Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears?

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dog licking each other's ears

One of the intriguing behaviors dogs exhibit is licking each other’s ears. But why do dogs lick other dogs’ ears? It might seem a little strange to us humans, but for our canine friends, this is a perfectly normal behavior that serves various purposes.

These can range from a simple display of affection to an instinctive grooming habit. In the same vein, it could also indicate a concern that demands the attention of a veterinarian. This article aims to shed light on this peculiar yet prevalent behavior among dogs to help dog owners better understand their pup’s behavior.

dog licking other dog's ear
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The Social Nature of Dogs

Dogs, by nature, are exceptionally social creatures. They thrive on interaction, forming complex social structures within their packs. This social behavior extends to their communication methods, which are astoundingly nuanced and multifaceted. Dogs utilize a blend of vocalizations, body language, and even scent signals to communicate their intentions, emotions, and status within the pack.

Scent plays a crucial part in canine communication. Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, far surpassing human capabilities, which allows them to gather a wealth of information from scent cues. A dog’s body, particularly its ears and anal region, produces specific scents that other dogs can interpret. These scents can convey a dog’s age, gender, health status, and even recent encounters or activities.

In addition to scent, body language is a vital aspect of dog communication. Carefully observing a dog’s posture, tail wagging, ear position, facial expression, and overall behavior can reveal much about its feelings and intentions.

Ear licking, specifically, is an intimate behavior often seen among dogs. It combines these elements of scent and body language communication and can serve a number of purposes, which we will delve into in the following sections. From a sociable grooming ritual to a sign of respect or submission within the pack’s hierarchy, ear licking is a fascinating snippet of the complex language of dogs.

Ear-Licking as Part of Canine Communication

A substantial part of canine communication rests in their physical movements, particularly their body language. Similarly, licking is another essential aspect of their communication toolkit. Dogs don’t merely lick for taste or cleanliness; it’s a multi-purpose action that serves several communication needs. Licking can be a sign of submission, a way to show deference to another dog that is higher in the pack hierarchy.

It can also be a soothing gesture, a canine way of providing comfort and reassurance to themselves or others in stressful situations. Licking can also indicate affection, essentially a dog’s way of giving kisses to those they feel safe and comfortable with.

Ear licking falls within this framework, serving as an extension of these licking behaviors. It’s a multifaceted action that can be a sign of submission, a display of affection, or a sociable grooming habit.

The act of licking another dog’s ears allows one dog to pick up scent cues while also offering a soothing, bonding activity. This behavior is an integral part of the complex and fascinating communication system that dogs have evolved.

dog licking other dog's ear and face
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Reasons Why Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears

Grooming and Bonding

Dogs, similar to many other social animals, use grooming as a critical mechanism for bonding. Ear licking is a significant part of this ritual. When a dog licks another dog’s ears, it not only helps keep the ears clean and free of parasites but also serves as a way to strengthen their social bonds.

This grooming behavior is usually performed by dogs who have a close relationship with each other – it’s a sign of trust and comfort. Through this seemingly small act, a strong rapport is formed, reinforcing their social ties and reinforcing their sense of pack unity. It’s a way for dogs to show care for one another, to check on each other’s well-being, and to maintain a harmonious social order.

So, when you see your dog licking the ears of his furry companion, understand it’s their way of expressing intimacy and camaraderie in their unique canine way.

Taste and Curiosity

Just like humans use their sense of touch to explore, dogs use their sense of taste. Their tongues are one of their primary tools for investigating the world around them. This is another reason why dogs may lick another dog’s ears. Dogs’ ears can accumulate a unique blend of natural oils and wax, which may have a distinct flavor that intrigues other dogs.

Imagine a dog’s tongue as their very own explorer, journeying through a range of taste landscapes in their daily interactions. When a dog licks another dog’s ears, it’s not only an act of grooming and bonding, but it’s also a way to satisfy their taste-driven curiosity, gather information, and understand more about their fellow canine.

It might seem odd to us, but to dogs, it’s just another day of discovering the world in their special, sensory-rich way.

Ear Hygiene

Beyond the social bonding aspect and the exploratory nature of their taste buds, there’s also a practical side to this behavior. Dogs’ ears are intricate structures with deep, winding canals that can easily accumulate dirt and wax. This buildup of debris, if left unchecked, may lead to ear infections, which are uncomfortable and potentially harmful for dogs.

Some dogs, sensitive to their companions’ discomfort, might step in to assist with cleaning these hard-to-reach areas. Ear licking serves as a rudimentary form of hygiene assistance, helping to keep the ears clean and healthy. It’s an instinctual act of care that underscores just how deeply interconnected dogs are within their pack.

While it’s not a substitute for regular, human-led ear cleaning and vet check-ups, it’s an example of the extraordinary ways dogs look out for each other. So, next time you observe this behavior, remember: it’s not just about taste or bonding – it’s a helping hand in canine ear care.

Multiple Factors at Play

In understanding why dogs lick each other’s ears, it’s essential to consider that this behavior may be influenced by a myriad of factors. Dogs’ social, emotional, and physiological aspects all play their parts. Beyond grooming, bonding, and taste exploration, ear licking can also be a response to stress or anxiety. A dog may lick another dog’s ears to provide comfort, both to themselves and the other dog.

Furthermore, dogs may use this behavior to establish hierarchy within a pack, indicating submission to a dominant canine. But, it’s also important to keep an eye on this behavior. Excessive ear licking could signify an underlying health issue, like an ear infection or an allergy.

Therefore, if the ear licking becomes obsessive or the recipient dog seems irritated, it’s recommended to consult a vet for an examination. In essence, ear licking among dogs is a complex behavior embedded in their instinctual, social, and health-related dynamics.

dog licking other dog
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Health Considerations

While ear licking can be part of normal canine behavior, it’s crucial for dog owners not to dismiss it as simply another quirk of their furry friend. There’s a line between occasional grooming and obsessively excessive ear licking, and crossing that line could be a signal of potential health issues.

Excessive ear licking should not be ignored. It may indicate a range of health problems, including ear infections, allergies, or foreign bodies lodged in the ear canal. In such cases, ear licking is not a grooming habit but a response to discomfort or pain. Dogs can’t communicate their pain directly, and abnormal behaviors like this can be their way of saying, “something’s wrong.”

If a dog is frequently and vigorously licking another dog’s ears, it’s wise to take a closer look. Are there signs of redness, swelling, or discharge in the ears? Does the dog being licked show signs of discomfort or irritation? These could be clear signs of an underlying health issue requiring professional attention.

Therefore, it’s essential to keep a watchful eye on your pets’ behavior. If you notice that ear licking becomes a constant habit, or if the dog being licked seems distressed, don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian. A professional can conduct a thorough examination, identify any problems, and recommend appropriate treatment.

Remember, our canine companions rely on us to read their signs and ensure their health and well-being. It’s our responsibility as caring pet owners to understand what they’re trying to communicate and respond accordingly.

two siberian huskies licking each other
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How to Stop Dogs Licking Each Other’s Ears

If your furry friend has developed a habit of obsessively licking other dogs’ ears, it’s time to intervene and put a halt to this behavior. It’s not just about social norms; excessive ear licking can lead to infections and other health complications.

Here are some strategies you can adopt to discourage your dog from this behavior:

Provide Distractions

One of the simplest ways to curb this behavior is by providing plenty of distractions for your dog. These could be toys, chew treats, or engaging in a game of fetch. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated and physically active can help to redirect their attention, potentially easing the fixation on ear-licking.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in behavior modification. Every time your dog engages in appropriate behavior, reward them with a treat, praise, or petting. Gradually, they will associate good behavior with rewards and are likely to repeat it.

Use a Pet-Safe Deterrent

Consider using a pet-safe deterrent on the ears of the dog being licked. These deterrents come in various forms like sprays or creams and have a taste or smell that dogs find unappealing. Always remember to consult a vet before using any products.

Training and Socialization

Proper training and socialization from a young age can help deter unwanted behavior. Teaching your dog basic commands like “leave it” or “no” can be very effective. Similarly, socializing your dog with other dogs under controlled conditions can help teach them appropriate behavior.

Seek Professional Help

If the obsessive licking continues despite your efforts, it might be time to consult a professional. A professional dog trainer or a canine behaviorist can provide valuable guidance and tailored strategies to address your dog’s specific needs.

Remember, it’s crucial to remain patient and consistent throughout the process. Changing behaviors takes time, and your furry friend needs your loving support during this transition.

two dogs sniffing and licking each other
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Final Thoughts

In conclusion, dogs licking each other’s ears is a behavior steeped in their instinctual nature and social dynamics. It may seem peculiar to us, but it’s part of their way of communicating care, establishing social bonds, or even indicating health issues. Remember, patience and understanding are key when dealing with your furry friend’s behaviors.

If you notice excessive ear-licking, it’s always best to consult with a professional to ensure there’s no underlying health concern. After all, our pets can’t speak our language, but with a little effort, we can learn to understand theirs.


How do I differentiate between normal ear licking and excessive ear licking in dogs?

Normal ear licking is often a brief, occasional behavior you may observe when dogs are interacting or grooming each other. However, excessive ear licking tends to be more obsessive and persistent. You may see your dog constantly focusing on the other dog’s ear, even when the recipient dog shows signs of discomfort or irritation.

Can licking other dogs’ ears lead to any medical problems?

Yes, excessive licking can sometimes lead to infections in the dog’s ear due to the introduction of bacteria. If you notice signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or an unusual odor, you should consult with a vet.

Is ear licking a behavior seen only in specific breeds?

No, ear licking is a universal behavior that can be observed across all breeds. It is more related to a dog’s individual personality and social dynamics than their breed.

Does the age of a dog affect ear-licking behavior?

While every dog is unique, puppies might be more prone to ear licking as they are still learning their social cues and boundaries. However, ear licking can be seen in dogs of all ages.

Do dogs lick ears to show dominance?

While ear licking is often a sign of affection or social bonding, in some cases, it can be a sign of dominance. If the behavior is paired with other dominant behaviors, it might be a good idea to seek advice from a professional dog trainer.

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