Dogs do many things that we humans have a hard time understanding. They bark at nothing, pee on everything, and sniff each others’ hindquarters as a form of hello. Another strange thing some dogs do is lick the ears of other dogs.
Why do dogs lick other dogs’ ears? A dog will often lick another dog’s ears for grooming purposes. Not only is this behavior not harmful, but it can be helpful. Dogs may also lick other dogs’ ears for several different reasons. They may like the taste, try to self-soothe, or simply want to say hello.
Those answers above probably don’t make much sense to you, but they do to dogs. We can try to understand our pups better by learning more about this behavior and what to do when it becomes an issue.
Top 12 Reasons Dogs Lick Other Dogs’ Ears
It’s easy to attribute licking to grooming. But we have 12 different reasons why your dog may be licking other dogs’ ears, and you can check them out below.
1. They’re Grooming
Perhaps the most obvious and common reason a dog will lick another dog’s ear is for grooming purposes.
Dogs lick themselves as a method of cleaning. But a dog cannot physically lick its ears, so dogs must rely on the help of someone else to clean this part of their body.
Other dogs will naturally help their doggo buddies by offering a nice ear cleaning session. We may not appreciate this practice, but your dog sure does.
2. They’re Treating an Injury
Did you know that dogs can smell bacteria present in an infection? It’s no secret that a dog’s smelling capabilities far surpass those of a human, but you may not have known they were that strong.
If another dog has an ear infection, there’s a good chance your dog will pick up the scent. And if a dog smells an infection, its instinct will be to treat it the best way it knows how: by licking.
The same goes for any other injury or wound on or in another dog’s ear. Your dog may lick another dog’s ear to treat a wound.
3. They Like the Taste
We know this one is super strange. But it’s true: some dogs like to lick other dogs’ ears simply because they enjoy how it tastes. We may think our dogs’ earwax can smell a little funky, but dogs often enjoy both the smell and the taste of it.
Gross? Yes. Harmful? Not at all. There’s nothing to worry about here, except that perhaps your dog will have some stinky breath later.
4. They’re Being Affectionate
Dogs show affection in a myriad of ways. One of the most prevalent ways of being affectionate is kissing – which means licking in the dog world.
When a dog licks your or another dog, it helps them bond and produce endorphins. In short, it makes them happy, and they want to share that happiness with others around them.
Your dog might lick the nose and face of another dog along with its ears and head. He’s trying to tell other dogs that he loves them, too.
5. They’re Self-Soothing
Excessive licking is a common sign of anxiety in a dog. On the one hand, this behavior is far less destructive than some other signs. But on the other hand, it can mean your dog isn’t feeling its best.
Excessive licking is often limited to a dog licking himself but may also lick other people or dogs. If you own more than one dog and one is constantly licking the ears of the other, he may be struggling with an anxiety problem.
Several factors can cause a dog to have anxiety, including changes in his environment, new pets, new people, loud noises, and separation. Talk to your vet about healthy ways to help your dog cope.
6. They’re Being Submissive
Some dogs with less aggressive personalities may lick another dog’s ear to show submission. In other words, your dog is doing this to display respect to a dominant dog.
Licking is likely a sign of submission when paired with other submissive behavior, such as:
- Showing underbelly
- Avoiding eye contact
- Tucking tail
- Lowering head/ears
Dogs can show submission to both humans and other dogs. If you have a timid pup, he might lick another dog’s ear to show that he means no harm.
7. They Could Be Compulsive
Excessive licking of other dogs’ ears could mean that your dog has a Compulsive Disorder. A Compulsive Disorder happens when any normal behavior, such as scratching or licking, becomes obsessive and repetitive.
Your dog may be compulsive if he excessively licks other objects when no other dogs are around to lick. It’s necessary to bring this kind of behavior to your vet’s attention to assess your dog further.
8. They’re Saying Hello
As humans, we have no choice but to think that there must be a better way for dogs to say hello to one another. But as we mentioned earlier, ear licking is just one of many slightly questionable behaviors in the dog world.
If your dog immediately begins to lick other dogs’ ears when he greets them at the dog park, he’s probably just saying hi! This greeting can look like anything from quick licks on the outside of the ear to a full-blown ear cleaning session.
9. They Are Following Instincts
Although dogs are domesticated, they still have basic animalistic instincts. That means that certain tendencies may never go away.
From the minute they were born, dogs were cared for by their mothers. In addition to feeding and protecting them, their mothers also groomed them by licking them.
Many dogs will carry this behavior with them into adulthood, which may be why they lick other dogs – including their ears. They’re simply instinctually showing the same behavior towards them that they were raised on.
10. They May Be Bonding
Did you know that a dog’s ears are chock full of nerve endings? Stimulating these nerve endings releases pheromones. These chemicals impact the behavior of dogs, so when a dog licks another dog’s ears, they can activate them and create a bonding experience.
In short, one dog licking another dog’s ears can be a very calming, relaxing activity for both dogs involved and for other dogs around them. This behavior can make a dog feel safe.
11. They’re Getting Old
If your dog is in his later stages of life, he may start licking other dogs’ ears due to his age. Older dogs can experience Canine Cognitive Decline, more commonly referred to as dementia for dogs.
Dementia for dogs can cause many physical issues, and it can also trigger feelings of anxiety that your dog hasn’t experienced before. Due to their discomfort and fear, your elderly dog may cope by licking another dog’s ears for comfort.
12. They’re Just Bored
In many cases, your dog may start licking your other dog’s ears for no reason other than he’s bored. Think about what happens when you let children get bored. They see their sibling sitting innocently on the couch, and they get the urge to throw something at them or kick their foot.
Dogs can be the same way.
If your dog is going after his dog siblings’ ears, he might just be looking for something fun to do. Pick up a toy and see if he’s interested in playing. If he is, you have your answer.
3 Dangers of Dogs Licking Dogs’ Ear
Your dog licking another dog’s ear is no big deal most of the time. It’s probably completely harmless.
However, certain dangers can come from ear licking habits that you should know before letting your dog go to town.
It Can Anger Other Dogs
While your dog may be a happy little ear-licker, other dogs may not find it so endearing. Some dogs are very particular about their personal space, especially near their private areas and faces.
You need to watch your dog around other canines if he tends to go for the ears, which is especially true if you’re around dogs you don’t know, in settings like the dog park or the vet.
Your dog may unintentionally upset another dog, which could cause an issue. You have no way to gauge how aggressive another dog can get.
It Can Cause Infections
Dog saliva is antibacterial, so you may be wondering how it could cause an infection. While saliva can help protect wounds from infection, the presence of excess moisture in a dog’s ear is one of the primary causes of an ear infection.
So, if your dog continues to lick another dog’s ears, he could cause them to get an ear infection. If the moisture from his saliva gets trapped in a dog’s ear, it can lead to some problems.
Your Dog May Swallow Medication
When you visit places like the dog park or the vet, you’re bound to run into other dogs – and you have no idea what those dogs’ backgrounds and situations are.
Some of those dogs may be currently taking some medication for their ear, including topical treatments. In short, you don’t want your dog to ingest any topical treatment, especially when you don’t know what it is.
Tips: How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking Other Dogs’ Ears
If you’re concerned about your dog licking other dogs’ ears for the above reasons, or any reason at all, there are steps you can take to get them to stop:
- Distract them with something else
- Teach them “no,” “stop,” or “leave it”
- Explore other reasons behind the habit
Stopping your dog from licking other dogs’ ears may take some time and training, but avoiding other issues can be worth it.
Not all dogs are head-over-heels for ear licking, but yours may be one of those canines. If so, you likely don’t have to worry. However, obsessive, compulsive, and aggravating licking can turn into an issue quickly.