Ever wondered ‘why do Chihuahuas have big ears?’
Little Red Riding Hood asked the same question to the wolf disguised as her grandma and the response was – ‘All the better to hear you with!’
When we think of a Chihuahuas’ big ears, we wonder why this little dog needs those big hearing appendages! Indeed it is a point worth considering.
In this guide, I will tell you exactly why Chihuahuas have big ears and even discuss some tips to keep them clean and healthy.
Why Do Chihuahuas Have Big Ears?
Chihuahuas have big ears for the following reasons:
Chihuahuas have big ears because of their ancestors. This little dog was developed from the Techihi dog breed – a wild dog bred by the Mayans.
Mystery surrounds this little dog that was tiny but heavy boned and had characteristic long ears. The features gave the Techichi a distinct foxlike appearance.
Thanks to this ancestry, Chihuahuas also have long ears, tiny bodies, and Fennec fox like ears. Some experts have even compared the Techichi and Chihuahua ears to be bat-like.
There is also a belief that Chis were bred from Xoloitzcuintli which has characteristic standing/erect ears which is why the modern Chihuahua also has the same.
2. For protection from the sun
Sun rays can cause skin cancer in dogs. The Mexican hairless or Xoloitzcuntli is a hairless dog and one of the ancestors of Chihuahuas.
Since these dogs were found in the hot regions of Mexico, they had large ears that offered some protection from the sun.
For the same purpose, the modern Chi also has large and erect ears to offer it some shade from the rays beating down.
A mother Chihuahua that lives outdoors in the open even protects her newborn Chihuahua puppies from the sun’s rays with her large ears.
3. For moisture-retention
The large and erect ears of the Chihuahuas and its ancestors also helped trap moisture – a life-saving feature in the hot desert regions of Mexico.
The moisture retention prevented the dogs from getting dry skin and becoming thirsty.
Of course, moisture retention in the ear canal is the last thing you want in domesticated dogs since the trapped moisture can encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi. But in the desert region, this feature helped the dogs survive and even brought their body temperature down.
4. To hear better
And just like Red Riding Hood’s wolf, the big ears provide your Chihuahua with an important communication tool.
Remember: this is a tiny dog. In the wild, it relies upon its senses – sight, smell, and hearing to survive. The large ears help it hear better without providing any obstacle to sound waves.
A Chihuahua can hear sounds that come from near and far. They can easily catch frequencies between 40 and 60,000 Hz. (while humans can only hear 20 Hz to 20000 Hz).
Also, only few humans can wiggle their ears but the Chihuahua has 18 muscles connecting to its ears which allows it a much more flexible range of motion.
All these factors have helped keep the Chihuahuas safe from predators. Today, this cute dog is mostly a companion breed and lapdog. Still, it has retained these features.
5. To communicate
Chihuahuas, like all dogs, use their ears to communicate. They do not just use the ears for listening and hearing but also to convey what they are feeling. I will discuss exactly how Chihuahuas use their big ears to communicate, later in this guide.
Do All Chihuahuas Have Big Ears?
Most purebred Chihuahuas have big, erect ears.
This is also the required breed standard for Chihuahua Club and show ring dogs. So, if a Chihuahua owner is planning to enter their Chi in the show ring, the dog needs to have erect ears otherwise it could face disqualification.
Not all Chihuahuas have big ears. Some Chis have droopy ears. In Chihuahua puppies, the ears droop for the first few months, mainly during teething, but most of them become erect by the time they are adults.
A longhaired Chihuahua tends to take longer to develop erect big ears than its short coated counterparts.
Deer head Chihuahua also have larger legs and longer or bigger ears than apple head Chihuahua.
Do Chihuahua Puppies have Big Ears?
At birth, your Chihuahua dog is very tiny and its ears will be tiny as well.
Also, most Chihuahua puppies have drooping ears but they do stand up by the time your Chi is 5 to 7 months old.
In some late developers, the ears only get erect and large once the teething phase is over – which is usually known to take 6 to 8 months from birth.
Not all Chihuahua puppies develop the characteristic erect and big ears of the breed. Some pups have a recessive gene which might result in smaller, droopy ears throughout life.
Also, some Chihuahua puppies start showing erect ears by 4-5 weeks but the ears suddenly start drooping. This is linked to the teething phase wherein your Chihuahua’s body sends all the vital nutrients like calcium for the development of adult teeth.
In rare cases, damage to the ear cartilage can result in permanently droopy ears.
Check out our guide on When Do Chihuahua Puppies Ears Stand Up?
How Do Chihuahuas Use their Ears to Communicate?
Your Chihuahua’s big ears can give you an insight into its mind.
Normally, a Chihuahua’s ears are held at a 45-degree angle to the head when the dog is resting. They will stand erect and in attention when the dog is alert and it might flatten them against its head when it is uneasy or moving fast.
Check out the following table to see what different ear carriage means in your pet:
|Chihuahua ear position||Meaning|
|Neutral or relaxed position. The ears are not pricked or drooping, or pasted to the head.||Relaxed dog. Happy dog. Your Chihuahua is at ease.|
|Attentive or pricked ears||Looking directly at something. It might even prick the ears forward if you make a sound. Pricked ears are also when your Chi is processing information and listening to something.|
|Changing ear position constantly – flicking the ears.||Concerned. Your Chihuahua may be trying to decide what it feels about its current situation. Its jaw might be tensed and it might have a worried look on its face.|
|Dropped ears pinned to the head||This can mean either your Chi is happy or nervous. Observe rest of the body language. If your Chi kisses you, then too it might pin its ears to the head. This means it is happy and social.|
|Extremely pinned ears||Very nervous. Its tail may be between its legs and body might be hunched over.|
How to Make your Chihuahua’s Ears Stand Up?
There are five easy steps to make your Chihuahua puppy’s floppy ears stand up erect:
1. Chew toys
To make your gorgeous pet’s ears stand up straight, provide it with chew toys and dental chews. This has shown great results in Chi puppy’s ears stand up by the time it is 6 months of age.
Chewing strengthens the bones and temporalis muscles which facilitates the ear’s perking up.
2. Feed it a healthy diet
Speak to your vet about the right diet for your Chihuahua puppy. Make sure that the food contains calcium, proteins, and other vital nutrients that are needed for making your pet’s ears perky.
3. Deworm your Chi
Intestinal worms like tapeworms, hookworms, and ringworms can steal your puppy’s nutrition which can prevent the ears from perking up.
Therefore, regular deworming is a must for young puppies.
4. Prevent trauma to the ears
Make sure you and your family members stay off those ears – no rubbing, no petting, no pulling. Warn your kids against it – even the slightest trauma can damage the cartilage which can cause the ears to droop permanently.
5. Tape them
Ear taping is an approved method of getting your Chihuahua puppy’s ears to stand up. However, do talk to your vet before you use this technique. Check out next section for the steps of ear taping.
How to Tape Your Chihuahua’s Ears?
Please note that ear taping should always be done under expert advice.
Also, it is not necessary to tape your Chihuahua’s ears if you are not planning to show your dog. Even Chihuahuas with drooping ears look cute and with proper care you can keep them infection-free as well.
In case you want your Chihuahua puppy to have perky ears, then use the following steps for taping:
- Dry your Chihuahua’s ears thoroughly using rubbing alcohol and a sterile cotton ball. This step is very important to remove moisture that could prevent the tape from sticking properly.
- Use Transpore Tape by 3M. Take approximately 2-inches of the tape from the roll.
- Fold the puppy’s ear back while taping. Apply the tape from the top of the inner ear towards the inside of the ear with a little bit of excess tape placed just inside the ear.
- Bring the ear back to the natural position. Let the tape press back into the ear. Proper tape position is when it does not touch the internal structures of the ear – bumps, etc.
- If the tape does not make the ear stand up, you could use another tape over the first one to impart strength to it. However, for most puppies, one layer of tape is adequate.
- Repeat the procedure for the other ear.
- Leave the tapes for at least 2 weeks. If the ears still droop, continue taping for another 2 weeks.
Should You Crop your Chihuahua’s Ears?
Many breeders crop their dogs’ ears and then tape them to encourage vertical growth so that the ears remain perky and upright.
Cropped ear is useful for working dogs like German Shepherds, etc. so they can hear better and also prevent ear infections.
However, the American Veterinary Medical Association now warns against this cruel practice. This is because of the possibility of infections as well as extreme stress to the dog.
Also, we mustn’t forget the fact that Chihuahuas, like all dogs, use their ears for communicating and cropping could even interfere with the way they interact with humans.
How to Keep Your Chihuahua’s Big Ears Clean and Healthy?
The good thing with your Chihuahua’s big, perky ears is that they are less prone to infections compared to many of the droopy eared breeds like Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels.
Having said that, it is still very important to clean and examine your Chihuahua’s ears regularly to prevent infections. Here are some tips to help you keep your Chihuahua’s big ears clean and healthy:
1. Know the basics
Know your Chihuahua’s ear anatomy so you can watch out for signs of abnormalities.
Speak to your vet about regular ear cleaning and the products to use.
2. Watch out for warning signs
If your Chihuahua’s ears are gunky, smelly, or have a watery discharge or ear mites, etc. please have them examined by your vet.
Other signs of ear pain and ear infection including pawing the ears, tilting the head to one side, hair loss around the ear in long haired Chihuahua, excess dark ear wax, etc.
Keep in mind that certain health issues like thyroid, diabetes, etc. could also impact your tiny dog ears.
3. Clean your pet’s ears regularly
Here are the steps of ear cleaning:
- Have your Chihuahua lie down on its side.
- Insert a few drops of ear cleaning solution.
- Massage your pet’s ear at the base. This will help the solution reach in deeper. If your Chihuahua shows sign of pain or discomfort, stop right away and have it examined by your vet.
- Allow your Chihuahua to get up and shake off the ear cleaning solution.
- You can also use a sterile cotton ball (DO NOT USE Q-tips) to wipe off the excess solution.
- Switch sides and treat the other ear.
- Reward, praise, and play with your Chihuahua.
Why do Chihuahuas have big ears?
This small dog breed has big ears mainly due to its ancestors – the Techihi and Xolo dog breeds. Their big ears help protect your Chi from the hot sun and also prevent ear infections. They even help your Chihuahua hear better and in communicating their feelings.
We hope this guide helps you take care of your Chihuahua’s ears.