Dog Ear Positions Meaning: What Your Dog Communicates

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Dogs are pretty smart animals, with scientific evidence indicating that these canine counterparts can understand up to 250 different words, interpret human emotions, and pull off various crafty tricks on you when trying to score a snack. In this guide, we highlight dog ear positions meaning to help you communicate better with your pet.

Their intelligence aside, dogs can’t verbally tell you what’s on their mind, but they can sure communicate a lot through their body language. Dog ear positions tell a lot about their thoughts, feelings, intentions, ad much more.

Dog Ear Positions Meaning

In this guide, we have put together a quick dog ear positions chart to help you learn what your furry friend is communicating, plus other body language communications through eyes and tails.

1: Neutral Position

A relaxed dog will have both years sitting in a neutral position. Typically, a neutral position is where the years are freely relaxed on the sides, not pricked forward, pasted to the head, or drooping down.

Alongside neutral ears, a relaxed dog will have other body language cues such as an open mouth, a relaxed face, and a drooping tongue.

A relaxed dog with ears in neutral position

2: Pricked/Attentive Ears

If a dog’s ears are pricked forward, it means that he is focused on something. If he is in the park, it could be his playmates, but if he is close to some bush or thicket, he could be prying on some squirrel. Other times, dogs can prick their ears forward when they hear unusual sounds from a certain direction.

Other body language cues of an attentive dog may include an open mouth, and eyes looking directly in a certain direction.

An attentive dog with pricked ears

3: Pricked/Alert Ears

If a dog hears some unusual movement or sound in the neighborhood, they’ll increase their level of alertness to process the information and figure out what it is. In terms of body language, they’ll show pricked ears with their body weight rolled forward, mouth shut, and tail lifted up.

An attentive Husky with pricked ears

4: Dropped Back or Pinned Ears

Dropped back or pinned ears means that the ears are pinned/pasted on the side of the head. In most instances, dogs pin their ears when they feel happy and nervous at the same time.

If you notice dropped or pinned ears, take time to read the rest of the dog’s body language to understand what they mean.

For example, a dog could drop his ears when giving you a kiss on the face – it’s his way of assuring you that the kiss is harmless but just his way of expressing love and happiness.

Such pinned ears will be accompanied by the waggling of the tail and loosening of the body.

A happy but nervous dog with pinned ears

5: Extremely Pinned Ears

A fearful dog will use every square inch and muscle in her body to tell you she is nervous and fearful, and that includes her ears.

The ears can extremely become pinned tight beside the head and the tail coiled between the legs. Additionally, a fearful dog will tightly bend his knees and sink his movements to an extremely slow pace. They may also turn their shoulder and body from the aggressor.

A fearful dog with extremely pinned ears

6: Ears Changing Positions

If a dog’s ears are changing positions and flicking back and forth, it could be an indication that the dog is concerned about something and is trying to figure it out. Dogs can struggle and get confused about the right way to react to a new situation or strange sounds around them.

This can often happen if you take your dog out for a walk along a busy street with speeding cars and numerous people for the first time. Other than ears changing positions, the dog may have a tight jaw and closed mouth.

A concerned dog with ears changing positions

Dog Ear Positions Chart

Here a quick roundup of dog ear positions and their interpretations:

NoDog Ear PositionMeaning
1Neutral PositionA relaxed dog
2Pricked/Attentive EarsAn attentive or focused dog
3Pricked/Alert EarsA dog on alert
4Dropped Back/Pinned EarsA dog is both happy and nervous
5Extremely Pinned EarsA fearful dog
6Ears Changing PositionsA concerned or confused dog

Other Body Language Cues Dogs Use

Other than ear positions, your dog’s body language can mean a lot more. Here are some common body language cues that dogs use:

A Dog’s Tail

The tail is one of the things that separate humans from their canine friends, but it’s also one of their most endearing features. Dogs use their tails to communicate a lot of information to us if we learn how to interpret it.

The position of your dog’s tail can communicate information about what he is thinking and feeling, and here are just a few examples:

  • Tail held high and still is an indication of alertness and the desire to show dominance.
  • If the tail is held straight out, it shows that the dog is grasping new information and is certainly responding.
  • Tail held high and wagging indicates happiness and a state of alertness. Such a dog is cautiously excited but is showing dominance.
  • Tail coiled between the legs shows fear or submission.
A Corgi with tail up to show dominance

Tail Wagging Doesn’t Always Mean Happiness!

Many dog owners often assume that tail wagging in dogs broadly means that the dog is happy, which is not always accurate. Tail wagging can mean several different things, and it should be interpreted along with the dog’s other body language at that time.

Laidback vs. upright ear positions, relaxed vs. tense facial muscles, and relaxed or standing hair coat can all give different information about the dog’s feelings.

Generally, dogs wag their tails faster when they are overly excited and slower when they become less interested in something or someone.

They also tend to make broader strokes when they feel happier and smaller strokes as they become more uptight about something.

Even the direction a dog’s tail wags towards means something. Researchers have recently pieced together different meanings of a dog’s tail wagging to the left or right:

  • Tail wagging to the right shows the dog is feeling pleasant and is encountering someone or something known to them.
  • If the tail wagging is to the left, it shows that the dog is encountering a human or another dog that isn’t known to them, and they want to show dominance.

Expert Tip: Tail wagging does not work in isolation. When approaching a new dog, observe all other body language cues together or ask the owner if their pup is generally friendly before making your move.

A Dog’s Eyes

  • If your dog is winking, it means she is happy and very playful.
  • Wide, upturned eyes may mean that the dog is feeling unsure or nervous about something.
  • Narrowed eyes indicate that your dog is feeling aggressive. Take caution if it is followed by concentrated staring.
  • Wide open eyes indicate that your pup feels ready to play and have fun.
  • When your dog breaks eye contact, she is avoiding confrontation and trying to be polite.
  • A dog holding eye contact or staring is a sure sign that he is challenging the object of their attention.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been a dog parent for long enough, you might have realized that your pooch sometimes uses selective hearing, and they can choose to ignore you even when you call. When that happens, keenly watch your dog’s ears and see what they’re communicating.

More often, if he has pricked ears, he may be ignoring you because he fears you might be mad at him. Hopefully, the dog ear positions we’ve discussed here will help you better understand your dog and what she communicates by just observing their ears and other body language cues.

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