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When Do Westie Ears Stand Up? Facts & FAQ

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

west highland white terrier

West Highland White Terriers, lovingly referred to as Westies, are energetic and spry companions that enjoy adventure and snuggle sessions. They are well-known for their erect ears, which tend to create a unique look that can easily be distinguished from other types of terriers. So, why do Westie ears stand up, and when does that happen? The short answers are that the erect ears have to do with cartilage development, and the ears of most Westie pups stand up by the time that they are about 12 weeks of age. Read on to learn more!

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Why Do Westie Ears Stand Erect?

The cartilage in a Westie’s ears is strong and rigid, which makes them stand erect instead of folding over. However, Westies are not typically born with erect ears. At first, their ears are folded over and sealed that way with skin. As a Westie puppy grows, the skin “breaks,” which unseals the ears. At this point, the cartilage in the ears will become erect and rigid, making the ears look like they are standing upright.

West Highland White Terrier
Photo credit: SarahNakel, Pixabay

How Long Does It Take for Westie Ears to Become Erect?

The time that it takes for a Westie’s ears to stand up depends on things like genetics, health, and how thick the skin is that keeps them folded over to being with. The thicker the skin, the longer it takes for the ears to become erect. Keeping the hair on a pup’s ears trimmed will help relieve weight that could prolong the unsealing of the ears. Some puppies will develop erect ears by the time that they are 6 weeks old, while others will not do so until they are around 12 weeks of age.

Why Do Some Westie Ears Stay or Become Folded?

Sometimes, a Westie’s ears may not become erect at all. If this is the case, it is likely due to a genetic defect that makes their ear cartilage softer and more pliable. Therefore, the cartilage cannot support the weight of the ears, so they stay folded over even after their seals are broken. It is thought that this mutation occurs spontaneously and is not passed down from parent to child. It can happen to one sibling but not the other, whether the parents have the defect or not. All that said, no evidence has been put forth to insinuate that a Westie with folded ears is any less healthy than one with erect ears.

westie dog laying at the beach
Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

Why Are Some Westies’ Ears Tipped or Cropped?

Some West Highland White Terriers have ears that look like they are folded or tipped at the ends while the rest of the ears stay erect. This is not considered to be a genetic defect like fully folded ears are. Most Westies have pointed ears, but tipped ears are more common in this breed than fully folded ears are.

Cropped ears only occur when a Westie owner chooses to have the cropping done. Without human intervention, no Westie’s ears would be cropped. Some people choose to crop their Westie’s ears because they believe that it creates a “traditional” look that matches that of dogs in the show ring.

How Should a Westie’s Ears Be Groomed?

Since a Westie’s ears are typically erect, they are susceptible to dirt buildup and can get debris lodged in them more easily than the average dog. Therefore, it’s important that their ears are checked and cleaned regularly. It’s a good idea to trim the hair in and around your Westie’s ears once a month or so to make it less possible for dirt and debris to get caught. You should also gently clean their ears with a cotton swab or damp cloth. If the ears seem extra dirty, you can use a dog-friendly ear solution during the cleaning process. Signs of inflammation, redness, or irritation should be reported to your vet.

Image Credit: Atip Kantajai, Shutterstock

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In Conclusion

The West Highland White Terrier is a hardy little dog with a unique look that helps them stand out from the crowd. Most Westies have erected ears, but this is not always the case. But even if a Westie has folded ears, that does not mean that they are unhealthy in any way. They can grow up to be just as happy, healthy, and loving as a Westie with ears that stand up.

Featured Image Credit: anetapics, Shutterstock

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