Why Does My Dog Sniff My Ears?

If your dog regularly sniffs your ears, it’s natural to ask, “Why does my dog sniff my ears?” It’s unusual canine behavior but not inexplicable.

There are several reasons why dogs sniff their humans’ ears. Smell plays a significant part because it helps your dog interpret the world around them. Dogs that sniff your ears are interested in your particular smell or a change in scent. Alternatively, they may be trying to groom you.

We’ll break down some of the reasons dogs sniff their human ears and offer solutions to help you discourage this behavior if you find it intrusive.

Why Does My Dog Sniff My Ears?

There are several answers to the question, “Why does my dog sniff my ears.” These are some of the most common.

Your Ears Smell Like You

Dogs are notorious for their noses. That’s because they do a lot more than help dogs breathe. The canine nose can separate the air it breathes, effectively parsing different scents.

And, like humans, dogs have favorite smells and ones they don’t like. And one of the smells dogs love is that of their human.

It’s natural for a dog to immerse its nose in your scent, which is why some dogs like to bury their nose under your armpit. Since dogs don’t always appreciate the auxiliary scents we wear, like scented deodorants or shampoos, they may look for your smell elsewhere.

The human ear is an excellent place for a dog to sniff out their favorite person because it’s one of the parts of the body with a scent we don’t try to mask.

Your Scent Has Changed

If your dog sniffing your ear is a recent behavior, then the reason they’re doing it may be more complicated.

Dogs love a good smell, it’s true, but your particular smell may not be what’s attracting them to your ears.

Because dogs have such powerful noses, they pick up on minute changes in smell long before humans do. A sudden interest in your ears or the ears of a fellow dog may indicate an ear infection.

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Dogs’ ability to sniff out illness is well-documented. One of the more detectable illnesses is an ear infection. As the infection builds, your ears may smell different than usual.

That’s because the composition of your earwax changes and the new smell may interest your dog. Depending on the type of infection, you may experience discharge from your ears, with a scent guaranteed to interest your dog.

So, if a dog who previously expressed no interest in your ears starts sniffing around them, it may be time to call the doctor.

Dogs See Earwax as Protein

Horrifying as it may be to consider, another possible reason for this behavior is that your dog wants a snack.

To humans, earwax is what protects the inner ear. However, cats and dogs see it as a source of extra protein.

A dog that licks your ears or even cleans them out may not be absorbing their kibble properly.

However, like people, dogs have personal tastes. Depending on the composition of the earwax, it may be too salty for the average dog.

Your Dog Is Grooming You

A slightly less bizarre solution to this question is that your dog is grooming you.

Grooming is the dog equivalent of saying ‘I love you.’ That’s because canine saliva is full of pheromones or scent markers. Pheromones allow dogs to mark their territory.

A bit of grooming is typical, especially in pairs of bonded dogs. Usually, there is a dominant and submissive partner in a bonded relationship. You can tell which is which because the dominant dog does the grooming.

So, if your dog sniffs your ears and begins to groom you, they communicate several things. First, you are important to them. And second, they want you to smell like them to solidify that relationship. And last but not least, your dog believes themselves the dominant part of your relationship.

How To Discourage My Dog from Sniffing My Ears 

Irrespective of the answer to “Why does my dog sniff my ears,” not everyone appreciates the behavior. So, what can you do to discourage it?

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Don’t Encourage Ear Sniffing 

Even if you don’t like it when your dog sniffs your ears, you may accidentally encourage them to continue.

Just as humans frequently misinterpret canine body language, dogs don’t always understand us.

When a dog sniffs your ears, you may react involuntarily by:

  • Laughing
  • Swatting at dog
  • Distracting them with scratches/strokes

What you want to do is dissuade your dog from sniffing your ears. From their perspective, you are offering positive reinforcement. Intentionally or not, this kind of behavior tells your dog they can get attention from you by sniffing your ears.

What To Do Instead

So, how do you get a dog to stop sniffing your ears?

Start by saying “No” firmly. Crucially, you cannot otherwise engage with your dog. You must not stroke your dog or do anything that suggests this is a game.

If this doesn’t work, have a toy on hand so you can gently but firmly redirect your dog toward the toy. Do this whenever your dog initiates unwanted behavior. Puzzle toys are an excellent alternative because they occupy your dog and satisfy their need for exciting smells.

Kongs stuffed with a favorite food or treats are another effective alternative.

Final Thoughts 

By now, you realize several answers to the question, “Why does my dog sniff my ears?”

Most of these have to do with smell. But it may also be your dog’s way of seeking attention from you. Remember, if you don’t appreciate this show of affection, it’s always possible to discourage it. You’ll need to be firm and patient, but over time your dog will come to leave your ears alone, and no doubt finds other interesting smells to occupy them.

Use this game to teach your dog to stop sniffing!

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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