Why Do Dogs Move Their Ears Up & Down?

by Naomi Millburn
The ears are a major communication tool in the canine world.

The ears are a major communication tool in the canine world.

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For a human, the mere idea of using the ears to communicate may be rather giggle-inducing. However, that is certainly not the case with dogs. Canines utilize the positioning of their ears to express a wide array of different emotions, moving them up and down with every passing mood.

Excitement

A dog may move his ears up to express excitement. If something catches your dog's focus, whether the presence of another furry pal or the aroma of food on someone's plate, you may just notice his ears pointing straight to the sky, pushed slightly to the front. Look out for other indications of stimulation, including widened eyes, raised tail and rigid legs. This doggie is rapt with attention, at least for the moment.

Submission

A dog may flatten his ears down if he's feeling vulnerable and weak. When a canine encounters another dog or human he feels is "above" him, he may indicate his submission by lowering his ears and pushing them to the back. This is a sign of respect -- an admission of subordination, essentially. It also may be an attempt to establish a truce with a stronger party. This is not a dog who wants to fight.

Dominance

At the other end of the spectrum, a dog who feels dominant move raise his ears up when meeting a weaker canine. The raising of the ears shows that the dog feels that he is in the power position with the better status. The dog may also keep his tail up -- another sign that he's feeling self-assured and confident.

Contentment

When a dog feels content, happy and fully at ease, he may move his ears up. All is fine and dandy for Fluffy for the time being. Other body language clues that point to contentment are a slightly swinging tail, upright head and parted mouth.

Fear

If your dog's ears are down, he may be signifying to the world that he's scared. Whether he's feeling uncertain on the way to a veterinarian appointment or intimidated by the neighbor's massive St. Bernard, this doggie is feeling more than just a little bit freaked out -- eek. He also may be feeling protective. If he's defensive in the face of possible attack, you also may notice exposed teeth, widened pupils and intense, gazing eyes.

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About the Author

Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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