What Your Dog's Ears Can Tell You

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Believe it or not, your dog's ears are good for more than just hearing. Since we can't speak the same language, dogs use body language to communicate with us. Specifically, your dog's ears can often tell you exactly how they are feeling. But, while your dog's ears can speak volumes, it's always helpful to check out the rest of your dog's body language for additional clues. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to help you decode your dog's ear position.

Neutral ears

In order to understand what your dog's ears are telling you, it's important to note what your dog's ears look like when they are relaxed and in neutral position. This varies widely among different breeds. For example, a Cocker Spaniel's ears will be straight down and droopy, whereas a French Bulldog's ears naturally point up and slightly out, almost as if they are purposely perked up. Based on your dog's neutral ear position, other positions might differ slightly among breeds as well, so that's something to look out for.

Alert or pricked ears

Your dog will make it easy to tell when he is intrigued or on alert by pricking his ears up. In this case, your dog might literally be pricking his ears to listen to something more closely. Your dog might do this if he hears an unfamiliar sound in the neighborhood, and hunting dogs do this to listen while they're working. Your dog also does this when he is excited during playtime. Pricked ears mean he is attentive and engaged in the activity.

Slightly back ears

If your dog's ears are just very slightly positioned back, it probably means your pup is in a friendly mood. This is usually the position of your dog's ears when he approaches you to rest his head on your knee and look up at you while you're sitting on the couch. If your dog has his ears in this position and is wagging his tail while meeting new strangers, it's a good sign! But it probably means your dog would make a terrible guard dog.

Pinned ears

If your dog's ears are pinned back and dropped low, it can mean two things and it's easy to tell the difference. If the ears are just loosely pinned back and down, your dog is being submissive. You've probably seen your dog do this when you find your trash bin spread all over the kitchen and he knows he has been naughty.

The second type of pinned ears position is easy to recognize. If your dog's ears are pinned straight back as flat as they can possibly be against the back of the head, your dog is terrified. In this situation, your dog's adrenaline is high, and he is transitioning into "fight or flight" mode. The best thing to do is get you and your dog out of whatever the situation may be. You don't want to be on the receiving end of a bite if your dog chooses fight over flight.

Changing ear position

When your dog is quickly changing the position of his ears, it can be hard to understand how he feels or what he might be trying to tell you. In this case, you and your dog are totally on the same page because this kind of ear movement means your dog doesn't know how to feel either! A quickly changing ear position indicates that your dog is puzzled. He might feel uncomfortable or concerned, so do what you can to comfort him or answer his unspoken questions about what is going to happen next.

What if your dog has cropped ears?

Luckily, dogs are extremely communicative with the rest of their body too. So, look to your dog's tail, face, or general posture for signs about what he might be trying to tell you. In fact, no matter what breed or ear position, this is always a very helpful tool to understand what your dog is trying to convey.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018
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