't suggest asking your breeder to glue your puppy's ears for the first time if you really don't intend to follow through. Otherwise, your dog may end up having ears like these.
Now that you've spent your hard earned money and purchased a beautiful puppy, why not give him the potential to be all that he can be!
Ear training should begin between 8 to 16 weeks of age, and continue through the teething stage or approximately 8 months of age. If you're not planning to show your dog, you may be satisfied with how your puppy's ears look after a few months of training. If the puppy's ears begin to fall, resume gluing for a longer period of time. If you have not trained your pup's ears before 8 months of age, basically, what you see is what you get. Only occasionally will gluing, after that age, make any improvements.
If your puppy is being shipped to you, ask your breeder to glue the ears just prior to shipping. This way, you can see what the end result looks like, and use that as a guideline for the next ear setting. You may also ask if there is an Irish Terrier club member in your local vicinity who would agree to assist you with the next gluing. Most veterinarians are not experienced with setting Irish Terriers' ears, so I don't recommend going to one for assistance.
OK......so maybe you dealt with a breeder who didn't know how to set ears...and you have no one in your area to assist you. Ear gluing is not hard to do, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. It's best accomplished with 2 people; one to hold the puppy, and one to apply the Benzoin Tincture and the glue. It can be a bit messy until you get the hang of it. The Benzoin Tincture and the glue are both thin. The tincture will stain anything it comes into contact with. Use a small to moderate amount of glue, and spread it with your fingertip. Do NOT glue the ear completely shut. IT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO LEAVE SOME OPEN SPACE FOR AIR TO VENTILATE THE EAR CANAL!
Ear training is also accomplished more easily if you use the products I'm recommending.
1. Purchase a 2 fluid ounce bottle of Benzoin Tincture or Benzoin Compound Tincture. This can be found in most pharmacies, near the bandages. If you don't see it on the shelf, the pharmacist will be happy to order it for you. The cost of this product is approximately $5.00 (American dollars). Benzoin Tincture toughens and protects the skin, and helps the glue to hold for a longer period of time. Using this product before applying the glue is a necessity in my estimation!
2. The recommended ear glue of the day is a latex based, fabric/leather cement called TEAR MENDER by VAL-A CHICAGO, INC. It can be ordered by calling 800 524-0820. The cost of a 2 fluid ounce bottle is $5.00 (American dollars) plus an $8.00 shipping charge for UPS. This product is not readily found in many stores. If you want to try to avoid paying the shipping cost, I suggest checking with your local craft or hardware stores to find out if they have this product in stock. I DO NOT SUGGEST USING ANY OTHER TYPE OF GLUE! All have been tried, and none work as well or better.
3. Cotton balls are needed to apply the Benzoin Tincture.
4. Paper towels or something similar are needed to wipe the excess glue off your fingers and the puppy.
Every breeder has their own method of gluing ears. This is usually based on personal experience. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, such as the ear size, placement of the ears on the head, and the thickness of the cartilage.
I have included two different diagrams for setting ears. Each shows a different method of gluing. Both methods are commonly used, and you can discuss with your breeder which he or she prefers for your puppy, and why. If, for any reason, you are unable to discuss this with your breeder, I suggest following Diagram #1. Many people use this method, and have had success with it. PLEASE NOTE THAT BOTH METHODS LEAVE AN OPEN SPACE FOR AIR VENTILATION TO THE EAR CANAL!
Prepare the ears by cleaning them thoroughly, inside and out, with a soft damp cloth. Let them dry completely.
With a cotton ball, apply some Benzoin Tincture to the ear and skull where the glue is going to be applied (depending on which diagram you are going to follow). Let that dry completely. Re-apply a second time to the same areas, and let it dry for at least 5 minutes or more. If you are diligent about applying the Benzoin Tincture, your ear set will hold for a much longer period of time, and your puppy should NOT end up with sores on his ears or skull.
Now you're ready to apply the glue. Remember, for the novice, this is a 2 person job! Use a small to moderate amount of glue, spreading it with your finger tip. Let it set up for about 5 seconds, then position the ear, and hold it in place for a couple of minutes or until the hold sets. Wipe off any excess glue immediately.
Basically, you should glue the ears in the same position every time. You may need to make some minor adjustments in the position as time goes on, but DO NOT change from one method of ear setting (from Diagram #1 to Diagram #2 or vice versa) during this process!
When the ears come loose, clean them well inside and out. The latex glue can be easily "rolled off" by applying some cooking oil. Do not worry about any hair loss in the area where the Benzoin Tincture and glue were applied. It will grow back! Inspect the entire ear and skull for any sores or broken skin. If these are present, apply some antibiotic ointment, and let them heal completely before setting the ears again. Remember, a couple of good applications of Benzoin Tincture protects the skin, and helps to avoid this problem! Smell the ear canal for any odd odors. This can alert you to the possibility of an ear infection brewing! Remember....leave that space open for air ventilation to the ear canal! If all appears to be well, and the skin is not broken or sore, let the ears dry out for a day after being cleaned well, then reset them. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call me or e-mail!