There are many things to love about furry little puppies, from their ever-wagging tails to their slobbery kisses and everything in between. And, of course, we could never forget about those adorable and expressive ears.
But why do some dogs have one ear up and one down? And is there anything we can (or should) do about it?
In many cases, your pup’s floppy ear has to do with a lack of growth and maturity, and it will straighten out over time. However, the one-ear flop can also be for several other reasons, including health conditions, injury, and behavior.
While your dog’s one flopped ear may concern you, there’s no need to panic. Learning more about the reasons behind this phenomenon can help you address the situation in the best way.
Why Do Dogs Have One Ear Up and One Down 10 Answers
Let’s dig deeper into the mystery surrounding this one ear up, one ear down situation. Firstly, we should nail down which breeds are most likely to exhibit this physical trait:
- German Shepherds
- Australian Cattle Dogs
As mature, fully-grown adults, these breeds generally have pricked ears
Below, we have ten possible reasons why dogs have one ear up and one down. We’ll also talk a little bit about what you can do about it and whether you should do anything.
1. Your Puppy Is Still Young
Regardless of breed, most puppies are born with floppy ears, including those listed above.
As a puppy grows and matures, you’ll notice many changes. Aside from growing into its clumsy, large paws, your puppy will also develop straighter, more-erect ears if that is its breed’s standard.
However, nothing in this world is perfect, so there’s a good chance your pup’s ears will not grow at the same rate. The result is that adorable one ear up, one ear down look.
If your dog is under one year old, there’s a pretty good chance this is why its ears disagree. Let your pup continue to grow and form the proper amount of cartilage before you start to worry.
And if you do have concerns, your pup should be visiting the vet several times during the first year, so you can always talk to your vet for reassurance.
2. He’s Listening
It’s no secret that dogs have far better hearing than humans ever will. A dog’s hearing is about four times more sensitive than ours. They can also hear higher frequencies and can differentiate sounds much better.
If your dog hears a noise off in the distance, he may freeze with one ear at attention, making the relaxed ear appear more flopped. Often, a dog will alert both ears to a sound; however, usually, they will fixate on the side from where the sound is coming.
You’re more likely to see this happen when your dog goes from relaxed to attentive quickly. For example, it may be resting on the couch when the neighbor turns on the lawnmower. One of your dog’s ears may stand up to get a better listen.
3. Your Dog Has an Ear Infection
If your dog’s ears are typically erect at all times during the day and one suddenly goes floppy, he might be dealing with an ear infection. Ear infections are fairly common in dogs due to the unique shape of their ear canals compared to humans.
If an ear infection is bad enough, it can cause swelling inside and outside your pup’s ear. One of the effects of this swelling can be an irritated ear that flops in an awkward or unusual position.
Other signs of an ear infection include:
- Head shaking
If your dog is showing any of these signs, it’s time to go to the vet. Most ear infections are easy to treat with medicated ear cleanser, topical medication, and oral antibiotics.
4. He’s Excited
Dogs can’t smile or raise their eyebrows or make faces to express emotions as we can, so they express how they’re feeling in other ways. One of these ways is by moving their ears. Dogs have 18 muscles in each ear to move them in many directions.
Quick, erratic ear movements can indicate that your dog is confused, while pinned ears can mean your dog is scared or angry.
If your dog gets excited about something, his ears might start doing some goofy things – such as pointing one straight up and angling the other downward.
If you notice your dog’s ears only take on this position when he gets excited about something, there’s nothing to worry about; he’s just expressing his feelings to you the best way he knows how.
5. Your Dog’s Ear Never Fully Developed
Breeds of dogs with straight, pointed ears have an outer portion made of cartilage, which causes their ears to stand erect. This cartilage, covered in skin and fur, is called the pinna.
As we mentioned earlier, puppies start with floppy ears. That’s because their pinna has not developed yet. But abnormalities can happen in both animals and humans with no real explanation.
In the case of some dogs, one of their ears may never fully develop this piece of cartilage. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with it – it just means that your dog will have that cute, floppy ear due to an underdeveloped pinna.
6. He’s a Mixed Breed
A purebred German Shepherd or Sheepdog should have upright ears. But we all know that mixed breeds are unpredictable.
If you know your dog is a mixed breed, you can probably identify which breed contributed to its ears. It may have lopsided ears because one breed has pricked ears while the other has floppy ears. Your dog’s genes may have worked out this way.
If you adopted your dog from the shelter and you don’t know what breeds are in his lineage, it’s probably safe to assume this is why one of his ears flops and the other stands up straight. Be sure to have your vet assess your dog to rule out any medical issues or injuries.
7. Your Dog’s Ear May Be Injured
Another possible cause for your dog’s one flopped ear is injury. Your dog’s ear contains cartilage, which can be broken, torn, or punctured, causing the ear to flop over or droop down.
Injuries can happen to your dog for many reasons. It may have gotten into a fight with another dog, ran through a thicket of thorns, or cut it on a sharp object.
These injuries can cause your dog’s ear to flop over a bit in the short term. With proper treatment, the ear should go back to normal; however, serious injury can permanently damage the cartilage and cause a permanent flop.
8. Your Dog is Malnourished
Young puppies need a lot of nutrient-dense foods to support their fast-growing bodies. If your dog isn’t getting the necessary nutrition or enough food in his system, it could result in poor development and floppy ears.
Again, all puppies are born with soft, floppy ears. During their growth stages, their ears will form the pinna and begin to stand up straight, according to their breed standards.
But if your puppy isn’t getting the right amount of protein or other nutrients, his ears might have a hard time developing as they should.
If you feel like your puppy is behind in his growth and notice a flopped ear, you may need to re-evaluate his diet. He could also be dealing with a parasite, which will feed on the nutrients that your dog needs to grow and develop.
9. Your Dog is in Pain
When a canine’s ear is in pain, he will often flatten his ear against his head to protect it. This form of self-preservation can give you that one ear up, one ear down look.
Your dog’s ear may be in pain for several reasons, including injuries and infection, as we mentioned before. He may also be dealing with:
- Yeast dermatitis
- Something stuck in his ear
- Ear hematoma
- Hormonal conditions
If you’ve noticed that your dog recently started flattening his ear to his head, take it to see the vet immediately for proper diagnosis.
10. He’s Old
Finally, your dog’s ear may have flopped over because it’s getting older. A dog’s cartilage can change with old age as many parts of its body become weaker and more worn down.
Previous ear injury can cause your dog’s ear to slump down as it ages. The weakened ear is just succumbing to the ravages of time.
What to Do About One Ear Up and One Down
The best thing you can do about your dog’s ear situation is talk to your vet and get your dog in for an assessment. Be sure to take note of any other signs and symptoms your dog may be experiencing, such as itching, flattening, protectiveness, pain, and head shaking.
If something is wrong with your dog’s ear, your vet will know what to do.
If your dog has always had ears like this and your vet says nothing is ailing him, then leave his ears alone. Every dog is unique and special, and yours may be asymmetrical. And asymmetrical is okay!
Keep Your Dog Free From Ear Infections
Because ear infections can cause a lot of swelling and damage to your dog’s ears, it’s good to keep them clean and free from debris to avoid them altogether. Doing so can help prevent your dog’s ears from flopping in the future.
Use a wet cloth or cotton pad with a vet-approved ear cleaning solution. Gently wipe out your dog’s ear and follow up with a soft cloth to dry.
It can be quite amusing to watch your goofy pup run around with lopsided ears, big paws, and an awkward gait. But hold onto those photos because your dog will probably grow out of its droopy ear look.
If your dog is suddenly bringing his puppy ears back, look for signs of injury, infection, or diet issues. It could indicate that he needs to go to the vet ASAP.