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Taping: Backer Rod

Ear Posting Recommendations,

Dog ear posting is a bit of an art form, that everyone does a little differently but there are a few absolute do nots and a few absolute yes do!

For all the longer ear crops,  Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes and Giant Schnauzer, I recommend they all start out with the backer rod method.

There are good YouTube videos on this method but if they show wrapping the ear to the post with stretchy bandage wrap such as Coban or Vetwrap.  I would absolutely NOT do that!   Some very experienced people use it with great success, but I have seen too many ear posting vet wrap tragedies to ever recommend, and I don’t use it myself!

If you get the vetwrap or any stretchy tape even just a bit too tight and it will act like a tourniquet,  the ear will lose circulation.  When posts are changed a few days later you will find a dead and dying ear, all or a portion of it, wherever the pressure was too much to allow blood flow the tissue will be dead and slough out/off…remember the arteries in the ear are small and it doesn’t’ take much pressure to block blood flow.

Here is a quick overview of the backer rod method. 

Backer rod is a foam tubing that can be purchased at any Hardware store or online.  Most Doberman puppies start out needing to use the medium or ½” sized rod.

I cut my pieces so that they will be longer than the ears themselves to protect the eartips.

I then roll my backer rod in long direction with duct tape, this stiffens the rod just a little and it will then lie straight.

I roll each duct taped rod with 1” white cloth tape in a spiral fashion so that it is smooth and this adds additional strength but the rod is still flexible.  I can make several pairs up to this point and keep them in my posting supply bag ready for posting at a moments notice!

When I am ready to post I get out all my tape and supplies (including treats for the puppy)  and then “back-wrap” my premade posts with a second layer of 1” white cloth tape with the sticky side outward.

I like to use an adhesive enhancer such as “skintac” wipes and wipe the length of each ear, this makes the stickiness of the tape just a little stickier and the posts really stay in.

I then insert the posts into the ear and gently pull the ear firmly up onto the posts.

I first apply one short length of white 1”tape and go around the tip of the ear and post, this tape is not tight.  I then use strips of “Guard-Tex” finger tap and wrap the around the ear and the post together going in a direction that keeps that natural fold of the ear at the base folded inward,  Guard-Tex  tape is not sticky nor stetchy and is not wrapped at all tightly around the ear.   Once I get to the bell I finish the post with another strip of the white 1” cloth tape.  I then gently squeeze the post and ear together.  The beauty of Guard-Tex tape is it sticks only to itself but has no adhesive, its light and breezy, you can even see the ear through it.   It will not pull the hair off the back of the ear as it has no adhesive.   I use this method whether I am doing half or full posts.  See below for explanation of full vs half posts.

One of the best things with the backer rod method is that you can do full posts, or half posts.   Full posts are where the post goes down into the bell and really promotes being able to pull the ear up onto the post firmly taking out all the slack.  then the two posted ears are bridged with a strip of soft tape that can be varied in length to position the ears in a 10 & 2 oclock or 11 & 1 oclock positions.   This soft bridge does allow the pup to pull his ears up and use the forehead muscles somewhat.  Being able to pull the ear up onto this full post helps get the ear into the straight off the forehead position.

The other backer rod method I like is 1/2 posts.  In this posting the rod sits on that lump of cartilage in the middle of the ear on the hairless or ventral side….. this lump has a name, its the anti-helix…(but don’t worry there is no test at the end of this message!).  Then the post is wrapped to ear the same as full posts, this method requires that the bridge be a third piece of backer rod (or what we call a solid bridge) or the weight of the posts will cause the ears to fall over as they don’t have the support of the post going down into the bell.   Half posts’ advantage are that they allow the bell to breath and the solid bridge can be varied in length to position the ears straight up, or just a little outwards if the ears are trying to fold over inwards….

Alternating between full and half posts is a good way to get the benefits of each and allow the bell to breath while in half posts, then back into full posts to help pull ear up straight.   I realize without visuals this may be hard to picture.

Posts should be changed every 3-5 days, checked each day for smell or any oozing (and of course removed immediately if any off smell or discharge found or if ears/posts get wet).    Ears stand from the base/bell upwards and once the bell is ‘set’, basically holding ear upwards (though tips may still be weak and floppy) then other often recommended methods can be used such as the “ziptie” method or breathrite nasal strip method (where the strip is trimmed to fit, extra adhesive added and it is tapped to tip of the ear downwards to provide light support to last 1″ or so of ear as it matures….

Ear cartilage will not fully mature until the dog is completely done with adult teething.  What I consider “adult teething” is the eruption of the last 8 adult teeth.  The four canine or fang teeth and the large premolar/molar pair on each side of the jaw, called the carnassial pair.  These teeth start to erupt into the gumline at ~ 6 months and start to be finish up about 8 months or so, though roots of these large teeth are still developing for several more months…   so ear posting even for a modest length crop will need to assumed to continue until at least 8 months.  If you finish early, Lucky you!!! For the longer ‘showier’ ear crops assume you will be providing some support to the ears until 12 months. During this “adult teething” at 6-8 months or so some dogs have regression in cartilage maturation and ears appear to get floppier!  Do Not Dispair!!!  Puppy posters just need to post past it and not worry,  Mother Nature will remember that ear cartilage as soon as she is done with the teeth…….

Posting is not a light switch all on or off but is backed off as dog matures,  take ears down and leave them as long as they are standing and then post again as soon as any sagging is observed.  Older puppies they can often go 2-3 or more days with ears down before being reposted, as long as they are not down and are posted ASAP when any sagging starts. Letting the puppy run around with flopping ears in the 6 month + ages is very counterproductive to getting ears to stand, whereas the first week or two after the crop it is more important to let ears be completely healed before posting rather than post ears that are still scabby or have any irritation on them..  at this stage I just recommend folks massage/stretch the ears several times a day by gently pulling upwards with the ear between thumb and forefinger…

There are of course many very experienced posters out there and the statements above are just my experiences.   Learn what works best for you and help others become confident ear posters!

I have mentioned several products that I purchase on Amazon (sorry folks!)  that I can’t find anywhere else.

  1. There are now several light 1” white cloth porous tape brands out there that rival the class J&J Zonas Porous, those include Pivetal, and Covetrus brands,  even the Kendall Covidien brand isn’t too bad..
  2. SkinTac, the adhesive enhancer is a lot less messy and easier to remove than rubbery Torbot glue. It can be dissolved with rubbing alcohol.  But there are times I still use turbot.
  3. Guard-Tex tape is amazing, though if you lose the end of the roll it can be frustrating to find it again, leave a folded angle courtesy tab for yourself to prevent excessive cursing and swearing…..


Kay A Backues, DVM DACZM

DPCA PEC member