Why Do My Dog’s Ears Go Back When I Look at Him?

Dogs are known for their ability to communicate with us in various ways, and one of the most noticeable ways is through their body language. 

When we observe our furry friends closely, we may notice subtle changes in their behavior, such as their ears going back. 

This particular behavior can often be seen when we make direct eye contact with our dogs. But why does this happen? In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind why your dog’s ears go back when you look at him. 

Understanding this behavior will not only deepen your bond with your canine companion but also enhance your ability to interpret their communication accurately.

Canine Communication 

Dogs have a rich and complex system of communication, using a combination of body language, vocalizations, and facial expressions to convey their emotions and intentions. 

Their ears play a vital role in this communication. Erect ears generally indicate alertness, interest, or excitement, while backward or flattened ears can signal various emotions, including fear, submission, or anxiety.

Eye Contact and Dominance

Eye contact is a powerful form of communication among social animals, including dogs. In the canine world, direct eye contact can carry different meanings depending on the context and the individuals involved. 

In general, sustained eye contact can be seen as a sign of dominance or challenge. 

Dogs are highly attuned to these signals, and when they perceive direct eye contact from a human, they may respond by showing submissive behaviors, such as lowering their heads, tucking their tails, or flattening their ears against their heads.

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Trust and Comfort 

While dogs may initially respond with submissive behaviors when we make direct eye contact, it’s important to note that the meaning behind this behavior can vary from one dog to another. 

Many dogs develop a deep bond of trust and comfort with their human companions over time. 

For these dogs, their ears going back when you look at them may be a sign of relaxation and contentment rather than fear or submission. It indicates that they feel safe and secure in your presence.

Previous Experiences and Conditioning 

A dog’s past experiences and conditioning play a significant role in shaping their behavior and responses. 

If a dog has had negative experiences with direct eye contact, such as being scolded or punished, they may associate this action with something unpleasant. 

Consequently, they may exhibit fearful or submissive behaviors, including pulling their ears back, to avoid potential conflict or reprimand. 

Understanding your dog’s background and providing positive reinforcement can help alleviate any negative associations they may have developed.

Breed and Individual Variations

It’s important to consider that dog breeds and individual personalities can influence the way dogs respond to eye contact. 

Certain breeds, such as the German Shepherd or the Siberian Husky, are known for their strong-willed nature and may be more inclined to hold their ground when faced with direct eye contact. 

Additionally, each dog has its own unique personality, which can influence their reactions. Some dogs may be naturally more submissive, while others may be more assertive.


When your dog’s ears go back as you look at them, it’s essential to interpret the behavior in the broader context of their body language, past experiences, and individual personality. 

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While it can indicate submission or fear, it can also be a sign of trust and relaxation. 

Developing a strong bond with your dog, providing positive reinforcement, and respecting their individual preferences will contribute to a healthy and understanding relationship. 

Paying attention to your dog’s communication cues will allow you to better understand their emotions and respond accordingly, strengthening the bond you share with your beloved furry companion.