Thanks to Guest Author Susan Wright for this article!
A dog’s ear position can tell us humans a lot about how he is feeling. Just like humans have body language, so does your dog, and his ears are especially important for relaying important information to us. For example, if his ears are very erect and facing forward, it indicates attention, focus, and interest in the current situation. Dogs will move their ears to the side and back when they are trying to listen to what’s going on around them. Ears held low and back can also be a sign of submission.
A Means of Communication
More important than what a dog’s ear position tells us are the signals that they send to other dogs. Wolves, many thousands of years ago, used these ear signals to communicate with each other, and domestic dogs use them for the same purpose.
Some dogs have less obvious signals because of the shape and position of their ears and we may find them hard to interpret. However, dogs are very astute and are much better at us at reading the body language of fellow canines. Beagles, for instance, have floppy ears, and it can be harder to actually see the subtle movements of the ears. The Shar Pei has tiny folded ears that are held close to the head. With such breeds, you need to look not at the ear flaps, but at the base of the ears where they attach to the head.
The Eyes and Tail
Don’t forget that the ears are just one part of how a dog communicates with people and others of his own kind. You need to also look at the rest of his body – his stance, his eyes, and his tail. A direct stare indicates that a dog is confident and assertive, and may even be interpreted as a challenge by other dogs. Dogs that look away and lick their lips are submissive and shy.
Confident dogs also stand erect, with their neck and head held high. On the other hand, if a dog is nervous or anxious, they are likely to cower or even roll onto their back exposing their underbelly.
A Wagging Tail
Many people think that a wagging tail is an indication that a dog is friendly. This isn’t the case; it actually means that the dog is interested in interacting with you. That interaction could be friendly or it could be aggressive. Always interpret tail wagging in conjunction with eyes, ears and body posture.
Dogs learn to interpret the body language of their canine companions when they are puppies, and interacting with their mom and littermates. This is why pups need to stay with their litter until 8 weeks of age; it allows them to best learn canine communication and can improve their interaction with other dogs as they grow up.
Susan Wright is an experienced veterinarian, a electronic dog fence expert, a home owner and a freelance writer. Dr. Wright often shares tips on ways to keep your dog safe when your home or away.