Have you noticed that your dog sometimes holds their ears back?
You might also have noticed that they do this under really different circumstances, sometimes when they are happy but also when afraid or angry.
What does this mean?
Let’s find out why dogs pull their ears back.
Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back?
The most common reason that dogs put their ears back is as a form of communication.
The message they send can be friendly or aggressive, and to understand it, you must also look at the other body language signals they are expressing.
Let’s look at this ear-pinning behavior in more detail.
Seven Reasons Why Your Dog Pulls its Ears Back
- They Are Scared
- A Warning of Aggression
- Injury or Illness
- To Try and Hear Better
- When Playing
- When Flirting With Another Dog
- They Are Feeling Sad
Now let’s take a closer look at each and understand the dog’s body language more deeply.
1. They Are Scared
If a dog feels scared, many things might change about its body language.
Dogs often try to make themselves smaller, making them appear less of a threat or harder to see.
This can include pinning back their ears so they don’t stick up as much.
If this is happening with your dog, you should be able also to notice other signs of fear, such as quivering, trembling, and body stiffness.
NOTE – You might also find this post interesting about why dogs lick other dogs’ ears.
2. As a Warning of Aggression
Dogs can be aggressive for several reasons, including fear and territorialism.
Some dogs respond to feeling fearful with cowering behavior, but others may react aggressively.
A dog’s ears being pulled back can be a clear sign of aggression, and if your dog is doing this, you should be careful that they don’t bite someone or another dog.
It should be easy to tell if this is the case, as there will be other signs of aggression, such as snarling and growling.
3. Injury or Illness
This is quite rare, but dogs can hold their ears back due to an injury or sickness (such as an ear infection).
The best way to figure out if this is the problem is to watch for other symptoms of a medical issue, such as lack of appetite or loss of energy.
If you are in any doubt about your dog’s health, your best bet is to take them to the vet for a check-up.
It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this website lists helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills.
(If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country, there is a lot of support for dog owners who are in difficulty).
NOTE – Check out this post if you would like to learn why dogs hide under the bed and in dark places.
4. To Try and Hear Better
It might be that your dog is pinning back their ears to try and hear better.
This is especially likely if you have a floppy-eared dog.
If there is a sound that they are interested in but can’t quite hear well enough, they will pin back their ears to move the ear flap out of the way to improve their hearing.
NOTE – You might enjoy reading this post to discover why some dogs have floppy ears.
5. When Playing
Most dogs love to play. When they do so, they get excited, and their body language changes in various ways.
This can include pulling back their ears. This should be very easy to spot.
If your dog is being playful, then the chances are there is nothing to worry about!
This is just an excellent opportunity to have some fun, play with your dog and strengthen the bond that you share.
6. When Flirting With Another Dog
I love this one! Yes, dogs flirt with each other, and sometimes when they do, they pull back their ears. How cute is that?
Of course, if your dog isn’t neutered, you must be careful to ensure the flirting doesn’t go too far and turn into a bundle of puppies!
7. They Are Feeling Sad
I don’t like this one! Sometimes when dogs are sad or depressed, their ears will be held back.
If this is the case, they will likely also have a quiet, uninterested demeanor. It should be pretty obvious that they are unhappy.
Obviously, if this is the case, you need to do your best to understand why they feel sad and how you can cheer them up.
You should look for things that might have changed in the dog’s life that could have upset them, and also think about what needs they might have that are not being met.
For example, do they get plenty of stimulation, play, exercises, love, and cuddles?
Before this post wraps up, you might also like to watch this video with some interesting and important advice about canine body language.
Just click the video to start watching:
Final Notes On Why Dogs Pull Their Ears Back
The main reason dogs pull their ears back is to communicate with either humans or other dogs.
But a dog’s ears being pinned back can be for a wide range of reasons, so as a dog owner, you need to read all of the body language signals they give off to understand better what the dog is communicating.
If you are worried, there might be something wrong with your pooch, and you don’t know how to fix it. You should consult a dog behaviorist or a vet for professional help.
So, we have come to the end of this article answering the question – why do dogs pull their ears back?
We hope it gave you all the information you were looking for, but if you want to know more, please feel free to comment using the form below.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!