Dog Ear Body Language: Why Do Dogs Perk Up Their Ears?

Dog Ear Body Language: Why Do Dogs Perk Up Their Ears?

Dogs do not speak to us in words, but they communicate with us in other ways. One of the most extraordinary things a dog does is use their ears to send messages or express themselves.

The way that a dog holds their ears says a lot about their feelings. If a pup has their ears perked up with tense body language, they could be stalking their prey. However, if a dog has their ears perked up and relaxed, they may be inviting another dog to play with them. Canines with their ears perked up and their head tilted may be trying to understand something confusing them, and it looks absolutely precious!

Check out this article to learn more about your dog’s ear body language!

dog ear body language and what it means lake city fl

Dog Ear Body Language Explained

Canine body language can often be puzzling, and it may not make sense to us unless we set out to understand it. How your dog holds their ears can be the key to telling you about their mood, and how they hold their body can give clues about their feelings and the message they are sending.

However, ears are just one section of the puzzle. You should look at the complete picture to appreciate your dog’s communication. Is their body tense, or are they relaxed and happy? Do they have both ears pointed upward, or is one ear up and one ear down? The following includes some possible explanations for dog ear body language:

Perked-Up Ears and Tense Body

This body language may indicate that your pup is on the hunt and they are getting ready to pounce. However, it might also mean that your dog is listening intently to something. Some of the body language to look for with this position includes:

  • Eyes staring or preoccupied with another animal
  • The tail is straight up in the air with little movement
  • A low stance that indicates hunting or concentration
  • A motionless body that is tense or clenched

If it looks like your dog is listening intently, they probably hear a noise and are either curious or frightened. If your pup displays this body language and growls, it may mean they are getting ready to chase after something.

Perked-up ears and tense body language may also be the dog’s attempt to appear bigger than they are. It is a way for the pup to try to protect themselves and cower. They are likely being confronted by a bigger, more intimidating pooch.

Perked-Up Ears and Relaxed Body

If your dog has relaxed body language and their ears are perked up, something they see or hear may have piqued their interest. However, there are several other possibilities:

  • Interest in playing games or exercising
  • Giving you their focus during training
  • They know they are getting food or treats

Your pup may also be striking this pose if they are in the dog park and see another pooch they want to play with. This invitation to play is especially true if they get into play bow position. It is their way of inviting another animal to play with them.

The play bow is when the canine’s tail and rear are up in the air, and their front limbs are lowered. The ears are up and forward. In this case, the pup will often look like they are smiling. Perked-up ears and a relaxed body are typically positive signs and clear indications that your dog wants to investigate.

Perked-Up Ears and Tilted Head

This adorable body language typically only occurs if your dog hears a noise they do not understand and is trying to figure out what it is. If your pup does this, they may be confused and want to hear better, or they do not recognize the noise and are trying to get a better listen. In any case, this posture is quite endearing.

One Ear Perked Up and One Ear Down why are my dog ears perked up

This body language is not definitive of any communication, but it is still adorable. It just means that your dog is in the process of perking their ears up. It could be that they are feeling happy or curious. However, if the one ear that is down is swollen, it could be a warning that they have ear mites, and you should take them to the vet to find out for sure.

Ears Go Back Away from the Head

When a dog pulls their ears back tight or flattens them, it is usually a sign of stress. The body language of a stressed pooch is hard to miss. Some of the tell tail signs a dog is stressed are:

  • A tense, low hanging tail tucked under the body
  • Rolling over to expose their belly
  • Inability to make eye contact

Ears flattened to their head means that the dog is demonstrating submissiveness. The posture could also be due to fear. However, it could mean that the pup is comfortable with their human, and they are showing this with their ears.

There are other times that your dog’s ears are pulled back, that they could be upset and whining or crying. It is a pitiful sight that will always get to you, no matter what your pup has done. Even if they misbehave, it is difficult to resist your dog when expressing their disdain this way.

 Relaxed Ears and Relaxed Body

If your dog has relaxed ears and a relaxed body, breathe a deep sigh of relief because your dog is one happy pup. They feel confident and at peace with their environment. The muscular tissue of the face and body are also calm. They have no fear, and nothing is upsetting them. Sometimes, dogs display this posture when they are about to fall asleep. Now that is one relaxed pup!

Ears Partially Back

If your dog is anxious, they may stand still, stretch their neck, and lower their tail. Sometimes they will tuck their tail between their legs. Some of the other body language displayed could be:

  • Licking their lips
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Yawning

A lowered tail communicates that a dog is either anxious or submissive. The lower their tail drops, the more anxious or fearful the pup feels. It could also be a sign of intense worry or concern. When the tail drops, the emotions are likely negative.

Ears Pointed and Aggressive

A dog with pointed ears may be getting ready to defend themselves. It is a communication to the other pups that they are ready to fight if required. However, it is essential to note that this may not be the case in every situation. For example, your pup my feel threatened but still at ease, and pointing their ears demonstrates this.


There are a variety of different ways that dogs communicate with us through the body language of their ears. Whether they are happy, sad, frightened, or looking to play with a friend, their ears will often tell us how they truly feel!

For Lake City, FL area pet owners, Lake City Animal Hospital is here to help! Give us a call today at (386) 755-0236 or make an appointment online!

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