Dog owners know pups communicate much through body language. Subtle ear positions, like “airplane ears,” can reveal important insights into a dog’s mood and mindset. This article explores what airplane ears are, possible meanings, affected breeds, and how owners should respond to this ear posture.
What Are Airplane Ears in Dogs?
Airplane ears describe when a dog holds their ears straight out to the sides, perpendicular to their head, resembling airplane wings ready for flight.
Unlike hanging down or perked up, airplane ears stick straight sideways. Often the ear leather folds over itself as well, creasing the ear vertically. The tenseness and stiff carriage of the ear conveys information.
This ear pose derives its name from the visual similiarity to plane wings in flight position. Paying attention to airplane ears helps owners better understand canine body language.
Which Dog Breeds Commonly Have Airplane Ears?
Certain breeds are predisposed to assume the airplane ear position more readily based on their natural ear anatomy and carriage. Dogs with ears that naturally turn outwards or flop over are most likely to display airplane ears.
Examples of breeds that readily show airplane ears:
- Basset Hounds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- Many hound mixes
Their ear shape allows for clear sideways extension. Dogs with pricked or perky ears cannot physically achieve the same total airplane ear effect. But all breeds communicate through ear posture.
What Does Airplane Ears Communicate in Dogs?
While open to interpretation, airplane ears generally signal:
Alertness – Dog has detected something worthy of attention and is concentrating intently. Ears extended to enhance hearing.
Arousal – Dog is stimulated and focused in an active situation. May indicate high energy or stress depending on context.
Apprehension – Uncertainty or anxiety about something. Ears ready to hear any threats.
Anticipation – Eagerness and readiness to engage in expected action like going for a walk.
Aggression – Dog feels threatened and is prepared to act defensively.
Airplane ears indicate heightened focus and vigilance. They prepare dogs to either take action or react to what comes next. Owners should look for other body language cues like a stiff tail, clenching facial muscles, widened eyes etc. to determine if the dog feels anxious, eager, or aggressive when assuming this ear posture.
What Should Owners Do if Their Dog Has Airplane Ears?
If you notice your dog with airplane ears, consider the context to determine why and respond appropriately:
- Provide reassurance if the dog seems fearful or uncertain about a noise or object.
- Redirect their attention if the stimulus triggering airplane ears seems benign.
- Remove from situation if the airplane ears are warning of rising aggression or protective response.
- Reward and encourage if assuming airplane ears in anticipation of a fun activity like going for a walk.
- Assess health issues if airplane ears are new and seem painful or associated with sensitivity like during grooming.
While airplane ears alone are not necessarily concerning, take note of accompanying body language. Prevent escalations of fear, anxiety or aggression situations signalled by this ear carriage. Reinforce calm, relaxed ear positions where appropriate through positive conditioning.
Do airplane ears mean a dog is aggressive?
Not always. It can signal apprehension, anticipation, or alertness too depending on context. But in situations with provocation like a stranger approaching, airplane ears may warn of rising defensive aggression.
Why are my dog’s ears back but sideways?
Ears folded sideways and back against the head indicate fearfulness and attempts to avoid confrontation or appear non-threatening. The dog is still attentive but retreating.
Should I touch my dog when they have airplane ears?
Use caution. Airplane ears signal over-alertness to a stimulus. Touch may further stress the dog or lead to defensive reactions if they feel threatened. Assess the situation first before approaching.
Is it bad if my dog always has airplane ears?
Habitual airplane ears may mean the dog is chronically stressed, anxious, or over-vigilant. Work on positively socializing the dog and building confidence. Check for physical problems that may be causing pain and irritability as well.
Why do my dog’s ears stick straight up sometimes?
Vertical ears sticking straight up signifies alert interest, similar to airplane ears. The dog is tuned into something but not necessarily distressed or aggressive. Monitor other body language for cues.
Paying attention to your dog’s ear carriage provides valuable insight into their emotional state. Airplane ears indicate heightened awareness and focus preparing for action. While not inherently problematic, owners should assess what triggered this ear posture and respond appropriately based on the context to keep their dog feeling secure. With knowledge of canine body language like airplane ears, we can better understand our loyal companions.