Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

Have you ever wondered why dogs put their ears back? 

It might seem like a silly question, but it’s something that many pet owners have been asking themselves for years. 

Dogs put their ears back for many reasons, but it’s predominantly used as a way to communicate with you.

Join us as we explore the answer to this question and share some interesting facts about this unique canine trait.

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.

Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?

There are several reasons why your dog may put their ears back at any specific point in time. Typically, this movement is tied to their mood or events happening in the environment around them.

Your Dog Is Happy

When a dog’s ears are slightly back and loose, the dog may be signifying its friendliness.

It’s 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.

Dogs sometimes adorably tilt their head or wag their tail when they put their ears back. It can be a sign that they are feeling happy, excited, or curious. 

If you see your dog putting their ears back, it is essential to take note of the situation and how they seem otherwise.

For example, if your dog has been playing with other dogs in the park but then runs over to you, the chances are that they’re just trying to get you to play with them. In this case, there is nothing wrong, and them moving their ears back is a sign of happiness or excitement.

Your Dog Is Being Submissive

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, or licking their lips. The dog may also raise its paw slightly in the air.

Your Dog Is Anxious

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.

Your Dog Is Being Aggressive

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 any way 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.

Your Dog Is Listening

Dogs also put their ears back when they are alert and trying to listen. Dog ears are sensitive and can hear sounds too quiet for humans. When a dog’s ears are pointed toward an object, they are listening intently for noises. 

Dogs will also put their ears back to listen and communicate with other dogs or people nearby.

Your Dog Is Sick

Dogs may have their ears back if they are sick or in pain, especially if they have an infection affecting their ear canal. This movement can actually assist in soothing their pain.

In this case, the movement can reduce swelling by letting out any fluids causing the infection. 

Should I Be Worried About My Dog Putting Their Ears Back?

How dogs position their ears can indicate how they are feeling at any given time, making it an essential feature for pet owners to understand.

What To Do If Your Dog Feels Scared Or Threatened

For some dogs, such as puppies and older dogs, putting their ears back can be a sign of fear or nervousness. 

This does not mean they will bite you, but it is good to watch the situation should something else happen that could lead them to lash out.

Dogs may feel threatened by loud noises or people they don’t know. 

In that case, you should immediately remove them from the situation while avoiding touching them if possible. 

When this occurs, you should try to distract them, with food being one method to do so.

What To Do If Your Dog Has An Infection

Should your dog have an infection, take it to the vet right away. In some cases, delaying treatment for an infection may lead to a need to amputate the ear.

The Bottom Line

Dogs put their ears back for several different reasons. They may just be excited in a best-case scenario, while they may be angry and about to attack in a worst-case scenario. 

Generally, dogs will also use this movement to communicate with other dogs and express themselves. 

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.

The next time you see your dog putting their ears back, it might be a good idea to survey your dog and your surroundings as there may be something going on that you need to be aware of.