Just like us, dogs have their unique ways to communicate with each other. While these methods may seem confusing to us, they can effectively communicate a message to others of their kind. Some behaviors that dogs engage in can seem downright weird, like sleeping with their tongue out or licking each other’s ears. If you have multiple dogs and they lick each other’s ears, it can mean many things.
There are many reasons why dogs lick each other’s ears and some of them might catch you by surprise. Keep reading to learn more about this behavior.
Why Do Dogs Lick
Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell and taste to explore the world. They lick each other and humans for a variety of reasons. Licking is a communication tool that can convey affection or concern for others. They use their mouth for multiple reasons, including eating, grooming, and cleaning their wounds. However, there are many other reasons as well. Dogs also lick to self-soothe, socialize, and stimulate body functions. Mothers groom their puppies to encourage them to eliminate. Licking to communicate is a behavior that all dogs engage in and practice for all their lives.
The modern-day dog descends from the gray wolf, which is a pack animal. Before dogs were domesticated, they lived in packs. You will also notice this amongst stray dogs who will form packs consisting of their families. Animals that live in a pack are social and need to establish effective communication. While dogs can communicate through barking as well, licking is just as common.
Before their domestication, dogs that lived as pack animals would lick each other for a variety of reasons. It could be a form of greeting, a way to socialize, or show affection. Licking has been an essential part of their life for the longest time. Even puppies will play with each other by playfully licking and biting. Puppies learn from their mother that licking is a sign of affection and a tool for cleaning themselves. As a result, they will lick their canine companions for the same reasons.
Why Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears
Although licking is an age-old behavior amongst dogs, what does licking each other’s ears signify? As instinctive as licking is, dogs do it to each other with purpose. If your dogs keep licking each other’s ears, consider the following reasons:
Dogs lick themselves to clean themselves. Mothers groom their puppies, and as the puppies grow older, they groom themselves. It is common to see puppies or even adult dogs grooming each other. Whether it be a spot on their back that the other can’t reach or their ear, dogs help each other out.
Dogs cannot reach their own ears to groom themselves, so one of their companions may try to help out. In this case, the licking won’t occur frequently or last for a long amount of time. It may also occur in turns, i.e., one dog licks the other’s ears and vice versa.
Dogs and cats both lick each other and pet parents as a sign of affection. Many people ever refer to these as “kisses.” When puppies are born, they receive affection from their mothers through grooming. Even amongst each other, puppies of the same litter lick and bite each other playfully to show affection. Most dogs do not have a preference and will go for any patch of skin that is available. However, licking the ears is both affectionate and a way to groom their companions. In either case, it is not a sign to worry about.
If licking the ears is encouraged by the other dog, your dog might indulge in it to seek attention. Purring, playing, and licking the other’s ears back are all ways to reinforce this behavior. Dogs who get bored and lonely might frequently lick each other’s ears. In this case, if the dogs are seeking your attention, even negative attention could reinforce this behavior. If for any reason, you try to separate your dogs when they engage in this behavior, they might engage in it more often. If attention is the reason for this behavior, it will occur frequently in your presence.
As we have already discussed, licking behavior has some genetic foundations. It has been observed that when wolves return from the hunt, they will regurgitate the meat. The puppies lick the meat from around the mother’s mouth since they are too young to hunt themselves. Licking instincts are rooted in your dog’s DNA. The ears may seem like an unusual spot to you, but dogs don’t discriminate. Since they usually explore the world with their mouth, licking the ears isn’t very surprising. Licking won’t occur frequently in this case.
Dogs usually tend to do this to their humans, but they might do it their companions as well. Dogs from the same family, or those who are mates, might lick each other to mark each other. Affection and grooming are still the primary reasons, but licking leaves the scent on the other dog
When dogs meet each other for the first time, they usually sniff each other. Your dog might be trying to ensure their scent stays on their mate or littermates. In this case, the licking could occur in any spot, so they might lick each other’s ears.
As we have discussed before, dogs are pack animals even if they don’t live in pack settings anymore. Their instincts may still propel them to act out of respect for larger or older dogs. Licking is also a way to show respect for dogs. If you have multiple dogs, you will notice that the younger or smaller ones will lick the older or bigger ones.
Dogs also lick each other as a way to greet each other. It is their version of a handshake. Similarly, dogs might even wake each other by licking each other’s ears. Dogs are social animals used to living in pack settings. While their domestic lives may reduce their interactions with other dogs, they still have their unique ways of socializing with each other.
Dogs have an excellent sense of smell, and can detect many things with just their nose. They can sniff each other’s ears and discover that the other might develop an ear infection. To try to clean out the other’s ear, they might lick excessively to prevent an infection. Dogs also lick themselves to self-soothe, so they might do this to other dogs to help them feel better.
If one of your dogs is suffering from a medical condition or prone to anxiety, his companions will try to find ways to make him feel better. You will notice that when you are sick or upset, your dog tries to lick you to make you feel better. The same applies to their canine friends. When they see one of their companions in distress, they might try to lick their ears to soothe them.
Although it is rare, some dogs can also suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This usually occurs after experiencing stress and anxiety for a prolonged period of time. Licking occurs constantly and is not limited to other dogs’ ears. Your dog will also lick objects, their self, and you much more frequently.
If you suspect your dog is engaging in compulsive licking, consult your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can recommend an animal behaviorist for the issue. Treatment for compulsive licking involves medicinal and behavioral interventions.
Tasting Ear Wax
As surprising as it might be, some dogs like the taste of ear wax. Dogs enjoy salty flavors and ear wax has the same taste. There is no way to determine if a dog is licking the other’s ears to groom them or because they like the taste of earwax.
What You Can Do
Dogs licking each other’s ears is usually harmless and simply a sign of affection. It is rare for dogs to engage in this behavior for other reasons but exceptions occur. If you notice one of your dogs frequently licking the other’s ears, check to ensure there are no ear infections. If one of your dogs is suffering from an ear infection, it is best to prevent the other from licking his ears. It is unhygienic and can also cause the infection to worsen. Excessive moisture in the ear can cause bacterial growth.
If your dogs are frequently licking each other’s ears and you’re worried it could cause an ear infection, find methods to divert their attention. When one dog tries to lick the other’s ears, divert his attention with toys. You can also put peanut butter on toys to make them more enticing.
If your dog is prone to anxiety and has recently developed a habit of licking everything, including your other dog’s ears, consult your veterinarian. This could be a case of compulsive licking which will only worsen without prompt treatment. In any case, if your dog’s licking behavior appears bizarre or unusual, your should consult your veterinarian for more information.