Thinking about dogs with floppy ears may conjure images of Pluto, Goofy, Droopy, Snoopy, or even Old Yeller. Many of our most beloved cartoon characters have been dogs with floppy ears of one length or another. Perhaps it is this nostalgia that drives many potential dog owners to search out such traits in their fur babies.
There may be nothing cuter in the world of dogs than a floppy-eared puppy tripping over his own ears. Floppy ears drastically up the cute factor of pups by drawing more focus to the face and eyes, which all dog lovers can vouch is the real heart and soul of their beloved companion. Even the Grinch couldn’t resist the draw of a floppy-eared Max, his own beloved friend. No further proof of the power of a flopped ear is needed as far as I’m concerned.
Quite a few popular dog breeds are known for their floppy ears and this feature can be found in short or long forms. Golden Retrievers, Labs, some hounds, and Pointers are well-known dog breeds with floppy ears that fold into almost perfect triangles that can emphasize any facial expression. However, the long-eared variety of flops are endearing on other popular breeds such as Dachshunds, Bloodhounds, Beagles, or Spaniels like the Cavalier King Charles and English Cocker, and Setters. The aforementioned puppy ear tripping often occurs in these breeds.
Let’s be honest, the golden trophy of cuteness goes to any of the dog breeds with floppy ears that also has short legs like your Dachshunds and Bassets. This combination lends itself to a lifetime of stair mishaps and wind blowing ear flaps that can make even the most calloused of hearts sing.
A Floppy Dog for Everyone
The best part of dogs with floppy ears is their ubiquity. There is a floppy-eared breed or mix out there for everyone. In fact, many of the most popular dog breeds have this endearing trait. Several of the well-known hunting breeds have flopped ears both in long or short lengths. And the most common breeds worldwide are known for their expressive, floppy ears.
It may actually be easier to list off dog breeds that do not have naturally flopped ears. Many breeds thought of as pointy-eared are in fact altered by humans to change their flopped ears (I’m looking at you, Great Danes). However, some examples of the most common breeds follow.
Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Beagles, and Dachshunds are just a few of the most well-known breed of dogs with floppy ears. Any of these adorable ear-dragging pooches can be found in households across the United States. Just taking a neighborhood walk with your owns beloved fur baby will almost certainly draw a cacophony of brays and howls from homes as these popular family pets make their presence known.
Historically used for hunting, these long-eared breeds are now widely utilized as drug/contraband sniffing helpers as well as search and rescue or cadaver dogs. It is a widely accepted idea that these breeds are especially successful scent hounds because their ears help funnel scents toward their noses.
Walks with any one of these guys may take you far off the beaten path as their nose will almost certainly lead the way. Owners of scent hounds will undoubtedly have tales of unexpected finds or amazing tracking ability (like following the path of a single ant).
Golden Retrievers, Labs, Poodles, Bully breeds, Setters, and Pointers, to name just a few. When someone says the word “dog” it is likely an image of a Labrador or Golden Retriever that pops into your head. These two breeds are indisputably the most popular family dogs in the United States. As such, it is easy to find mixed breeds with their traits as well. Additionally, the recent explosion in popularity of “Oodle mixes” has created even more opportunities to find those sought-after triangular flopped ears in local shelters.
However, should you be in the market for a more pocket-sized floppy-eared friend, there’s a breed for you as well. Havanese, Dachshunds, English Bulldogs, and a plethora of small terriers can fit the bill for a travel-sized companion with the trademark floppy ears. Even the ever-popular Miniature Schnauzer has triangle-folded ears at birth. It is only through cropping by humans that they have obtained the pointed ears often associated with them.
Why Do Dogs Have Floppy Ears?
Floppy ears, especially the long ones, aren’t found in wild dogs or wolves. As such, the scientific definition of floppy ears is a genetic mutation or defect. So, the question about how we have so many domestic breeds with this trait is a valid one. It is believed that floppy ears were an accidental trait developed during early domestication breeding that was then selectively bred for as humans fell in love with the endearing floppy look.
Floppy ears are a dominant trait in dogs, meaning if one parent has them, the puppy likely will too. This made it easier to selectively breed for than recessive genes such as coloration. This fact makes it even more interesting that humans would breed for the floppy ears only to then routinely crop them in several breeds.
Is it Bad for Dogs to Have Floppy Ears?
Some noted advantages to long floppy ears exist, such as funneling scents to the nose. But despite being defined as a genetic defect, the only obvious downside to our flop-eared loves is the extra time needed to care for their ears to avoid infection. When kept up with, this is rarely a burdensome issue for owners, but it is nonetheless important. Those drooped over-ears restrict airflow into the ear canal and can trap moisture to provide a breeding ground for bacteria. For the long ears that drag on the ground, there is also increased exposure to dirt and debris.
Careful cleaning with a mild ear cleaner that you can make yourself is usually sufficient to keep infections at bay. The frequency of ear cleaning is best discussed with your vet but often once a month is appropriate. Variables such as swimming, outside behaviors, and length/shape of the ears will contribute to the cleaning schedule, though. Note, too, that cleaning is only an effective preventative for infection. Once an infection does occur or you notice your pup scratching his ear, head tilting/shaking, or a foul smell from the ear, veterinary care, and prescribed medication is needed.
Floppy ears do not affect a dog’s ability to hear. Your flop-eared pup can hear just as well as your prick-eared one. And the only time to be concerned about your puppy’s floppy ears is if they are supposed to be naturally pricked but haven’t started to point up by about 6 months old. If that is the case, your vet can guide you on possible causes and treatments.
Are Dog Breeds with Floppy Ears Nicer than Pointy-Eared Breeds?
The short answer here is: No. Ear shape and demeanor are unrelated. However, much like everything else, human bias plays a role. Recently the TSA has turned more to dog breeds with flopped ears rather than the historically used German Shepherds or other pointy-eared breeds after results from several studies showed humans perceived pointy-eared dogs as more intimidating. This decision was made purely to cater to human perceptions and does not actually change anything about the dogs themselves.
It’s likely that the use of ear cropping on breeds used for protection or fighting has contributed to the misperception that floppy-eared dogs are more friendly. Doberman Pinchers, Boxers, and Bully breeds for example, naturally have flopped ears much akin to those of a Labrador. However, many owners crop their ears purely for the aesthetic. Recent trends have leaned toward more natural ears and tails across breeds, though, so hopefully, this misconception will slowly resolve.
Additionally, police dogs are typically pointy-eared breeds like the German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois which might contribute to humans’ association of intimidation among these breeds. Those breeds just happen to be especially smart, trainable, and physically agile, and strong enough to be used in such jobs.
Ear shape and size have no intrinsic relationship to a dog’s personality. Ears have been selectively bred for by humans, and the bias that now exists around-ear type is equally the result of human interference.
What Kind of Dog is Droopy?
“Hello, all you happy people” Droopy would say in his monotone voice and flat affect. Droopy is one of the most recognizable floppy, long-eared dog examples from television. Generally speaking, it is understood that Droopy the Dog is a Bassett Hound. Though some debate has surrounded this in the past.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes floppy ears in dogs?
Floppy and long ears have been selectively bred for by humans.
Are floppy ears bad for dogs?
There is nothing fundamentally bad about a dog with floppy ears, but more attention to cleaning and keeping them free from infection is necessary.
Are floppy-eared dogs friendlier?
No. Popular trends in modern dog ownership may have contributed to the misconception that floppy ears mean nicer, but this is not true.
What breed of dog is Droopy?
Widely accepted to be a Basset Hound.
Should I get a Floppy Eared Pooch?
Yes. Or No. Whatever you decide. Generally speaking, going into a dog search with specific physical attributes in mind is not the most beneficial thought process. Perusing the local shelter or rescues for a dog with a size and temperament appropriate for your life will yield much happier results. However, should you be dead set on a specific ear shape or type, a shelter or rescue group will still provide you with many options.
There are no inherent traits that come with floppy or long ears. They may be more appealing to some people on a personal level, but there is no direct correlation between ears and personalities among dogs any more than there is among people and our ears. At the end of the day, it is often the owner that makes the dog.
Rin Tin-Tin was an especially popular and successful show and the main character was a pointed-eared German Shepherd. Huskies, Border Collies, and Corgies remain especially popular breeds as well and they also boast natural pointed ears. And let’s not forget the oft-overlooked adorable factor that is a single drooped ear.
In the End, Dogs are Dogs are Dogs
Ear shape and length are as variable in dogs as hairstyles are in the human world. Nothing can be predicted by ear shape outside of knowing how adorable the puppy stage will be when ear tripping is a factor. A little extra attention to hygiene may be needed for the especially drooped or long-eared breeds, but outside of that detail, there are no differences to their pointy-eared cousins.
There is a perfect dog for every family who wants one, regardless of ears.