Have you ever wondered what your dog is trying to tell you? Anyone that has been around dogs for any length of time whatsoever knows that they definitely have the tendency to communicate. The only problem is, we don’t always understand what they’re trying to tell us. It isn’t that they can’t speak. The bigger issue is that we don’t always know how to listen. Sometimes, we need to be reminded to take time to better understand what they are saying to us through their body language.
Dog Body Language
Dogs speak with their entire body. Everything from the wet nose to the wagging tail can tell a story. Truth be told, dog body language is canines’ way of communicating. Since they can’t speak our language, it’s up to us to take the time to figure out what they’re trying to say so that we can better understand their needs. If you think that a dog only speaks with his tail, think again. As previously mentioned, they use their entire body to communicate. In fact, you might be surprised just how much you can learn from a dog by watching his ears.
Can A Dog’s Ears Really Tell A Story?
Dogs have ears that come in all shapes and sizes. Some have pointy ears that stand straight up while others have floppy ears that practically drag the ground. Some fall in between. Regardless of the way that a dog’s ears are shaped, they use them to communicate everything from their feelings to their intentions. Ears play a huge role in dog body language. If you want to know more about how to read this body language, you have come to the right place. Rest assured, you can use this information across the board, regardless if your dog has straight ears or floppy ones. Dogs have a tendency to communicate in much the same way, regardless of their physical makeup.
What Do Ears Held Forward Mean?
Typically, a dog that holds his ears forward is interested in something. However, it can mean a number of different things. For example, your dog might be watching something that interests him. He may even be suspicious of strangers approaching the house or something similar. At the same time, forward ears can mean happiness to see you, a desire to play, or that your dog is simply listening to you when you give him a command.
If holding the ears forward can mean all these different things, how are you supposed to know exactly what your dog is actually trying to tell you at any given moment? The key is to read the entire body language of your dog, not just one part. If you’re only looking at the ears, the eyes, or the tail, you could easily miss something. This in turn could put both you and your dog in jeopardy. Therefore, you have to take the position of the ears into context with everything else. For instance, is your dog wagging his tail in a relaxed manner or does he have his tail up in the air and curled over his back like something is bothering him? Are his eyes soft or are they fixed on something? Is he growling? All of these cues will help you better understand whether he is merely paying attention to you or if there is something more serious that is imminent.
What About Ears That Are Held Back?
There are a couple of different things that your dog could be trying to tell you here. It can be difficult to understand exactly what he’s saying unless you get a good look at the position of his ears in order to tell exactly how far back he’s holding them. Why does this matter? Dogs have a tendency to hold their ears back when they are really excited to see their person or when they’re about to get a dog treat that they’ve really been looking forward to. (Yes, they sometimes hold their ears at attention when they are happy to see you, too. This is why total dog body language is so important). Their ears don’t typically go all the way back until they are against the head, but just far enough back to give your dog a softer appearance.
On the other hand, seeing a dog with his ears held flat back against his head so that they look as though they’ve almost disappeared can mean something entirely different. When your dog does this, he’s probably very unhappy. In fact, he may even be close to lashing out. Once the ears go all the way back against the head, it’s usually a good indication that whatever has been bothering him has finally pushed him to the point where he’s about to try and do something about it. Of course, you should also look at the rest of his body language. If his ears are flat back and the tail is either curled over his back or is between his legs and he’s showing his teeth, he’s obviously very stressed about something. If it’s safe to do so, your best bet is to remove him from that environment and give him an opportunity to calm down.
Are There Other Signals You Can Pick Up From The Position Of A Dog’s Ears?
The answer is yes. It is possible to glean more information from the position of your dog’s ears. For starters, it’s important to know that your dog holding his ears back can mean more than just one or two things. He may be trying to tell you that he wants that treat or that he’s unhappy with something, but he could just as easily be telling you that he’s just not very happy in general. Dogs will sometimes hold their ears back after you have scolded them for something or if you’ve been away a lot, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety. The subtle difference here is that the ears are almost touching the head, but not quite.
Do Dogs React To Sounds With Ear Position?
Dogs may also be reacting to things that they smell or hear by swiveling their ears. Have you ever seen a dog that is looking straight ahead, yet one ear or the other is tilted sideways while the other stands at attention? This means that your dog is focused on whatever is directly in front of him, yet he’s also paying attention to something off in the distance. If you look to see which direction he is tilting his ear, you can at least figure out the general vicinity that he is paying attention to. In this respect, dogs really aren’t that much different than people. They may be paying attention to more than one thing at a time. As a result, you might see this divided attention in real-time by looking at the way that they position their ears.
Does Ear Position Reflect Dog Health?
You might be surprised to know that your dog’s ear position could potentially even reflect how he is feeling from a physical standpoint. A dog that doesn’t feel well isn’t likely to have his ears straight up and facing forward as if he were alerting to something. Instead, his ears are likely to be all the way to the back of his head. In some cases, they may be down, yet relaxed. It usually comes down to the amount of pain or discomfort that your dog is feeling. Remember, a dog in pain may be faster to lash out. Therefore, you should always use caution if you see your dog in this state. Again, it’s a good idea to read full body language as opposed to only paying attention to the ears. If you suspect that your dog’s ears are in a different position because he doesn’t feel well, it may be time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Is Ear Position Always Indicative Of Mood?
One thing that you do have to remember is that there are those rare occasions where ear position isn’t really indicative of your dog’s mood at all. Unfortunately, there are those times when you might be looking at a dog that has injured its ear at one time or another. If that’s the case, that particular ear may not naturally sit in the same position as the other one. It may be harder for the dog to move that ear in a normal fashion. This can happen when a dog suffers some type of traumatic injury to his ear. For example, the dog might have been injured in a dog fight or virtually any other type of accident. If physical damage occurred to the ear, it could have damaged either the structure of the ear itself or the nerves that control it. Therefore, the injured ear may not be a reliable indicator of your dog’s mood.
What Else Can Ear Position Tell You About Your Dog?
Remember, you might be able to figure out when your dog doesn’t feel well physically by the way that he holds his ears. What should you do if he is holding one ear normally and constantly holding the other one back or down and slightly to the side? This type of situation may indicate that your dog is suffering from an ear infection. This is especially true if it’s accompanied by repeated shakes of the head. You might also see your dog scratching at the ear with his paws and then whimpering when he does so. He may also be reluctant for you to touch his head on the side where he is experiencing pain. If you see any of these things, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian so he can be evaluated as opposed to letting the situation continue to get worse.
What About Dogs With Floppy Ears?
You might be thinking that it’s easier to read body language regarding your dog’s ears if you just so happen to have a dog that has ears that stand straight up, to begin with. After all, they are relatively easy to read in the sense that you can see the ears clearly. Furthermore, dogs with floppy ears don’t typically have a lot of trouble moving them back and forth. The same thing is true for Border Collies, Aussies, and dogs of similar breeding. Their ears may or may not stand straight up, but no one in their right mind would consider them floppy. As such, it’s easy for them to move their ears around and express how they are feeling through that type of body language.
Can you count on the same type of body language if your dog has floppy ears? What if you have a Basset Hound or a Bloodhound and you’re trying to read his body language through ear position? Is it even possible to do so? Some people have the misconception that these types of dogs scarcely move their ears at all because they are simply too heavy to be moved. While it is true that dogs with these types of ears may not move them as dramatically as German Shepherds or Border Collies, they still move them. You can still see them move their ears forward slightly when something intrigues them. If they are unhappy, they may move their ears back toward the back of their head. Granted, it’s not as easy to read this body language with these types of dogs, but it still happens. More importantly, you can still read it if you take the time to pick up on the subtle cues that your dog is giving you.
Understanding a dog’s body language is one of the most important things you can do. It helps you avoid potentially stressful or even dangerous situations with your dog and it gives the two of you an opportunity to strengthen your bond through increased understanding. The key is to look at your dog’s body language as a whole and then constantly work to understand what he is trying to tell you is the only way he knows how.