Why Do Dogs Tuck Their Ears Back?

A puppy looking up

The behavior patterns of dogs can vary widely, with some actions appearing cute and others being quite baffling. One such example is when they tuck their ears. This specific form of body communication is seen across diverse breeds, but it’s unclear why it isn’t a routine feature in all dogs’ ears.

Some people believe the dogs are trying to protect their delicate ears from damage, while others think they are simply trying to make themselves look smaller and less threatening. Still, others believe that the behaviour is related to anxiety or fear.

More research is needed to determine the root cause of this behaviour, but it’s an interesting phenomenon nonetheless.

The Importance of Learning the Dog’s Body Language

Dogs communicate primarily through body language. Reading dog body language is important for both dog and human interactions. Dogs use canine body language to express happiness, fear, aggression, and other emotions.

Dog owners need to read these cues to understand the dog’s emotional state and respond accordingly. For example, if a dog has a wagging tail, it shows that the dog is happy, and the human can respond by petting it.

If a dog bends its teeth and growls, the human should back away slowly. By learning to read a dog’s body language, humans can create positive interactions with dogs and help keep both parties safe.

Dogs use many different body language signals to communicate with each other, and tucking a dog’s ears back is the most common and the first signal a dog gives when it is worried or anxious.

This can signify anxiety, fear, submission, pain, or other emotions. Dogs will also use sniffing to indicate their mood and confidence levels.


There are several theories as to why dogs’ ears tuck, including that they are trying to intimidate others or are uncomfortable. Whatever the reason your dog is pulling their ears back, the first thing to do as a dog owner is to evaluate whether or not your dog is safely using the behaviour.

Theory 1: Dogs pull their ears back as a form of communication

A dog’s ear position is a form of communication that can tell you a lot about its mood and intent. When a dog pulls their ears back, it usually means they feel defensive or scared. It could also mean they’re feeling aggressive and about to attack.

The dog ear placement is just one of the other body languages dogs use to communicate with each other and humans. By understanding these signals, we can better understand our canine friends and be better equipped to handle potentially dangerous situations.

Theory 2: Dog’s ears tuck to protect them from the cold

A small dog under a green sheet

Dogs have a variety of ways to keep warm in cold weather. One way is by tucking their ears underneath their body. This protects the delicate ear flaps from the cold and wind. It also helps to keep their ears clean, as they are less likely to get wet and dirty.

In addition, many dogs will curl into a ball to conserve heat. Doing this can reduce their body temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Theory 3: Dogs ears pull back to show submission

Dogs use a variety of postures and signals to communicate with each other. One such posture is tucking the ears. When a dog’s ears are tucked, it indicates submission to another dog. This might be seen in a situation where one dog is dominant over another. When dogs ask for forgiveness after an altercation, they pull their ears back. A fearful dog also has pulled-back ears.

Theory 4: Dogs tuck their ears when they’re afraid

a scared looking small dog inside a house

Most dogs pull their ears back when they’re afraid. It’s a way for them to protect themselves from their feelings. When a dog feels scared, it can make him feel safer if he tucks his ears against his head. It’s a natural response; you might even see it in puppies just starting to learn about the world around them.

Theory 5: Dog’s ears tuck when they’re happy

Dogs are a common pet in many households and come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most common physical features of a dog is its ears. Some happy dog and a relaxed dog has a neutral position with ear backwards.

This is a way for them to feel comfortable and safe. It’s also a sign of submission to other dogs or humans.

Theory 6: To Appear Bigger

Dogs naturally have very large ears to appear larger, so it makes sense that they would tuck them when they want to make themselves appear bigger or more intimidating. It’s also a natural response for dogs living in places with predators.

Theory 7: When territorial

Most male dogs are territorial, and when dogs put their ears at the back, it’s becoming territorial. In this case, it’s a way for them to block out sounds from nearby predators. This is another reason dogs may tuck their ears when happy.

Theory 8: To intimidate

to appear more intimidating, dogs who are very protective of their territory will often tuck their ears when trying to intimidate other dogs or people. It’s a way for them to show that they mean business and that no one will mess with them without getting hurt.

Theory 9: Dogs tuck their ears out of habit

A shocked-looking dog being held by its owner

Dogs are known to tuck their ears out of habit. This behaviour is often seen in dogs who are anxious or uncomfortable. In some cases, this behaviour can be a sign of aggression. By understanding why dogs tuck their ears, owners can better manage their dog’s behaviour and keep them safe.

There are many reasons why dogs tuck their ears back. Some of the reasons, such as when a dog is frightened or in pain, may be obvious. Others may not be so clear. By understanding the dog’s ears’ behaviours, dog owners can better care for them and help them feel more comfortable.