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Dogs Ears Back: What It Means and What to Do

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If you’ve ever seen dogs ears back, you might be wondering what it means.

Dogs can exhibit this behavior for a variety of reasons – some of which are cause for concern, while others are perfectly normal. There are various reasons why dogs might have their ears back, and several different things that you should do if you notice this behavior in your pet.

DOGS EARS BACK: WHAT BODY LANGUAGE DO DOG EARS CONVEY?

Dogs ears are extremely expressive, and can convey a wide range of emotions.

Some dog ears will perk up in ear position when they are happy or excited, while at more calm times a dog’s ears may lay flat against the head in a relaxed position. And then there are those times when dogs will have their ears back in an aggressive stance – which is usually accompanied by a growl or bark.

So, what does it mean when a dog has its ears back? It can depend on the ear placement, situation, the rest of the dog body language, or a combination of all three. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to figure out why your dog’s ears are back.

SIGNS OF STRESS IN DOGS

EAR POSITION

Dogs Ears Back

If a dog’s ears are positioned close to the head, it usually means that the dog is feeling relaxed or submissive. Flattened ears on a dog are USUALLY no red flag to be worried about.

On the other hand, if a dog’s ears are upright and alert and then quickly move to being flattened ears with other signals of stress like whale eyes, avoiding eye contact, tucked tail, or raised hair, it usually means that the dog is feeling stressed or uncomfortable.

SITUATION

The situation can also provide clues as to why a dog’s ears are back. For example, if you just got home from work and your dog’s ears are back, it might be because they’re feeling guilty about something they did while you were gone – like chewing up your favorite pair of shoes.

Below one dog’s ears are back out of fear, and one dog’s ears are back out of comfort:

Or, if you’re at the park and your dog’s ears are back, it might be because they’re feeling overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds.

Knowing the entire story of a dogs ears helps to piece together the reason for why dogs put their ears the way they do.

BODY LANGUAGE

When trying to figure out why a dog has its ears back, it’s important to look at the whole picture and know the signs – not just look at the ears. After all, a dog’s body language can be very telling. For example, if a dog has its ears back and is also in a neutral position, tail high and looks like your normal relaxed dog, they probably are relaxing their ears.

On the other hand, if a dog has its ears back and is also crouching down with their tail tucked, has whale eye / dilated pupils, or is showing other signs of defensive aggression, it might mean that they’re feeling scared or threatened.

IS YOUR DOG STRESSED?

COMBINATION OF ALL THREE

Of course, it’s also possible that a combination of all three – ear position, situation, and body language – can provide clues as to why a dog has its ears back.

For example, if you’re trying to give your dog a bath and they have their ears back in a submissive position while also showing signs of defensive aggression (crouching down, tail tucked, etc.), it’s probably because they

Dogs Ears Back

When dogs ears are back, it can be an indication that they are feeling fearful, anxious, or submissive. It can also be a sign that your dog is in pain.

SIGNS OF ANXIETY IN DOGS

Most dogs express tension in ways that humans can fully see / understand. However, since dogs do not express their feelings in the same emotional state or physical communication that a human does, dog owners should be aware of the signs that their dog is feeling anxious.

Dogs Ears Back

Some common signs of anxiety in dogs include:

  1. Panting
  2. Pacing
  3. Shaking
  4. Yawning
  5. Lip licking
  6. Excessive drooling

If your dog is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it’s important to take notice and see if there are any other clues that might help you understand this important canine body language. (ANXIETY IN DOGS- TRY USING CBD)

DOG’S BODY LANGUAGE AND A DOG’S MOOD

Dogs Ears Back

If your dog suddenly began putting their ears back or completely flat on their head, they might be putting out a warning sign for their feelings.

HOW PET OWNERS CAN DETERMINE IF THEIR DOG IS SHOWING AGGRESSIVE BODY LANGUAGE

One way pet owners can determine if their dog is feeling aggressive is by the position of their ears. If a dog’s ears are close to their head, it usually means they are feeling relaxed or submissive; however, if dogs put their ears ears upright and alert, it might mean they are excited or happy.

Another way to tell if you have a fearful dog on your hands is by the rest of their body. If your dog is crouching down with their tail tucked, has whale eye / dilated pupils, or is showing other signs of defensive aggression, it might mean that they’re feeling scared or threatened.

WHAT DO POINTED EARS MOVING TO FLAT MEAN?

Dogs Ears Back

If you see your dog’s ears pointed and they suddenly put them flat on their head, it might be a sign that they are feeling uneasy. This is often seen in dogs who are about to attack or fight. If you see this behavior in your dog, it’s important to remove them from the situation immediately.

HOW TO STOP DOG FIGHTS

Some dogs, however, put their ears back as a way to let their humans know they are happy and content. If your dog is wagging their tail and has a relaxed body, this is usually a good indication that they are feeling comfortable and happy.

HOW TO HELP A DOG OVERCOME A PERCEIVED THREAT?

Dogs Ears Back

Common reasons why a dog might pull their ears back are:

  1. The dog hears a new sound and feels uneasy
  2. The dog is in an unfamiliar environment
  3. The dog smells something they don’t recognize
  4. The dog sees something they perceive as a threat

If your dog is pulling their ears back because they feel uneasy, it’s important to help them overcome this feeling by slowly introducing them to the new stimulus. For example, if your dog is afraid of car rides, start by taking them on short trips around the block. If they do well, gradually increase the length of the car rides until they are comfortable.

IS YOUR DOG SCARED OF THE CAR?

Dogs Ears Back

If you have an anxious dog at the vet, speak with the vet ahead of time about what you can do for your dog to make the experience a more positive one.

IS YOUR DOG SCARED OF THE VET?

PROVIDING YOUR DOG WITH AN ‘OUT’

It’s also important to provide your dog with a safe space where they can go to escape perceived threats. This could be a quiet room in your house or a crate that they feel safe in. If your dog is feeling anxious, give them the option to go to their safe space. This will help them feel more comfortable and less stressed.

WAGGING TAIL AND EARS

Most of the time, a dog owner would associate a wagging tail with their dog being happy! After all, this is commonly seen as a sign of excitement in dogs and we can’t necessarily understand their facial expressions the same way as humans facial expressions.

However, it’s important to know that there are different types of tail wags that can indicate different emotions.

THE REASONS WHY A DOG MIGHT WAG THEIR TAIL

Dogs Ears Back

A dog might wag their tail fast if they are feeling happy or excited. However, a slow tail wag might mean they are feeling unsure or even threatened. If you see your dog wagging their tail slowly from side to side or keeping their tail low, it’s important to take notice of the rest of their body language. If they are also showing signs of aggression, it might be best to remove them from the situation.

If you see your dog wagging their tail and their ears are back, this is usually a good indication that they are feeling happy and content. This is a relaxed tail wag and is often seen when dogs are being petted or scratched.

EARS BACK AND WHALE EYE

If you see your dog with their ears back and they are giving you whale eye, it’s a good indication that they are feeling uncomfortable or threatened.

Whale eye is when a dog shows the whites of their eyes and it’s often seen as a sign of defensive aggression. If you see this behavior in your dog, it’s important to not ignore these visual signals of stress, and remove them from the situation immediately.

A DOG IN AN ALERT POSITION

Dog’s do not speak english, but they DO communicate! Dogs have a safety mechanism of communicating with their entire bodies. Most canines have a natural position that they keep their bodies while they are with a comfortable family member.

However, this can change when dogs begin to feel uneasy. If a dog feels like they are in danger, they will often put their ears back and tuck their tail between their legs as a way to make themselves appear smaller. This is an instinctual behavior that dates back to when dogs were wild animals and needed to protect themselves from predators.

Crafty Canine Club demonstrated an alert position in dogs here:

Dogs Ears Back

If you see your dog with pulled back ears or demonstrating other body language of fear, it is best to assume they are uncomfortable, and not do anything that might make them more upset.

EAR INFECTIONS

Can ear infections change the way a dog’s ears hang?

Dogs Ears Back

While ear infections can certainly be painful for dogs, they usually don’t have any effect on the way their ears are shaped. If you notice that your dog’s ears are suddenly drooping or they are holding them at an odd angle, it’s best to take them to the vet to rule out any potential health problems.

Sometimes, if an ear is infected, a dog will begin to hang their entire head one way or another. Typically, ear infections will not cause dogs to pull their ears back. However, some dogs will pull their ears back in order to be able to scratch their ears, if itchy or painful.

For our favorite ear infection remedy, click here: EAR INFECTIONS IN DOGS

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DOGS EARS BACK: WHAT IT MEANS AND WHAT TO DO

Dogs Ears Back

When trying to understand what your dog is trying to tell you, it’s important to take notice of their entire body language. Just because a dog wags their tail, doesn’t always mean they are happy. And, just because a dog has their ears back, doesn’t necessarily mean they are in pain or aggressive (read more about fear aggression here). Always look at other visual signals in your dog and keep the entire picture front and center. (READ MORE HERE)

If you are ever unsure about your dog’s behavior, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult with a professional before there may be negative consequences to your dog. They will be able to help you better understand what your dog is trying to communicate.

Happy tails! 🙂

READ MORE:
Fear Anxiety- Why Do Dogs Get Aggressive When They Are Afraid?
HOW TO STOP DOG FIGHTS
IS YOUR DOG STRESSED?
IS YOUR DOG SCARED OF THE VET?
OVERCOMING FEAR OF THE CAR
EAR INFECTIONS IN DOGS
ANXIETY IN DOGS- TRY USING CBD
CHIN ACNE

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Dane lover and believer in ethical breeding, training and rescue practices. Positive + Balanced trainer, owner of rescue dogs and dogs from breeders. Love the dog in front of you.

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