When should the ears be standing? Every puppy is different. Some puppies ears are standing at a very young age and some don't stand until they are almost 8 months old. If the ears are going to stand naturally they should be up by 4-7 months of age and after the adult teeth have came in. It's not uncommon to see the ears go up and down often during the teeth process. They can put them up then drop them again when the next tooth starts breaking through. Typically if the ears were standing before teething they will come back up after the adult teeth are in. The body uses calcium as needed and when teeth and bone growth are developing, the calcium isn't being used for non-essentials like the cartilage at the base of the ear frame.
Research suggests that if the puppies ears are not up by the time they are 7 months old they will not go up at all. I have read that it is possible up to 1 year of age, but not likely. We would suggest if by the time the puppy is 4-5 months old if you haven't seen positive progression it's time to consider "helping" them.
What can I do to help the ears stand up? One of the most important things is to make sure that the ears have a chance to stand naturally. Rule number one - keep your hands off of them! Do not allow anyone to play with, bend, fold, pull or fondle the ears. Some research suggests that massaging at the base of the ears can help, but do not mess with the actual ears themselves. Feed a quality food. Feeding a mass produced commercial food is less than ideal. You are not going to find a quality food at stores like Wal-Mart. It's recommend feeding a food that is less than 27% protein and less than 17% fat. Also a food with absolutely NO corn or wheat! If your puppy grows too fast it could be prone to several health issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis. Give your puppy something to chew on. Kongs or other strong toys are ideal. The idea is to help strengthen the muscles that support the jaw and ears. Take your puppy to the vet. You need to make sure you puppy doesn't have an ear or other infections. Get a fecal test done. Take a stool sample to your vet for them to check to make sure your puppy doesn't have any intestinal parasites. Sometimes this can be an underlying cause of your ear issue.
When should I start to worry? I would suggest if by the time the puppy is 5 months old if you haven't seen positive progression it's time to consult an expert. "Do-it-yourself" fixes could cause more long term harm than good. Waiting much past the age of 5 months could limit your chance of the ears ever going up.
What about supplements? Since calcium is one of the building blocks of cartilage growth, it stands to reason that supplementing will solve all the problems. It sounds like a good theory, but it's not. Most over-the-counter calcium supplements are NOT absorbed by the body and are a waste of money and time. For a growing puppy too much Calcium can be a dangerous thing and can lead to future health problems. If you choose to supplement, do it very carefully.
What about yogurt? Adding yogurt to your dogs diet is a great idea! It is a good source of calcium, protein, potassium, magnesium and contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Yogurt can also be helpful in maintaining good digestive health. You can add one teaspoon to one tablespoon (depending upon your dog’s size) to your dogs normal meal or add it to baked homemade dog treats. If your dog has never eaten yogurt before, give only small amounts at first to prevent digestive upset. Just like people, some dogs may not be able to tolerate certain foods in their diet. Feed only plain yogurt to avoid unnecessary sugar intake.
What about cottage cheese? Do NOT feed your dog both yogurt and cottage cheese. Most dogs lack the enzyme necessary to digest lactose in dairy, which may lead to bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Just like some humans, some dogs do not produce any, or not enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down lactose. This is a condition commonly referred to as lactose intolerance. If you want to try cottage cheese, low fat and low sodium varieties are preferable. Cottage cheese is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.