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 the ears 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 cues that tell me this dog is at ease are the big, open mouth and relaxed, drooping tongue.
This Terrier 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 is happy playing. If you make a funny sound your dog may prick his ears forward and also offer a head tilt.
In this case, our Golden Retriever 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 tell us that he’s on alert.
This Boston Terrier is wearing ears that tell us he may be a bit concerned and is working to figure something out. His ears are changing positions and flicking back and forth. He’s trying to decide how he feels about his current situation and the sounds around him. Notice his jaw is not relaxed, but closed.
Dropped Or Pinned Ears
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 this pup.
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.
Extremely Pinned Ears
On the flip side, this dog 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.
There you have it!
I know a lot of dog 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 Retriever 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 at the end. Pay attention to what your dog’s ears are communicating to you.