Why do Labradors Have Floppy Ears? Reasons and Benefits

Labradors have Floppy and Hanging ears, and that’s what sends most people surprised. So when most dog breeds have Pointy and Upward ears, why do breeds like Labrador have Floppy ears?

Labradors or other similar breeds have Floppy ears because they have ‘Generations of Selective Breeding.’ Floppy ears appear due to the disuse of the muscles of the ear. Labs’ incapacity to erect the ears is probably, in some manner, the result of domestication and selective breeding. Floppy ears, in some senses, are a deformity. Though they don’t have any major consequences but keeping the floppy ears clean is a high-time challenge. 

Floppy ears in Labradors are a result of selective breeding. The dog’s erect ears have a selective gene responsible for the same. However, the said gene has been bred out of some breeds like Labradors so that they can retain the scent of their prey during hunting.

Floppy ears are probably the better scent retainers, and having them invariably increases Labrador’s hunting ability. And since scent is a prominent tool while hunting, this feature is probably a boon for Labrador and other similar dogs.

More About Floppy Ears

Charles Darwin was the first to mention Domestic Syndrome in his book ‘The Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication.’ Charles, back in 1868, claimed that animals which are domesticated are different from the ones in the wild in some way or another.

For example, animals who are meant for domestication have shorter teeth, less aggressive attitudes, docile temperaments, shorter or no horns, and other typical characteristics. These features, though, are very much different from wild animals.

While Charles mentioned Domestic Syndrome, some scientists claim that Floppy ears happen due to another reason. As per them, Labradors or other dogs have Floppy ears due to changes in cell behavior and genetics.

Labrador Ears Shapes- More About Labrador’s ears

Every Labrador, no matter which region it belongs, has Floppy and Drop ears. Purebred Labradors will have no difference from Floppy ear, which gives them a very distinctive look. However, unlike humans, Labradors have a vertical ear canal that gains the ‘L Shape.’

Due to the said ear shape, Lab’s ears hold wax, bacteria, and other such fluid, making them vulnerable to ear infections. Not to forget, gems thrive in floppy ears given to the dark and less airy environment.

Due to their given ear type, nearly 20% of Labradors suffer from ear infections. Labs commonly develop infections like Otitis Externa (in the external part), Otitis Media (in the middle part), and Otitis Interna (in the inner ear canal).

While the external ear infection is still easier to resolve, the inner and middle ear infection, in the worst-case scenario, can lead to facial paralysis, deafness, and vestibular signs.

There are a number of factors that contribute to ear infections in Labradors. Some of these may include

  • Food sensitivities
  • Skin allergies
  • Contact with Moisture
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Hormonal problems
  • Injury

Ear Problems In Labradors- Can Floppy Ear Cause Any Disadvantages?

Floppy ears can bring a few disadvantages to Labradors, and you cannot simply overlook them. Majorly, they are always at risk of infection.

Labradors’ floppy ears are prone to ear infections more commonly than the upright ears in other dogs. Some of the common reasons for ear infections include,

  • Genetic predisposition to otitis externa.
  • Underlying problems like hypothyroidism.
  • And majorly, lack of airflow in ears.

Also, since Labradors are water babies and their exposure to water and snow is extreme in many cases, developing an ear infection is quite common for them. All this and Floppy ears make ear cleaning and distance from infection a challenging task for many Lab owners.

Besides that, another major disadvantage of having Floppy ears is ‘Injury.’ Labradors have big floppy ears; however, their ear is quite soft. Upon contact with anything sharp, Lab’s ear can easily get turned.

Therefore, they are prone to the risk of injury even upon coming in contact with thorny brush or fence posts and fighting another dog. And since their ear has many veins, it can bleed heavily within no time.

Floppy Ears Vs. Pointy Ears- The Difference

Dogs have multiple ear types, of which Floppy and Pointy are some of the most common. Different ear types are not just for visual reference, but each of them serves some other purpose.

Dogs’ Pointy ears make them look aggressive, whereas the ones with Floppy ears look tamed and friendly.

Pointy ears provide a better sense of hearing. Since they have more surface area, their ears collect better sound waves and bounce them back into the ear canal for better processing.

Floppy ears, though as well don’t actually don’t have any impact on the dog’s hearing simply because they are downwards. However, Pointy ears definitely aid better hearing, and that is why many working breeds and guard dog breeds have them.

Floppy ears, on the other hand, are better scent retainers that aid benefits for hunting dogs.

Despite many differences, both Floppy ears and Pointy ears are common in cold-weather breeds.

Dogs like a Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, Cairn, or the West Highland terrier have Pointy ears. At the same time, dogs like Labrador Retrievers and Basset Hounds have Floppy or Drop ears.

Taping Labrador Ears- Is Taping Dog Ears Down a Bad Idea?

While some pet parents prefer their dog’s ears to drop down, others prefer them to erect. However, since ears are naturally made what they are for some purpose, every dog breed has them unique.

There is very little evidence that taping a dog’s ear has some benefit or is even a good practice. Owners with working dogs often tap their canine’s ear downwards since it helps them reduce injury while they are near predators. It also lessens the chances of injury while traveling through bushy areas. Some individuals also tap their dog’s ear due to some or other faiths. Another reason why many dog guardians do that is purely for ‘Aesthetics.’

However, given there are no proven benefits or even requirements for taping dogs’ ears, doing so isn’t a good idea. Dogs’ have certain ear types not just for better looks but for some definite purpose. Altering their natural make will not benefit to them, but surely some harm.

Wrapping up…

Labradors have Floppy ears, and we should let the dogs embrace their feature. Floppy ears are a fundamental part of Labrador’s charm and also integral to how they will survive in the wild on their own. As a caring and responsible Lab guardian, all you can do is, keep your dog’s ear clean and dry.

 

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