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Why Do Dogs Lick Ears?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
June 18, 2021
5 min read
Why Do Dogs Lick Ears?
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

You’re having a fun play-time on the floor with your dog. You roll over, and he jumps on top of you. You smile and ruffle your hands through his coat. Then, he does something that takes you by surprise…he gives your ear a big wet lick.

Not only does he lick your ear once, but he also does it over and over again!

It’s cute, but after a while, you pull him away and wonder, “what was that?”

You also begin to notice he really likes to lick your other dog’s ears too.

What is all this licking about?

Dogs lick ears primarily as a way of showing affection. Dogs may also lick another pet’s ears if the dog picks up the signs the pet has an active ear infection. They may also lick due to compulsive anxiety, stress, or boredom.

In this article, I will explore the many reasons that dogs like to lick ears in detail. I will also address if licks are the equivalent of doggy kisses.

I will uncover if all of this licking can lead to an ear infection and discuss whether you should even let your dog lick your ears at all.

Let’s get down to business!

Why Does Your Dog like to Lick Ears?

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Dogs like to lick ears for many reasons. Often, they don’t care what kind of ears; human ears or another animal’s ears will do!

This instinct may be born out of your dog’s experience of their mother licking them as a puppy.

Your dog’s mom’s licking was her way of showing them affection, and it likely stuck with your pup. They may have carried this habit with them as their own way of showing love.

When your dog licks you or another pet, it is generally nothing more than their sweet, light-hearted way of showing they’ve taken a liking to you.

There are other reasons that a dog may lick ears. Let’s take a look at a few:

It’s How They Communicate

The physical act of licking is how dogs communicate love and other sentiments.

Your dog may also be using their licking to communicate that they see another animal as a member of their pack. They may lick you to express their respect to you as the leader of the pack.

Ear licking is usually more of a submissive act. Your dog may be licking you to reinforce the fact that they respect your authority.

They Are Bored

Your dog may be looking for something to do if they begin licking your ears.

If your dog is licking your ears out of sheer boredom, it can be a good idea to take them outside on a walk.

You can also immediately distract them with something else to focus on. Giving your dog a Kong toy with a treat stuffed inside may also provide them with another place to direct their energy.

If your dog is bored, trying tactics like these may be enough to take their attention away from your ears.

They Have a Compulsion

Ear licking can be problematic when it comes from a place of obsession.

A dog licking your ears may be the manifestation of a behavioral compulsion. A dog may be suffering from anxiety or stress, and excessive licking is a coping mechanism.

If your dog’s licking is out of control, I recommend reaching out to your vet or trainer for further evaluation.

They Like The Taste

I know this reason sounds gross, but it’s true.

Dogs have preferences taste-wise, and some of them have an attraction to earwax. Sometimes, the saltier, the better.

If you notice they keep licking only your ears and no one else’s, you can take it as a (slightly strange) compliment!

They Have Spotted an Infection, Swelling, or Irritated Skin

If your dog is excessively licking another animal’s ear, it may be cause for concern.

Your dog’s nose is sensitive and may be drawn to scents caused by inflammation, swelling, or irritated skin.

Your dog being extra attracted to another pet’s ears may show the pet has an ear infection or another condition.

If your dog can’t leave your other pet’s ears alone, it may be good to bring the object of their attention to the vet.

Ear infections can get worse quickly and cause pain for your pet. Always better to detect and treat them early!

Are Dog Licks Really Kisses?

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Since dogs lick to express their fondness of you, their licks are essentially kisses!

It’s natural for a dog to want to be physically close and warm towards those they love. Their doggy kisses are an organic expression of the love they feel.

Perhaps it’s another reminder of how much dogs are like us. Kissing our loved ones just feels right.

Can You Get an Ear Infection from a Dog Licking Your Ear?

All these puppy licks don’t come without a caveat.

If your dog licks your ear excessively, you could be more prone to developing an ear infection.

The moisture inside of the ear canal, as a result of licking, can be a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast to grow.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Ears?

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This is best answered on a case-by-case basis. If you don’t like your dog doing this to you, of course, you don’t have to endure it.

Knowing that their licks are an expression of love may make you feel guilty, like you are rejecting their love. But you don’t have to worry about your dog taking it that way.

As long as you aren’t harsh with your pup and gently discourage this behavior, they will likely stop over time.

As I said before, giving your dog a Kong toy stuffed with goodies or taking them on a walk can redirect their minds. If your dog still doesn’t stop, professional help may be necessary.

If your dog’s licking is excessive, you may want to investigate to rule out infection in the receiving pet’s ears. This may be the root of the licking, and your dog may be doing you a massive favor by leading you to the problem.

If there is nothing wrong with the other dog’s ear, you may want to make sure that your dog is okay mentally.

Since stress and anxiety can cause your dog to lick repetitively, you may want to get your dog checked out by the vet. This is especially true if the licking seems obsessive.

If you’ve explored those options and there’s nothing wrong, and you don’t mind your dog licking your ears, let them! Every dog and owner relationship is different and unique.

If you enjoy receiving love from your dog in this way, there is nothing bad about that. Your pup is free to lick away!

Who Knew Ear Licking Could Mean so Many Things?

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From showing affection to detecting infections in other animals, a dog’s lick is powerful!

A dog licking your ears may inspire annoyance or happiness. Either reaction is understandable and okay.

Luckily as I discussed, there are ways to discourage the licking if that’s what you’d prefer. Also, if you like the licking, that’s totally fine too.

Now you can add the knowledge of the small but significant act of ear licking to your treasure chest of ever-increasing doggy wisdom!


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Dog LickingDog Behaviors

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