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What Does It Mean When a Dog Has One Ear Up and One Ear Down?

What Does It Mean When a Dog Has One Ear Up and One Ear Down?

Dogs’ playful nature makes them do silly things that their owners might find cute or funny. One of these is when they have one ear up and one ear down. When a dog’s ears are erect, it means that he is paying attention.

But what does it mean when only one is up? In this article, we will talk about possible reasons for it.  


What Does It Mean When a Dog Has One Ear Up and One Ear Down?

Since dogs can’t communicate verbally like people, they use parts of their body to express. When one of their ears is up while the other is relaxed, it could mean that he is reacting to the sounds that he hears by paying attention to it. It could also be the result of their instincts and biological processes.


What you need to know

There are different muscles in your dog’s ears that control its movement. These allow your fur baby’s ears to move independently from one another, hence, one can remain upright while the other is down.

The independent mechanism of their ears allows them to multitask as they try to decipher sounds from different directions. These muscles shift their ear to receive sounds properly.


Your dog is paying attention

Erect ears could mean that your dog is listening intently and is on an alert stance. On the other hand, pinned back ears mean fear or intimidation.

Combining these two, one ear up and one ear down possibly means that your pet is cautiously curious.

It could also mean he is trying to multi-listen.

You will know this is the case when you observe your dog listening to you, and one of his ears move or flinch when he hears a sound, perhaps a cat meowing or a rustling sound.


Your dog is feeling nervous

When your dog feels scared, he will leave one ear pinned back while the other relaxes, probably from listening to you.

Pay attention to his body language. Suppose he has his tail between his legs and looks tense.

In that case, you may want to soothe your dog or, better yet, remove him from the fear-inducing situation or environment.


Your dog is protecting himself

Dog’s ears are thin and vulnerable, making this part of their body prone to injuries. One ear down could mean that your dog is protecting his delicate ears.

You will likely notice this when your dog is out roughly playing with other dogs or fighting with them.


Ear muscles are not yet developed

The one-ear-up look is more common in puppies than adult dogs. This is because their ear muscles are not yet developed.

It takes time for the muscles to grow strong for them to prop up your dog’s ears. Since their ears function independently of one another, muscles might not grow equally. 

Do not be alarmed when your pup’s ear remains limp after some time. The ear muscle development varies across breeds and sizes.

Generally, large dogs will develop their ear muscles faster than smaller dogs.

One ear floppy while the other erect can also coincide with your pup’s teething process. After this process is over, the ears should be strong enough to stand on their own.

If it remains down, talk to your vet. They may do medical procedures to guide your dog’s ear cartilage in the right position.


Health condition of your dog

If your fur baby is an adult and belongs in a breed that has naturally upright ears, this could be a cause of concern.

When this happens, you must bring your fur baby to the vet immediately. They may perform several tests to identify the cause.

It can be a sign of injury. Your dog may have gotten his ear bitten when he had been into a fight with another dog.

He may have also sustained an injury from going through a thorny or sharp object like a shrub or a fence. Check for visible wounds to confirm this.

An ear infection may also contribute to the one-ear-up look of your fur baby. The most common of this is Otitis media, or middle ear infection.

It causes inflammation in your dog’s ear. You may want to look for signs of constant head shaking and a floppy ear.

An ear infection may also come in the form of an abscess. This is the result of dirt buildup in the ear or a parasite.

Your dog will be extremely uncomfortable, and you will notice swelling in the ear. Your dog may also scratch their ears frantically.


What to do

Normally, you don’t have to do anything. If it does not harm you and your dog, then you need not worry. Just be patient while your dog is still growing.

Not that you would want to hasten the process, considering how cute they look with one ear up coupled with a slight head tilt!

Of course, also note the breed of your dog. Droopy ears are common in Poodles, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Dachshund, Basset Hound, and Bloodhound.

In comparison, those who have upright ears belong in breeds such as Siberian husky, German Shepherd, Chihuahua, Bull Terrier, and Alaskan Malamute.

If you notice that the ear movement is unusual for your dog’s breed, have him checked by your vet.

If your vet made a diagnosis of a health condition, follow their recommendations. Give your dog his prescribed medication.

Surgery may be considered if the infection is severe. Of course, prevention is always the best response to this. Ensure that your dog’s ears are clean all the time. Also, don’t forget to give him a healthy diet and lifestyle.



Nothing beats the warm feeling you have every time you see your dog’s one ear up and the other down. Most of the time, this is harmless.

This is usually biological in the case of puppies. Sometimes, it is instinctual. However, it could also mean serious health concerns.

If it becomes too much and you notice sustained discomfort in your dog, it may be best to pay a visit to your vet and have your fur baby checked.