What Does it Signify When a Dog Exhibits Asymmetrical Ears?

Certain canine breeds display erect ears, while others possess floppy ears. However, on occasion, you may encounter a dog with one ear up and one ear down. It’s undeniably adorable but also peculiar. So, why exactly does this occur?

Unveiling the Mystery of Dogs with Asymmetrical Ears

Before you start worrying that your dog’s ears are mismatched and floppy, take a moment to read on. I’ll shed light on why your dog has one ear that remains down while the other is standing attention and erect.

Certain Dog Breeds Feature Floppy Ears

If your furry friend happens to be a Beagle or a Cocker Spaniel, it’s completely normal for them to sport floppy ears. This attribute is inherent to these specific dog breeds. Additional breeds with floppy ears include:

  • Basset Hound
  • Poodle
  • Afghan Hound
  • Irish Setter
  • Bloodhound
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Dachshund
  • Labrador Retriever

Fun fact: According to Darwin, as dogs became domesticated, their need for erect and alert ears decreased due to diminishing natural survival instincts. Consequently, some dog breeds developed floppy ears.

Breeds with Pricked Ears

Conversely, certain dog breeds retain pricked ears, with both ears standing erect. This characteristic is typical of the following breeds:

  • German Shepherd
  • Siberian Husky
  • Chihuahua
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • West Highland Terrier
  • Bull Terrier

These breeds previously served as hunting or guard dogs, hence their alert, pricked-up ears. These breed traits continue to manifest to this day.

Beagle with floppy ears
Beagles are a breed with ears that should typically stay down, so it would be unusual to see one with an ear up.

One notable observation is that no dog breed generally possesses one floppy ear and one pricked ear.

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Puppies are Born with Floppy Ears

All puppies begin their lives with floppy ears. If this fact catches you off guard, you might panic when your litter of Bull Terrier pups is born, each sporting floppy ears. Rest assured, this is a normal occurrence.

As the puppies develop, their ears will gradually become erect, if that is the intended trait. Sometimes, one ear will rise before the other, resulting in the appearance of a dog with one ear up and one ear down. Once again, this is perfectly natural.

Depending on the dog breed, some puppies may already have pricked ears by the time they reach 8 weeks of age. For other breeds, full ear erectness may only be achieved at 7 or 8 months old.

Most dog breeders assert that a puppy’s ears become fully erect once they have finished teething. It appears that more energy is devoted to teething than to the development of pointy ears!

Your Dog’s Attentiveness

Another reason for an adult dog to exhibit one ear down and one ear up is their heightened sense of hearing. If your furry companion is innately curious, effortlessly tuning in to every minute sound, you might notice that one ear remains fully erect while the other tilts sideways. This may create the impression that one ear has become droopy.

Before jumping to the conclusion that your pet’s physiology is flawed, take a moment to observe their behavior. Is your dog actively attending to sounds?

Additionally, certain dog commands can prompt your pup to perk up one ear while the other remains unchanged. I’ve even witnessed half-asleep dogs with one ear standing while the other droops.

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Potential Health Conditions

If your adult dog is a breed that typically possesses pricked ears, you might become concerned if one ear suddenly droops. In such cases, it is advisable to take your beloved pet to the veterinarian for a thorough examination to rule out any underlying health conditions. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Injury

If your dog has engaged in a scuffle with another canine, they may have sustained a bite on their ear. Check for any wounds on their ear. Alternatively, they might have injured their ear while maneuvering through a thorny shrub, digging under a fence, or even encountering an electric fence (as was the case with my friend’s German Shepherd).

2. Ear Infections

Otitis media refers to a bacterial infection of the ear. It causes inflammation, which can occur on the external surface of the dog’s ear or within the inner or middle ear canal. Signs of this infection include frequent head shaking and a floppy ear.

3. Abscess

Occasionally, an abscess may develop in your dog’s ear due to a build-up of dirt or debris. However, it can also result from an injury, parasites, or an improperly treated infection. This painful condition leads to swelling and causes your dog to scratch incessantly.

4. Ear Hematomas

If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with an ear hematoma, you might wonder what that entails. In simple terms, it occurs when a blood vessel in your furry companion’s ear bursts, causing blood to accumulate between the ear cartilage and the skin.

This condition can occur due to a bite on the ear, infections accompanied by severe itching and scratching, or puncturing of the ear. Often, it stems from the presence of ear mites. Consequently, your dog might vigorously shake their head or constantly scratch their ear out of frustration.

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What Can You Do if Your Dog Has Asymmetrical Ears?

The first step towards understanding the reason behind your dog’s one floppy ear and one pricked ear is to determine if it relates to particular behaviors such as attentiveness to sounds and obedience commands. Additionally, ensure that your dog has transitioned beyond the puppy phase. If none of these factors apply, it’s time to consider possible medical conditions that require treatment.

If your veterinarian identifies one of the aforementioned underlying health issues, you may contemplate the following actions:

  • Administer the prescribed medications provided by your vet.
  • Keep your dog’s ears clean at all times.
  • In cases of recurring ear infections, surgical intervention might be necessary.
  • Ensure your dog maintains a healthy and balanced diet.

Regardless of the reason behind your dog’s droopy ear, it’s always prudent to consult with your veterinarian. Doing so can prevent future problems and the development of a permanent floppy ear.


One fine day, while visiting a friend on his countryside farm, I laid eyes on a young German Shepherd puppy he had just brought home. Naturally, my primary purpose for the visit was to meet this adorable little pup. The pup possessed beautifully erect ears—until she unexpectedly darted beneath an electric fence!

Suddenly, one ear flopped over.

My friend was understandably concerned, but the vet reassured him that his puppy would recover and her ear would eventually stand erect again.

And it did, a few months later.

Therefore, even if your dog currently displays one ear up and one ear down, it doesn’t necessarily imply that they will forever remain asymmetrical.

Nevertheless, it undeniably provides a cute and endearing look!

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Image in header via Pixabay

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