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Why Do Chihuahuas Have Big Ears?

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If you’re parenting a Chihuahua, you already know they have a big personality.

But their bodies don’t reflect that, so they’re a popular choice among dog owners. Plus, their friendliness and loyalty are welcome bonuses.

However, they do have one unique feature—their ears! 

black and white chihuahua with big ears

Chihuahuas may be tiny, but their ears are not. These little creatures may have straight ears or floppy ears.

If you’ve ever looked at a chihuahua and wondered why they need those big ears, you’re not alone.

Here’s a breakdown of the reasons and whether these ears can do anything!

Why Do Chihuahuas Have Big Ears?

Funny puppy Chihuahua poses on a white background

Evolution! That would be the one-word answer, but we’ll get into the details.

There are multiple theories about the Chihuahua’s origin. However, the most popular one places them in Mexico, where they descend from a desert breed. 

Since the desert had sweltering temperatures, this breed developed huge ears to provide shade for themselves and cool off. Any moisture in the air was also absorbed by the ears.

But these days, Chihuahuas have other uses for their ears.

What Do These Ears Do?

Chihuahuas may have inherited their ears from their ancestors, but they don’t let them go to waste.

They can help chihuahuas with:

  • Sun Protection

The dogs still use their ears for their original purpose: to shade their face from the sun. The ears also trap moisture from the air and condense it to absorb it through the skin. 

  • Protecting Their Puppies

Unlike adult Chihuahuas, puppies don’t have large ears. They’re born with small ears that develop later. Meanwhile, the mother uses her ears to protect the puppies from the sunlight. They also use them to snuggle in the winter, thus preserving the body temperature. 

  • Communication

Chihuahua ears have eighteen muscles. These muscles help position the ears in specific ways to help them communicate. Let’s just say: body language!

What Do the Ears Say?

A very small black dog, probably a Prague Ratter or Miniature Pinscher looks extremely attentive to the camera.

Chihuahuas can use their ears to communicate with you. Learning what they’re trying to say can help you bond more efficiently.

Plus, things are way more fun if you know what could make your dog feel better at any given moment.

Here’s a guide to help you understand how your big-eared friend feels:

  • Happy

If your Chihuahua has his ears tilted back, he’s happy. He’s also more likely to be friendly at this time. Other signs include an open mouth and bows.

It’s time to play! 

  • Angry

If your Chihuahua has his ears apart and is tipped forward, he might be angry. Other signs include growling and a forward stance.

Now’s the time to use all those calming techniques. 

  • Relaxed

Your Chihuahua is relaxed if his ears are straight or erect, like usual. You’re the best person to know the typical positions for the ear, so it’s time to make your own judgment. 

  • Anxious

If the ears are tilted back, your Chihuahua might be anxious. Other symptoms include a stiff body and a tail between the legs.

Try to calm the dog and determine what is causing the reaction. 

  • Submissive

If your dog’s ears are back and downward, he is submitting to authority.

That could be you or an alpha dog. 

  • Guilty

If your Chihuahua has his ears folded, he’s probably guilty or worried. The face will give it away too.

The best thing to do would be to look around and see what’s wrong.

  • Scared

If the ears are pinned all the way back, your Chihuahua is likely scared.

Try to calm the dog because he’s likely to bolt soon.

  • Interested

If the ears are pointed forward while erect, he’s probably interested in something.

They’ll also be more alert for sounds and smells in this position. 

My Chihuahua’s Ears Aren’t Erect. Is Something Wrong?

floppy ear fawn chihuahua puppy walking

It depends.

Generally, all Chihuahuas have straight ears, but there are cases where they may be floppy. If your Chihuahua generally has floppy ears, it might be because he has a recessive gene. He might not be a pure breed.

If that’s the case, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just like having a specific eye color. 

However, if your Chihuahua’s ears have been floppy for a while, even though they’re usually erect, there might be a problem.

Here are a few probable causes:

  • Infections

Ear infections are pretty common in dogs, and Chihuahuas are no different. Normally, they exhibit signs of distress like scratching their ears, shaking their heads, and more. You might also notice that the ears are floppy or not in their usual position.

Once you notice these signs, take your Chihuahua to the vet and follow their instructions. They’ll check what’s causing the infection and start treatment according to that cause.

  • Injuries

Chihuahuas are small, and so is their sense of self-preservation. They’ll attack anything that provokes them, even if the opponent is bigger.

This fearlessness can lead to injuries, which might be why their ears aren’t erect. 

  • Malnutrition

Malnutrition can also lead to floppy ears. You should try to maintain a nutritious diet with adequate calcium levels.

Contact a vet if you’re not sure about the diet. Severe malnutrition can lead to death, so you need to be extra careful. 

  • Teething

Your dog may have floppy ears when teething at about five to six months. That is normal because the Chihuahua will be distressed, but you should try to increase the calcium concentration in his diet. The ears will return to normal in a while. 

We have an article all about floppy ears you can check out.

Cleaning Chihuahua Ears

Cute chihuahua portrait, looking something.

Since the Chihuahua’s ears are big, they’re more likely to catch dirt and debris. That’s why cleaning their ears is important, or they’ll develop an infection like osteitis.

The cleaning process isn’t that complicated. You just need to convince your dog to let you do it.

You’ll need an ear-cleaning solution. Try to get your vet’s recommendation for one. Dampen a cotton ball with this solution and gently clean the ear. Don’t use q-tips or swabs, as they can push debris in and injure the ear. 

If your dog is prone to ear infections, ask your vet for a medicated ear cleaner or you can make your own made of equal parts filtered or distilled water and apple cide vinegar with the mother in it. Shake it up before using. My vet recommended this for a terri-poo I had who had chronic ear infections and it really did help.

Chihuahua, 18 months old, sitting in front of white background


To sum up, Chihuahuas have big ears because they have evolved to deal with the heat. They also serve as secondary communication tools. Generally, these ears are erect, but they can also be floppy. 

Sometimes owners will try to use taping and massages to straighten floppy ears, but I don’t see any reason to do that. All in all, just pay attention to the body language, and you’ll both do remarkably well. 

blond woman holding white chihuahua

Cathy Bendzunas

Pet Blogger

I have had dogs all my life. I have been a pet groomer, worked in a pet hotel, and a kennel, and have bred and showed dogs.


Saturday 31st of December 2022

Hi Cathy, I'm a bit confused, there are two completely different emotions described with the same ear position.

1)Happy If your Chihuahua has his ears tilted back, he’s happy. He’s also more likely to be friendly at this time.

2)Anxious If the ears are tilted back, your Chihuahua might be anxious.


Saturday 31st of December 2022

The ears titled back can signify both of those emotions. This is when you look for the other body language such does the body look stiff and is the tail between the legs.

Janet Stuckey

Friday 30th of December 2022

What a cutie pie


Friday 30th of December 2022

Which one?