Dog Ears Talk

Dog ears aren’t just listening


Dog ears aren’t just listening – they’re for talking too!

Dogs ears are great indicators for telling you what your dog is feeling.

When your dog is relaxed – his ears will sit in a neutral position. Neutral position means that they are not pricked forward, drooping down or pasted to his head. Whatever the dog’s breed, they are just sitting easy.

Here is a relaxed dog with neutral ears. The other body language that tells me this dog is relaxed is the big open mouth and relaxed, drooping tongue.

relaxed dog


Relaxed ears on this Aussie


Attentive/Pricked Ears: Lupa is playing and focused. Her ears are pricked forward. Her eyes are looking directly at something (likely her playmate). Her mouth is opened and relaxed – because she is happy playing. If you make a funny sound you’re dog may prick his ears forward (and also offer a head tilt).

attentive dog


Pricked, forward ears


Alert/Concerned Ears: In the case below, our Golden has just heard something. He’s on the fence about it and processing the information. His ears are pricked, body weight is rolled forward, his tail is lifted and his mouth is shut. His ears are keenly pricked forward and he’s on alert.

alert dog


Alert ears


Bernie, our Boston Terrier is wearing ears that tell us he maybe a bit concerned and is working to figure something out. His ears were changing positions and flicking back and forth. He’s trying to decide how he feels about his current situation and sounds around him. Notice his jaw is not relaxed, but closed. Also note: he was asked to sit on a busy sidewalk in NYC.

concerned dog


Concerned Boston Terrier


The term dropped or pinned ears refers to ears that appear pasted/pinned or dropped and held tight to the dog’s head. Dogs can drop/lower their ears when they are both happy and nervous. It’s important to read the rest of the dog. I prefer to call ears, “dropped” when the dog is offering pro social behavior, like our dog below.

You can see our dog is offering a lovely kiss to his friend’s face. His body is likely wiggly and loose. This dog is using his dropped ears to tell her that he is harmless and happy to be social.

social dog


Dropped, back, or pinned ears (Photo: kissdroppedears)


On the flip side, our dog below is using every square inch and muscle in his body to tell us he is nervous and fearful, his ears included.

His ears are extremely pinned tight and his body could not be more hunched, and stiff. His tail is between his legs, his legs are tightly bent and his movement is slinking and slow. He is turning not just his head, but his shoulders and full body away from the greeter.

social fearful


Fearful dog (Photo: Scared Dog)


There you have it! I know a lot of owners believe their dogs like to use “selective hearing” or feel ignored when they call their dogs to come. When this is happening, take a look at your dog’s ears to see what’s he’s saying with them. Maybe he’s not responding to you because he is keenly focused on something else (like the Golden above with pricked ears). Perhaps, he’s not coming to you, because he is nervous that you are mad at him (like the hunched and slinky dog).

Last but not least, ask yourself when you last practiced, coming when called or attention exercises. If the answer is not recently or never, those ears won’t ever quite work the way you’d like for them to, but it has nothing to do with THEIR ability to hear, but your doggy’s lack of solid training!

Looking for more ways to better understand and communicate with your dog? Check out all of Colleen’s DogSpeak columns…

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