Does your dog move his ears? It's more than likely he does. You may even have noticed him sitting there, swiveling his ears around as if he was tuning in to some inaudible transmission. Dogs tend to do that quite a lot. It's as if they've got access to their own personal radio station channel and it's playing on such a low volume, us sensory deficient humans just can't hear it.
You may have even noticed that sometimes your dog will move his ears and just by letting them lay at a different angle, it completely changes the characteristics of his face. He can be bright and perky one instant, then seriously soppy and cute the next just by moving his ears.
But why do dogs move their ears?
The Root of the Behavior
Though your pup's ear waggles may look irresistibly cute, they do also serve a purpose. Ears are one of a dog's most important sensory tools and through them, they can gather almost as much information as they can through their noses. A dog's hearing is extraordinarily sensitive and even though they can hear more than four times better than humans, they'll turn their ears toward a distant sound so they can pick it up even better. Often they'll perk their ears straight up so their earlobes don't interfere with the audio reception. If a noise is close by and overtly loud, your dog may well fold his earlobes over to cut out the sound or dull it down to a tolerable level. Because what is loud to us is absolutely deafening to your dog.
Dogs move their ears when they're expressing emotions. Though quite a few hounds know how to give out big cheesy grins when trained to do so, smiling isn't really something dogs do naturally, not when they're happy anyway. A dog's ears speak an emotional and very visual language which is easily read by man and others in the dog world.
When a dog moves his ears and they lay flat on his head, depending on the accompanying stance he uses, it could be translated as having several different meanings. It's when you know your dog or can recognize the signs your dog or someone else's is giving off, you'll have passed the ear reading test. If his ears are flat back and he's trembling, he could be afraid, excited, or submissive. You'll be able to decide if you consider the circumstances of the moment. If his ears are back and he's showing you his teeth while emitting a throaty grumble, you can probably surmise that he, or whoever’s dog it may be, is not a particularly happy puppy.
Encouraging the Behavior
The sheer fact dogs can move their ears is pretty amazing because it means we can, to some extent, understand what they are feeling. Once you've mastered the art of reading dog ear language, you really are on the right road to knowing your dog better. You'll recognize the signs which let you know he's feeling anxious and enjoy those special moments when he communicates his contentment.
Some dog ear movements can also act as a good indication of his intentions. If you’re out walking your dog on his leash and a cat runs across his path, his ears might perk forward into curiosity mode. Which basically means he may well be about to set chase or is at least contemplating it. So when you see that sign, you'll know you'll need to hold on tight.
If your dog is cute when he moves his ears, it's really something you just can't help reacting to. He's going to notice all that sympathetic attention you give him and enjoy the "oohs" and "aahs" he generates by doing something which to him comes naturally. When a dog moves his ears it somehow exaggerates his loveable characteristics, and just like those trained for television work, we can't help but love them even more.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs can be serious manipulators and if he knows he's going to get your attention by moving his ears, guaranteed he'll do it as often as he can. It may all seem like a bit of fun, but it may well encourage him to send you the wrong signal when he really needs to transmit to you something else which is more important.
Because of the physical structure of a dog's ear, they can be prone to picking up all types of infection; bacterial, fungal, and parasitic. If your dog is moving his ears more than he usually does or appears to be irritated by them, it's advisable to consult a veterinary surgeon to see if he needs some treatment.
Dogs move their ears because it's a natural thing for them to do. Apart from barking or moaning, it's one way they can communicate their feelings to us and once we've learnt to recognise the signs, a dog's ear movements can help us to understand that it really is, without a doubt, truly a dog's life.
Written by a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/30/2020