Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

why do dogs put their ears back

From ear to tail, a dog uses his entire body to communicate with you. Just from the little gestures, you can tell the exact mood of your dog. The key to training and socialization is to recognize the subtle signals.

Especially the ones associated with fear or anxiety. Among the three major areas to watch, ears are as important as any. Besides ears, the dog uses its face and tail to communicate most of the messages.

So, Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

Your dog can hold back their ears or slightly towards the side. Their ears may twitch when the canine is listening to sounds that interest him/her. When they are interested or alert, the ears may be facing forward and erect.

Additionally, a dog may lower the ears or pull them back during interactions. For instance, a dog does it, while giving kisses or when enjoying a treat. More often than not, this is a common friendly gesture. In this post, we will focus mainly on why dogs hold back their ears.

Humans find it challenging to understand the emotional signs of dogs. Dogs have both intelligence and cognition to express their emotion to humans.

A responsible dog owner should take steps to understand its body language. Barring a few minor changes depending on breeds, a dog’s body language is universal. You should pay extra attention to your dogs body language when you are training them. Here we list all the possible emotions associated with why do dogs put their ears back.

Your dog is “talking” to you all the time. If you learn what your dog is saying, you will develop a deeper bond of trust and respect. Plus, your newfound understanding of your dog’s emotional state will help you predict your dog’s behavior and prevent problems before they occur.

Read the original article  – American Kennel Club

Dogs Ears

Range Of Emotions

Here is a range of emotional signals associated with pulled-back ears in dogs.


Pulled back ears partially flattened against the head may indicate a state of anxiety in dogs. Though it may have resulted from actions in the surroundings, it is considered more of a general feeling. Your furry friend may feel helpless and may attack in an act of desperation. Also, watch out for low whining noises, lack of socialization, continuous panting, and dilation in pupils to confirm anxiety.


When the ears are in a natural resting position, the dog is comfortable. When two dogs meet, it is usual to see a dog maintaining a natural ear position to suggest he/she is at ease. It is also possible that another dog in the interaction might put the ears back, indicating the opposite. Putting ears back in this situation again may just be part of the appeasement behavior.


Males pull back their ears while courting a female. It is one of the many forms of expression to say he is interested in her. Though the meaning is not always straightforward, the motion of pulling ears back is quite obvious.

dogs ears


If you see a dog pinning its ears tightly to its head, it may just be about to bite somebody. Also, it may be a means to protect from injury. The mood of danger will bring a combination of warning signs such as barking, lunging, charging, growling, tooth displaying, etc… Besides, watch out for facial expressions that express fearfulness or nervousness. Dogs can be dangerous when they enter a fight or flight situation.


Ears pulled back often indicate fearfulness. Check for other facial and body signals to confirm. If they give multiple signals associated with this emotion, you need to be very careful. Some of the fear associated signals include the lowered tail, panting, lip-licking, retreat, hesitating to make eye contact, and lowered body posture. Nevertheless, not all dogs express fear with the same set of signs and gestures. Few dogs show stiff tail or body, whale eye, dilated pupils, etc… A cornered dog can turn aggressive in no time.


When a dog’s ears are pulled back and loose, it may just signify friendliness. In such a relaxed state, a dog maintains a minimal degree of attention to the environment. Your pet feels safe and doesn’t concern itself too much with actions in the surroundings. Confirming signals are lose stance, slightly open mouth, and a relaxed tail.

dog on a boat


Combined with tongue flicks and panting, kept back ears can be a sign of nervousness. It is often seen when non-desiring dogs go on a road trip. Smaller dogs get nervous when being overwhelmed by a larger group of children. Proper socialization is the key to avoid all that. If your dog does it in between any specific activity, then they might not be enjoying it. Watch out for the signs to ensure proper petting is done.


Another possibility for laid back ears is sadness. It shows in tucked down ears close to the sides of the head. Dogs exhibit this behavior commonly when you leave for work. Additionally, your dog does this gesture when it is on a leash, while kids or other dogs play nearby.


When a dog’s ears are pulled back and flattened against its head, it may indicate submission. In this situation, your dog expresses its earnest desire to submit, in case of any possible conflict. Other confirming qualities to look for are closed eyes and drawn back mouth that looks like a grin. Besides, your pet may raise its paws in the air.

why do dogs put their ears back

Other Signals and Information 

In addition to folding back their ears, a dog does a few more things too. For instance, your pet holds his ears tightly forward, before going for a chase. It is most likely that your dog is rearing up to chase a squirrel, cat, and another dog or in the worst case, a person.

Also, your dog moves his ears back even when they are feeling submissive or scared. The farther back the ears may move, the more scared the dog is. Ears pressed back sternly are considered as a defensive position from the canine. Such scared dogs may get aggressive to protect themselves.

Depending on the breed, it may become challenging for dogs to express intent. Moreover, in breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, watching out for such signals get tougher than usual.

Watch for the base of the ear for backward shifts rather than the ear itself.


Overall once you have had your dog for a while you will learn to understand their body language. You will soon learn what breeds your dog loves playing with and some he does not like playing with.

You will pick up on a lot of things. The key is to try and pay more attention to your dog than you normally would when they are growing up. This will help you later in life, you will just automatically think; oh he is acting a bit strange here. You will then know to be on guard, to make sure everything is ok.

You may also like