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Irish Terrier Ear Training

The vast majority of Irish Terrier puppies must have their ears trained in order to attain proper ear carriage. The ear is carried in many positions when the dog is at ease. Ear training is designed to affix the position of the ear when the dog is alert and carrying his ears up.

It is difficult to recommend a single method for training ears because of the variety of ear sizes, the varying amount of cartilage which different ears contain, and the unique location upon the skull each pair of ears maintains. Because of these varying factors and differences in human perception, no two Irish Terrier breeders train ears in identical fashion. Several tips and suggestions from a variety of breeders are compiled herein to serve as a guide to the training of ears. As different as each breeder's methods are, each of them are linked by one common theme: persistence.

Between six and twelve weeks of age most Irish Terrier puppies begin to pull their ears up into position. The first sign is a small ridge beginning to rise a short distance away form where the ear is joined to the top of the head, Some ears immediately pop up and into position. Others lift partially and a few do not lift at all. Regardless of the pup's ear carriage as a result of lifting the ears at the early age of six to twelve weeks, the carriage will probably be altered as the puppy begins to cut adult teeth. The teething process onsets at four and one-half months and continues until nearly eight months of age.

The majority of breeders begin setting ears during the six to twelve week period and continue setting them through the bulk of the teething period. The ears are trained primarily by gluing them to the skull. The preferred glues are duo-surgical adhesives, fabric menders, and special canine ear-setting glues. In most instances the glue is applied to the underside of the ear and the ear is pressed onto the skull or folded against itself.

The overall goal of training ears is to create a good carriage. This may be broken down into two sub-goals: helping the ear lift, and helping the ear fold tightly so that the tip will touch the head. During the teething process, the calcium needed to set the lift and fold in the ear cartilage is shunted away to teeth and bones. The lack of consistent amounts of calcium during this critical period of development causes the ears to stand or drop improperly.

Earset Diagram 1

To assist the lift at the point where the top of the ear joins the skull many breeders set the ear high on the skull towards the middle of the head. Sometimes this technique flattens the bell of the ear, causing the outer portion of the ear to stand out or, in several cases, to curl back over itself into a rosed-ear.

In Diagram 1: Ears set high on the skull create lift.

Earset Diagram 2

To correct this tendency and create a tight fold which brings the tip of the ear down against the head the ear is often reset with the tip glued very close to the base of the ear. These methods are often used alternately.

In Diagram 2: The tips glued close to the base creates a crease across the ear and gives proper convex curvature to the bell.

Earset Diagram 3

Some breeders prefer to apply glue to he inside of the top fold and the inside of the bell. These areas are then pressed together to create a sharp fold at the top of the ear and give proper shape to the bell. Glue is then applied to the exterior of the top fold and to the inner top edge of the ear. The fold is glued to the back of the skull and the top edge to the skull behind the brow.

In Diagram 3: Place glue on inside top fold (A) and inside bell (B), then press together.

Earset Diagram 4

When gluing and setting the ear always leave some open space to allow air to ventilate the ear canal. If strips of tape are used to secure the ear while the glue dries then remove the tape immediately after the glue is dry. A coating of the ear and skull area with Tincture of Benzoin (aka Benzoine) or Tincture of Benzoin with Aloe (available via your pharmacist) is often used prior to applying the glue. This will help to prevent sores and reactions to the gluing. It will also help the glue to adhere.

In Diagram 4: Glue the exterior of the top fold to the back of the head (A), and the top edge of the ear to the skull behind the brow.

During the ear setting process, smell your dog's ears on a daily basis. If there is an unusual smell or 'off' odor, take the ears down immediately, using oil or Spray and Wash as described below. Clean out the inner ears. Let them air out for at least twenty-four hours, making sure that they are not infected before setting them again.

Most good ear sets will stay in position for seven to ten days. When the ears come unfastened clean them, allow them to air out for twenty-four hours and then reset them. Do not pull or rip the ear lose from the skull or pull or rip the glue off of the ear. Any oil, such as baby oil, olive oil, cold cream, or cooking oil, will soften the glue to help with removal. A flea comb can be used to further assist the removal of the glue once it is softened. Alternatives to glue removal with oil are: Spray and Wash (soak the glue for five to ten minutes then comb out) or Albolene Liquifying Cleanser (available at your drugstore).

Keep setting the ears until you are certain they no longer show signs of rising off the skull or slumping down the cheek. Ear training lasts for a relatively short period of time in the dog's life, three to six months out of a lifetime of twelve to fifteen or more years. If necessary the ears can be set until several months after the dog has attained his full growth. For bitches, the onset of the first season will often require that the ears be set again. Setting the ears in the correct locations and doing so consistently are the keys to successful ear training.


Duo-Surgical glue is hard to find. It is white creamy glue and is non-irritating. After setting the ear by gluing, you can temporarily wrap tape to hold the ears in place until the glue becomes dry. In larger cities you can find this glue at a medical supply store.

Jiffy Sew Dog-Eared Cement* is a fabric cement marketed by Jiffy Products Inc., Peterborough, ON Canada.

    Jiffy Products Inc.
    R.R. 4
    Peterborough, ON K9J 6X5 Canada
    Phone: (705) 742-9901
    Fax: (705) 742-4088

Leech Dog Ear Cement was one of the best available. It is no longer manufactured; but, if there is enough demand, perhaps Leech will begin making it again. Once before Leech stopped making Dog Ear Cement and brought it back due to demand.

    Leech Products, Inc.
    1430 W 4th Ave.
    Hutchinson, KS 67501-5035 USA
    Phone: (316) 669-0145 or (800) 992-9018
    Fax: (316) 669-1183

Texticroche is a quick setting latex glue used for textiles. Manufactured in France by Bostik Findley. It may be purchased from most big hardware stores in France. If the ear must be unglued (for cleaning or so), there is a solvent called Remove, manufactured by Smith and Nephew.

Val-A Tear Mender* is a fabric-leather cement that contains natural latex. Tear Mender is manufactured by Val-A Chicago of Chicago, IL USA.

* = Recommended Glues

Remember that glues have a shelf life. It is best to buy the glue from a source where the glue is as fresh as possible. Kennel & Pet Supply houses may carry some of these glues, but it may not be as fresh as it needs to be for proper use. Also, unless you plan to share your purchase, only purchase what you think you will need.


Detachol is the best available. It is used to remove ostomy appliances and may be special ordered by your pharmacist. Detachol is manufactured by Ferndale Laboratories of Ferndate, MI USA.

    Ferndale Laboratories, Inc.
    780 W. Eight Mile Rd.
    Ferndale, MI 48220 USA
    Phone: (248) 548-0900
    Sales: (888) 548-0900
    Fax: (248) 548-8427


The following equipment is recommended for use in setting ears:

  • Grooming Table with adjustable arm and grooming noose.
  • Glue.
  • Narrow masking tape
  • Q-Tips and rubbing alcohol (to clean the inner ear).
  • Tincture of Benzoin and cotton balls.

The most important of piece of equipment, besides the glue, is the grooming table. The grooming table will allow you to use both hands, and the dog will be sufficiently restrained until the glue is dry. Never leave your Irish Terrier unattended on the grooming table... not even to just answer the phone.


EAR SETTING by Linda Honey, Rockledge Irish Terriers
An Irish Terrier puppy, on the grooming table, ready to have his ears set.

<Puppy ready to begin
  1. Clean the inner ear with Q-tips soaked in rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol will dry quickly and will help with removal of dirt and wax in the ear.

  2. Using cotton balls, apply Tincture of Benzoin to the inner ear flap and the top of the head. Allow the Tincture of Benzoin to dry.

  3. Place glue on the inside of the ear. It is easier to just fold the ear inside out. Wait a few minutes until the glue becomes tacky.

Ears Inside Out
  1. Fold ear right side out with tip of ear pointing to the outside edge of the eye. Hold both edges firmly until they are secure.

Ears Folded Right Side Out
  1. Put more glue on the inside edge of the ear between the inside fold and the head and down the inside ear flap (not the tip). Again, wait until tacky then press firmly against the head until it is secure.

Ears Gluing Outer Edges - picture 1
Ears Gluing Outer Edges - picture 2
  1. Adhesive tape or masking tape is a good idea until the glue is thoroughly dry. Start the tape under the chin, come behind one ear and across the other, go back around reversing the process. Leave the tape on overnight, then remove.

Ears Taped - picture 1
Ears Taped - picture 2

The real secret to obtaining a good earset is to be fanatical!!! Whenever the ears are free of sores or raw spots and are not glued, they should be. Once the ears start holding, they should be left alone until they start falling again... then they should be immediately glued again. Don't get discouraged... it's been known to take six months, but it works. Usually, it only takes a few months; and it is well worth the effort. You will have a dog of whom you can be really proud, and you had something to do with it!!!


EAR GLUING by Amy Sumners, Kelson Irish Terriers

After gluing a few dozen or more puppies ears of several breeds, Irish Terriers included, the very best glue that I have found is TearMender Canvas/Leather cement by Val-A. It is a non-toxic, natural rubber-based glue that sets up VERY quickly (less than two minutes), is waterproof, lasts several days to weeks and is virtually non-irritating and non-allergenic...Over the years, I have only known of 2 or so dogs to have a reaction to this glue. Others may know of more. You can order direct from Val-A in Chicago, or from CherryBrook, (800) 524-0820, just tell them you want the Val-A Ear Glue. I know there will be others who have other favorite glues, but after trying most on the market, I LOVE Val-A. and no, I don't sell it!

One thing you want to remember is to not let the dog get his head wet while the ear is glued down. This will cause mucho terrible trouble that you don't want to see. Sorry, no swimming Fido...

When I apply the Tincture of Benzoin, I find that Q-tips work easiest: just dip in the bottle and smear it on the skin where the glue will go. For proper setting of the glue it is critical that you allow the Tincture of Benzoin to dry completely... this can take up to 15 minutes air-drying in high humidity... or you can use a hairdryer on low for a minute or so... If you get it on your skin or table, rubbing alcohol will remove it. Only bleach will remove the stain from fabric or other absorbent surfaces.

Pour a quarter-sized dollop of glue on a small saucer or something small, flat and non-absorbent. Conduct a "dry-run": arrange the ears (both at the same time) where you think you want them with no glue on them. Manipulate them until you have them where they look right, remember this will use this mental picture later.

First ear: Take the ear leather in one hand and roll it back over your forefinger with the thumb holding the tip... quickly smear/apply the glue with the other hand to the ear leather and to the scalp where the ear will be glued down. Fold/lay the ear inside out-backwards on the top of the head so that it does not connect with the glue on the scalp while it is setting. You don't want it gluing itself without "your" direction.

Lightly hold the head steady (either in a grooming noose or have someone else hold the head steady) so the dog does not shake or the glue will fly and the ear will stick together like a manicotti. While the glue sets up, quickly remove all traces of glue from your fingers... it will roll up like rubber cement glue. Val-A will not come out of fabric.

When you have removed all the glue from your hands, very carefully lift the ear leather off the head (Don't touch the glue!) putting your thumb on the inside of the ear... to provide direction to the ear when positioning it--- and your forefinger on the outside to press the ear down when the right position is found (remember your mental picture). You can use your ring finger to lift the bell of the ear to help with the lift and forward positioning of the ear. Position and press the ear into position. Hold the ear down for about 30 to 45 seconds (longer if you use other types of glue). Press the outside edges together at this time too if you apply glue there (if you do, be sure to leave an opening at the base of the ear for air).

Second ear: Repeat the same directions on the second ear.

The bell of the ear is that part of the ear close to where the ear attaches to the head at the neck and is stiffly-convex above the ear canal. Sort of where you scratch a dog behind the ears. :-) You can lift at the ear canal area from the outside and turn, push forward, lift above the level of the skull the entire ear leather.

If you have been instructed to glue the inside "well" of the ear, this is the time to glue do so: glue both sides at the same time. And you are done. Let the dog down in about 3 to 5 minutes.

DO NOT PUT TAPE ON THE HEAD OR EARS!!!!! I know there are those who disagree with me BUT: If your dog has a propensity to scratch the ears... DO NOT PUT TAPE ON THE EARS OR HEAD... this only serves to irritate and create something to scratch at... it is not a distraction from the glued ears. IMHO it draws attention to them.

  • Give your puppy some benadryl to quiet the itchies and physically pull the foot away from the head and tell your puppy NO!

    A quick call to your vet's office should give you the correct dose for your pup. Be sure to tell him that you want the lowest dose to serve as a 'calmant' for itchy skin. I don't think this calls for an actual visit to the vet's office. NOTE: You do not want and do not need any type of steroid (cortisone, prednisone) since it is not that type of skin problem. All you want to do is to calm the 'new feeling' of the skin and hair being glued together and not moving when the wind blows or the puppy tries to use its ears until you can be sure the pup is no longer distracted by the ears being glued down.

  • Pull the head off the carpet and tell your puppy NO!

  • Peel the pup off the side of the couch and tell your puppy NO!

  • Distract your puppy with a bone, a game or something that is more desirable: trick training with lots of good treats.
Soon, the pup will learn that rubbing is not the correct behavior.

If the pup rubs the tips loose, just lift the tip and apply more glue. keep doing this until the entire ear turns loose. Remove glue, let air for a day to day and half and re-glue.

I have found that the more active the teething process (losing puppy teeth or cutting new teeth), the more active the head scratching and the faster the ears come loose. And the easier for the ears to go "off" permanently. You must persevere at this time. You might give the pup something cool to chew on like a wet washcloth kept cold in the freezer for a distraction.

I have found that if you use a greasy ointment to "heal" the scrapes from scratching or removing the glue, it actually takes longer to heal... use an antibiotic cream or a medicated powder like Gold Bond to dry it up and scab it over. Then you can re-glue after 3 to 4 days instead of a week to two weeks. You can loose all your hard work by leaving the ears loose that long while the pup is actively teething.

The best glue remover I have found is Detachol! It is a miracle! Absolutely! It works in 5 or fewer minutes without taking any skin with it. Smile The glue just turns kind of clear and then turns loose... you then flea-comb it out. Detachol can be special ordered by your pharmacist. It is a human product used to remove ostomy appliances that must be glued daily to the skin. Thank you, thank you Judy LaBash!

Just don't make a big deal out of gluing the ears and MOST (Note: I said MOST) dogs eventually ignore them. Smile

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Date Last Modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2008
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