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Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears? Canine Behavior Explained

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By Nicole Cosgrove

dog softly kissing the ear of the other dog

If you have more than one dog, you are likely to encounter some strange behaviors. We spend a lot of time with our pets and become accustomed to their actions and attitudes. Many things they do may make us curious to know why, and one thing that might pop up from time to time is when one dog suddenly takes an interest in licking another dog’s ears.

If you have witnessed this behavior in your dogs, keep reading, and explore with us the possible reasons why dogs lick each other’s ears.

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Why Do Dogs Lick Ears?

Trying to figure out our pets’ behavior is a favorite pastime for many of us. While no one can be sure what’s going on in our pets’ minds, we can get a pretty good idea, and strange behaviors like ear licking are always more fun to figure out. Let’s explore some possible reasons for this behavior.

1. Sign of Affection

one dog licking the ears of the other
Photo Credit: Susan Schmitz, Shutterstock

One of the most likely reasons one dog might lick another dog’s ear is to signal a friendship. It’s very reasonable that the dog doing the licking is doing so as a greeting to a friend. It’s sort of like a handshake or maybe even a hug for humans.

2. Sign of Respect

It’s very possible that one dog might lick the ears of another dog as a sign of respect. Most dogs are pack animals that have ingrained impulses to communicate between leaders and subordinates. The dog doing the licking could demonstrate its submissiveness to the alpha, or the leader could be licking the ears of a subordinate who has done well at a certain task.

3. Grooming

four cute blind puppies and mom
Image Credit: Yuriy Chertok, Shutterstock

One dog could simply be grooming the other. While licking oneself clean is usually reserved for cats, dogs do it too, and one could simply be helping another reach a particularly difficult spot.

4. Getting Attention

It could be one dog’s way of getting attention from the other. If one dog is sleeping, the other will often choose to lick the ear to wake them gently. If both dogs are awake, one dog may lick the other’s ear to convince them to play.

5. They Like the Taste

one puppy licks the ear of another puppy
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

Experts say ear wax tastes salty, so we’ll have to take their word for it. Many believe that dogs simply like the taste of ear wax and will get it where they can. Once they learn they like it, it can be hard to curb them from the behavior, and the dog could start licking the ears of humans as well.

6. Sensing Infection

Ear infections cause discharge, and it creates an odor that can attract other dogs. If your dog has picked up this behavior suddenly, it might be a good idea to check the other dog’s ear for signs of an infection. If you notice something, your dog has helped you get a jump on a health crisis.

7. Sensing a Medical Condition

a dog licking another dog's ear
Image Credit: chongha, Shuttestock

If one dog is suffering from a medical condition like heat stroke, another dog might lick the ears to provide comfort, and they could be trying to prevent it from becoming unconscious. It’s always a good idea to take a second to scan both dogs to ensure no health conditions are present.

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If the Licking Becomes Overbearing

If the behavior starts to bother the dog or it spreads to include humans, you can try to distract them with their favorite toys or give them some of their favorite treats. However, giving treats may also encourage the behavior. If it gets uncontrollable, you can try using a bitter spray on the ears of the offended dog. Many brands work well and are safe and non-toxic.

Is It Harmful?

Licking a dog’s ear isn’t exactly harmful, but the excess moisture is a direct path to an ear infection. It would help if you never allowed the behavior to occur without stepping in, and it’s important to tend to the ear immediately to clean and dry it. If you dry the ear quickly, there should be no harmful side effects at all.

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Why do dogs lick other dogs’ ears? In our experience, one dog licks another ear as a way of saying of hello, especially if the two dogs weren’t together for a few hours and first thing in the morning when they are getting their first pets of the day. The second most common reason is that the offended dog is getting an ear infection. It always attracts other pets, and they will try to lick it, which will make the condition worse. We recommend an immediate vet appointment to get it under control.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over our dive into this slightly disgusting topic and have learned something new about your pet. Hopefully, you are also better prepared for when the situation arises. If you have found it helpful, please share this guide to why dogs lick each other ears on Facebook and Twitter.

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Featured Image Credit: Olgaalisa, Shutterstock

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