Question: Why Does My Dog Lick My Ears?
Any dog owner will tell you that dogs can have some pretty entertaining practices. In fact, it’s those quirky behaviors that make each dog unique and are sure to bring a smile to your face. For example, did you ever have a dog who loved eating socks or ripping up toilet paper? Or perhaps you know of a dog who likes to rest its chin on your shoulder or sleep on its back with its legs in the air. My pup Juno enjoys sticking her head into a snowbank while other dogs like to lick their owner’s ears. This act may leave you asking yourself, “Why does my dog lick my ears?”
So, why does your dog lick your ears? Great question! Let’s dive right into examining this peculiar practice by first acknowledging that dogs are pack animals. This means a dog’s behavior is a part of an evolutionary structure. This system allows dogs to communicate and determine their pack hierarchy. So, ear-licking within the pack structure can communicate several messages. For example, ear-licking shows a level of comfort between pack members. By participating in mutual grooming, canines show respect to their pack and relay a sense of love and care. Hence, when examining the question, “Why does my dog lick my ears?”, the evolutionary behaviours, such as ear-licking by undomesticated canines, are very relevant.
Reasons Why Your Dog Licks Your Ears
1. Sign of Affection
When your dog licks your ears, he or she could be trying to express how much they adore you. In fact, ear-licking, nuzzling, and nibbling are all signs that you are admired and accepted as not just part of their pack, but as their PACK LEADER.
2. Ears Smell and Taste Good to Dogs
It’s true that this next reason is a little gross, but dogs may like to lick your ears because they like the flavor of ear wax or the saltiness of the secretions in your ear canal. Try not to take offence, as even the cleanest of human ears contain this waxy and salty delicacy.
Alternatively, it may not just be the taste of your ears that is so alluring, but it could also be the smell. If your dog rarely nibbles your ears, take note, as sudden interest may show a difference in odor. Further, a variation in smell might mean that you may have an ear infection.
3. An Underlying Problem
As mentioned above, a dog who is suddenly interested in licking your ears may do so because of a difference in the smell which could suggest something is off. Whether it be an ear infection or some other problem, whatever is drawing their attention to your ear may be worth getting checked out.
It is a common occurrence for pack animals to groom one another. Animals that live in pack structures will help to groom one another, especially in hard-to-reach areas, like the ears. Not only are a dog’s ears hard for them to reach, but they are also an area that can get quite dirty. Mutual grooming is a way for dogs to help one another with cleanliness while also acting as a bonding activity that strengthens the social structure of the pack. Perhaps your dog is giving you a hand (or a tongue) to help you out with your own grooming needs.
5. Show of Respect & Submission
In the wolf world, it is a lower-ranking wolf who will lick a higher-ranking wolf to show submissive respect. The same goes for domesticated dogs. Puppies show respect for older dogs by licking their mouths. Your dog sees you as a pack leader, so to show you they respect and value you, they will give your ears a lick. Your dog may show you other submissive behaviours such as exposing their belly to you, tucking in their tail, avoiding eye contact, or flattening their ears.
6. Sign of Comfort and Security
When a dog licks your ears, they are communicating to you that they are comfortable with you. Your dog feels safe in your company. This should make you happy as a dog owner, as it means your dog is feeling secure and trusts you very much. You may also notice that your dog has a relaxed face and body. This is a sure sign of how great they feel when they are around you.
Dogs learn about the environment by exploring it with their mouths and noses. Ear-licking may mean they are curious and want to expand their knowledge. By giving your ear a sniff or lick, your dog may try to gather some information about you, like where you have been or what types of activities you’ve been doing.
8. It Feels Good for Your Dog
For some dogs, the act of licking feels good. The repeated action helps to calm your dog and even relieve boredom. If your dog is anxious, you may notice licking behaviors in other areas as well. It is your dog’s way of trying to self-soothe so they can relieve the stress or tension they may be feeling.
Should Ear-Licking be Encouraged or Stopped?
As you can see, the question “Why does my dog lick my ears?” has many possible answers. Once you have determined the reason, you can determine if this is a behaviour that needs to be stopped or if it is one that you can allow to happen. If you enjoy the ear nibbles and you believe your dog is simply showing you some love and respect, you can allow the ritual to continue.
However, if the licking is excessive, and you are worried that the cause may be an infection you will want to interrupt the behavior. Likewise, excessive licking could lead to extra moisture in your ear canal, which may contribute to an ear infection, as ears are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. A good rule of thumb is if you enjoy the licking, then allow for the occasional lick. However, if you dislike having your ears licked or if the licking is more than a quick slurp, it would be best to stop the licking before it leads to bigger problems.
How Do I Stop Ear-Licking?
There are several ways you can try to deter ear-licking, depending on the cause. It is important that if you want the licking to stop that you work on halting it immediately, as the sooner the behavior is interrupted, the more success you will have in stopping the licking. Some methods you can try to stop ear-licking are:
- Try a distraction technique by redirecting your dog to a squeaky toy or a game of fetch
- If your dog is stressed, you might offer an appropriate chew or try a sniffari walk. A sniffari is a walk where you allow your dog to sniff all the delightful smells.
- If you suspect your dog is licking your ear because of a change in odor, go have your ears checked for an infection.
- Have your dog assessed by a dog trainer or behaviorist.
- Try mentally stimulating your dog with some canine enrichment like a puzzle or KONG.
To learn about ways to entertain and distract your dog with some canine enrichment, click here.
The goal in stopping your dog from licking your ears is to provide other opportunities for them to keep their minds busy. The longer you have allowed the behaviour to continue, the more time and patience it will take for you to remedy the situation. As with all training, remember to be consistent and offer positive alternatives for your pooch.
As you can see, there are several reasons why your dog may lick your ears. Ear-licking can be seen as dog communication, so it is up to you to determine what your dog is attempting to tell you. An occasional lick is a happy sign that your dog loves you and feels safe, but more excessive licking is something you may want to explore further.
Happy Tail Wags. xo
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Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.Kinky Friedman