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Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Back?

Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Back?

German Shepherds are known for the large pointy ears all around the world.  However, sometimes they put those ears down or back intentionally.  If you have ever wondered why do German Shepherds put their ears back, this article will provide the most common reasons for this behavior.

Why Do German Shepherds Put Their Ears Back?

German Shepherds put their ears back for varying reasons, including, excitement, submissiveness, friendliness, fear, or to protect their ears.  Looking at your dog’s overall body language will help you tell exactly why they put their ears back in most situations.

Common Reasons Why German Shepherds Move Their Ears Back

Below are the most common reasons why your GSD is moving their ears back:


One of the main reasons a German Shepherd will move their ears back is because they are excited.  When you gets really excited and starts running around like crazy, they will naturally pin their ears back.

This commonly happens when someone they are excited to see comes over and they are jumping up and down and running in circles, or when they are excited to go play or do some other fun activity. 

Awaiting a Head Rub

Another reason why your dog will put their ears back is because they are anticipating a head rub.  If you reach out like you are going to pet your GSD you will notice they pin their ears back in expectation of the rub.

This is a sign your dog is relaxed and welcoming of affection from you.  They are also making it easier for you to pat their head without those pointy ears getting in the way.


Being friendly is another reason your German Shepherd will put their ears back.  Their ears being back and relaxed is a sign that your dog is comfortable with the situation they are in and is looking to get attention from either human or other canine companions.

German Shepherds Playing In Snow

You may also notice that when your dog is playing with other dogs, and they are sniffing and getting to know each other, your GSD will likely put their ears back as well.  This is another sign of them being welcoming and friendly to the other dog.


Ears being put back is also a sign your dog is being submissive in the current situation.  If your GSD sees you are the pack leader, their ears being pinned back is a sign they are trusting you and letting you handle things. 

It is also a sign that they respect you, so they are willing to be more relaxed and let you take charge.

Fear or Anxiety

Sometimes fear or anxiety can also be a reason why your German Shepherd puts their ears down.  German Shepherds are normally confident dogs, however, when something scares them they are likely to pin their ears back.

This is a normal reaction for dogs.  When your GSD is confident and secure, their ears will be up and perky, however, if they are scared or timid, they will pin their ears back because they are not confident in that situation. 

German Shepherds are also prone to separation anxiety, which can be another reason why they pin their ears back because they are anxious about their owners being away or leaving them.


Another reason some German Shepherds put their ears back is because of strong wind.  If your dog likes to stick their head out of the car window, you may have noticed they always pin their ears back when the car is in motion.  This is because of the wind.

The same also goes for if it is very windy outside.  Although we can’t totally be sure why, the theory is that German Shepherds don’t like the intense wind feeling inside their ears, so they pin them down to be more comfortable.

To Protect Their Ears

Lastly, sometimes German Shepherds pin their ears back to protect their ear canals.  You may have noticed that anytime you reach toward your GSD’s ears, whether that is for a rub, or to clean them they naturally put those ears back.   This is for protection.

German Shepherds naturally want to keep foreign objects out of their ears, so when they sense something too close to their ears, they pin them back to keep their ears safe.

Other Body Language To Consider

When trying to determine the reason why you dog is pinning their ears back, you should look at your dog’s other body language.

For example, if your pup’s ears are pinned back and their tail is wagging, they are probably excited.  Whereas, if your dog’s ears and pinned back and they are cowering or they are looking at you with pleading eyes, they are probably scared.

Your German Shepherd’s eyes, tail, whether their tongue is hanging out, and overall attitude will be your biggest clues to why they have put their ears back.

Final Thoughts

Putting their ears back is a normal reaction for German Shepherds and dogs generally in certain situations.  When your dog is excited, scared, being submissive, awaiting a head rub, or trying to protect their ears, it is a natural reaction for them to pin their ears down.

Look at the situation overall, as well as the overall body language of your GSD to help you pin down the exact reason why they are pinning those ears back.

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