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Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

Man’s best friend, the dog, has been running alongside us for millennia since the dawn of our species. They make excellent companions, obedient and attentive to the end. The secret for this lies in our ability to communicate with one another through verbal and non-verbal language. Though there are many nuances to their behavior, time has shown us the way toward understanding them.

One particular action we are well aware of is their tendency to put their ears back. Though there are many reasons for this, with a keen eye and an attention to detail, the intent of their message can be made clear.

Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

The Dog’s Ears

The state of a dog’s ears signifies the attention and reaction it has to a given situation. Their sense of hearing is substantially more accurate than ours, with their ability to redirect their ears to follow certain sounds improving upon this. Even when an environment seems silent to a human, a dog can hear all sorts of sounds and frequencies that go completely unnoticed by us. This makes the dog’s ability to shift their hearing a necessary feature, aiding to filter out the countless noises they hear. This quality is important depending on the level of aggression, submission, fear and anxiety the dog maintains.

The Friendly Dog

When a dog’s ears are slightly back and loose, the dog may be signifying its friendliness. It is in a relaxed state, maintaining only a mild degree of attention to its surroundings. In this state, it feels safe and does not feel the need to concern itself with the actions around it. Qualities to look for are a loose stance, a relaxed mouth only slightly open, and a relaxed tail.

The Submissive Dog

When a dog’s ears are moderately back and down, flattened against its head, the dog may be feeling submissive and somewhat frightened. In this state, the dog is expressing its earnest desire to submit to the situation to avoid any possible conflict. Qualities to look out for in this state are closed eyes and a drawn back mouth, possibly resembling a grin. The dog may also raise its paw slightly in the air.

The Anxious Dog

If a dog’s ears are down and partially flattened against its head, the dog may be in a state of anxiety. Though it may be as a result of something in its immediate surroundings, more often than not it is a general feeling. A dog in this state feels helpless and fearful, but may quickly attack in an act of desperation if given enough reason. Qualities to look out for are low whining noises, an aversion to people or objects, dilated pupils, and rapid panting.

The Aggressive Dog

A dog with its ears stiffly back and flattened against its head is usually very frightened, often to the point of feeling the need to aggressively defend itself. In this state, a dog, while fearful, is not in anyway submissive. Approaching the wrong way can lead to the dog lashing out against the object or person it feels is threatening it. Qualities to look out for are raised hackles, a wrinkled nose and forehead, slightly curled lips with teeth or gum visible, and a tucked tail. It is important to note that a dog takes this position out of intense fear and will opt to avoid conflict if it is not pressed.

Depending on the breed of the dog, it may be difficult for the dog to display its intent, particularly if its ears hang loosely by its head. If such is the case, closer observation toward more subtle movements around the base of the ears is necessary to properly interpret the dog’s message.

About The Author

Animal lover, designer and all round good egg. Loves Golden Retrievers and has two of her own - Bonnie and Sadie. When Francesca isn't blogging, she can be found on horse back in a field somewhere, upon a surfboard at sea or with a pint in hand watching rugby!

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