My Dog Licks My Ears — Why?

A dog licks ears for a variety of healthy reasons. By: Michelle Tribe

My pit bull, Bunker, loves being the center of attention and works hard at achieving that status every chance he gets.

He enjoys playing fetch, simply being petted and licking people’s ears — especially my husband’s. I suppose part of the reason my husband is his “chosen one” is that he is much more willing to allow Bunker that sort of pleasure than I am.

I will go along with a little lick or two, but Doug will sit there as long as Bunker wants him to. I truly believe this is a way of bonding for the two of them, since it is done regularly.

Why Do Dogs Like to Lick Ears?

Ear licking is a common behavior in dogs. According to James Glover, DVM, there is nothing detrimental about this behavior — unless it is a question of sanitation.

The great eagerness over ear licking in some dogs may come about from many reasons including:

  • Affection. Ear licking is most often a show of love. By licking your ears, your pet can be rewarded with your attention while showering you with affection.
  • Grooming ritual. Dogs often lick each other’s ears (see caution below).
  • A smell. Regardless of how clean you think your ears are, they have several unique smells (along with a bitter taste) that appeal to dogs, according to Sally Groth, a dog training consultant.
  • A love for the taste of ear wax. Gross.
  • Boredom. Dogs may choose to lick ears just to occupy their mouths.
  • Submission. This behavior can also be a sign of submission to humans.

Check out the video below of a dachshund grooming this poor guy’s ear:

The Danger Within

Perhaps you have noticed two dogs, seemingly relaxed, licking each other’s ears. However, in some instances, one dog may develop an ear infection, due to continual moisture in the ear.

Dr. Amy Pike, DVM, of Veterinary Behavior Consultants in St. Louis, says both dogs could be in danger. If one dog already has an ear infection, the other can get it. Ears provide a perfect area in which bacteria and yeast can grow.

Discouraging Ear Licking in Dogs

Michael W. Fox, DVM, says some dogs are more fond of licking than others. Obsessive ear licking dogs have been known not only to lick the ears, but nibble on them as well. If this behavior is one that you would prefer your pet to practice a little less often, there are ways to discourage it.

The main goal is to get his mind away from licking ears. This can be accomplished by taking him for a walk when he begins the licking. Most dogs become pretty excited over going on a little adventure and forget about everything else.

Also, you can try putting his food in a toy so that he has to figure out how to get the food out. Mind games generally take their minds away from other things. Pets Adviser recommends the IQ treat ball for this purpose.

As with any habit, it will take time to break your pet from this one. Just stick to your game plan and his ear-licking extravaganza should at least happen less often.

As for Bunker, I guess he will always be an ear licker. He enjoys it, my husband seems okay with it and as my chihuahua Angel and I snuggle together and watch them, we are one happy family. Thank goodness Angel is not into ear licking — she is satisfied with hugs and kisses.

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From Around the Web

  • Eric

    I work around many dogs and I see no problem with them when they get excited I’m around and start licking my ears. It gets them excited and as you said, it shows affection. I have had some dogs “nibble” on my ear but I have yet to have one bite my ear or even hurt my ear a little bit. They are ALWAYS very cautious when they do that and you can even feel their mouth somewhat tremble when they “nibble” on my ear as if they’re so cautious they don’t want to cause pain.

    It’s not like I’m putting my head down just so they can do that lol I play with the dogs and a lot of them just naturally go there because after giving me kisses for 5+ minutes, I have to look away and they tend to go to the ear area.