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Why Do Dogs Put Their Ears Back? Are They Happy or Scared?


While a dog’s eyes and tail offer valuable insights into their emotional state, interpreting their ears requires a more nuanced understanding. The position of the dog’s ears plays a crucial role in communicating intentions and feelings. When these beloved pets pull back their ears or hold them close to the head, deciphering their meaning becomes even more intricate, as this behavior can stem from various underlying reasons.

Why do dogs put their ears back?

Beyond their role in listening, dog ears serve as expressive tools, offering valuable insights into your dog’s emotions. However, given the multitude of ear positions, deciphering their messages can prove challenging.

Therefore, getting a grip on the meanings behind a dog’s pulled-back ears requires further study. You also need to be aware of canine behavior and their emotions. Here are the possible reasons behind your dog’s pulled-back ears:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Placating behavior while greeting
  • Courting
  • Danger
  • Illness or injury
  • Improved listening

Are dogs happy or scared when they put their ears back?

There can be a variety of reasons why your furry friend is pulling their ears back. However, your dog is more likely to be sad than happy if their ears are in this position. 

If your canine companion is sad or afraid, they have their ears tucked close to the sides of the head. They often exhibit this behavior when their human leaves. 

When assessing a dog’s fearfulness, pay attention to additional facial and body cues. Signs may include lowered body posture, tail position, ears back, panting, yawning, lip-licking, avoiding eye contact, and attempts to hide or retreat. Each dog expresses fear differently, exhibiting varying combinations of these behaviors. 

Moreover, they may retract their ears when feeling nervous or anxious. They also demonstrate additional body language cues like tongue flicks, panting, body tension, or other signs of discomfort. This behavior is common in dogs who dislike car rides or feel overwhelmed by crowded situations, including excessive attention from children. Similarly, if they pull their ears back while being pet, it could signal discomfort or lack of enjoyment. 


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