Every dog owner has stories about their dogs’ weird and wonderful habits. One of the most common of these weird and wonderful habits is undoubtedly many dogs’ love for licking at their human owners and other members’ ears. Most of the time, it’s challenging to understand what’s going on between those cute ears.
The reason why dogs lick your ears is a mystery. According to the experts in dog behaviour, this is a common question they get asked numerous times. As you would expect, theories abound regarding what, to most people, seems like a pretty gross habit.
Why do dogs seem so fond of their owner’s ears, so much, so that they have this pressing feeling to lick them?? In the following post, we will address this strange dog behaviour, looking at the many reasons why your dog’s licking your ears, what it means and any problems you should be aware of as diligent and loving pet owners.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Ears?
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Even though dogs are known to enjoy ear licking, many people are baffled as to why they do it. It might even be a sign of how much affection the dog feels.
Take my Cockapoo, Luna; she loves to jump on our bed in the morning, and whether I’m awake or not, she loves to lick my ears to ensure I’m awake and going to get out of bed. The weird thing is she never licks my wife’s ears, which might say more about the state of my ears for want of a better explanation for that particular behaviour.
More submissive dogs seem to use ear licking as a form of communication.
Dogs Are Explorers
No matter how meticulously you clean your ears, your dog will still pick up on strange odours from them. As evidence for this notion, dogs use their sense of smell and taste more than any other sense. Thanks to their heightened sensitivity, your dog could learn a lot about you just by licking your ears.
Dogs may find these odours and the bitter taste in ears canals highly enticing. Some dogs enjoy ear licking, whether it’s an instinctual need to help with grooming or simply because they’re bored. Some dogs have developed a liking for the ear wax that accumulates in the ear canal of human beings. I know, I know… it’s making me feel queasy while I write this.
A more fundamental aspect of licking can be traced back to when dogs had pack leaders. Dogs are pack animals. Close family members of a pack would often groom one another. Another one of their canine companions would lick the ears clean when grooming because it’s impossible for dogs to lick their ears. Even today, many domesticated dogs still feel that compulsion to assist their owners by ear licking. So, it could simply be that your pooch sees their dog licks as grooming behaviour.
Comfort and Security
Dogs may indicate their comfort with a family member by nuzzling, licking, or even having a crafty chew on an earlobe. Could it also be a way for your dog to communicate how much they love you?
Dogs will only lick the ears of people they are familiar with and trust entirely. Your dog licking your ears is a sign that they trust and respect you and that you’ve gained your dog’s confidence. This behaviour is especially rewarding if you bring your dog home from a shelter.
They Love The Taste
As disgusting as it may sound to us, it’s not surprising or a secret that dogs like eat some awful-tasting tasting things. This includes earwax. For some dogs, there is nothing better than that salty and acrid taste of earwax direct from the source – your ears or the ears of another member of your household.
So, whether you have clean ears or not, whether they are trying to groom you or not, they may be after a little extra snack.
Could be the Sign of a More Serious, Underlying Health Condition
Another important reason your cockapoo could be licking you is because they have an underlying health problem. If someone or another pet in your household suffers from an ear infection., the way their ears smell changes.
Given how strong the average cockapoo, or indeed any other breed of dog’s sense of smell is, they can often pick up on the change in odour and will want to investigate it. It may also cause your dog to lick your ears or whoever or whichever pet has the ear infection in the same way they want to lick wounds they have on their own body.
Should You Stop Your Dog Licking Ears?
If you’re happy to let your dog lick your ears, there’s no need to stop him. When your dog demonstrates affection by licking you, let him do so to make you both happy if that’s really how you feel.
While some people are happy to sit there while their dog licks away on an available ear, other owners haven’t quite worked out the upside to having an earful of saliva.
If you belong to the second group and prefer your dog not licking your ears, then when it seems like they’re getting ready for a good old lick, distract your dog with something else. You can even jump up and offer them a treat instead.
If the dog licking your ears annoys you, stop it as soon as possible. We must not let dogs develop quirky behaviours we don’t like. Eventually, they will upset you, and you will get angry at your dog. Your dog is unlikely to understand why, though. As soon as the behaviour is interrupted, your dog will move on and will be less likely to do it again.
Can You Suffer Health Issues From Your Dog Licking Your Ears?
As dog owners, we love spending time with our canine pals and enjoy anything we can do to strengthen the bond. Given how loving and demonstrative the average cockapoo can be, bonding tends to involve a lot of dog kisses and licks. You may wonder if your dog licking your ear can cause health complications.
The truth is, it could. There is a lot of bacteria inside a dog’s mouth; sometimes, even if it’s rare, it can transfer from the dog to a human. A noteworthy example of this bacteria is Pasteurella, which can cause lymph nodes or skin infections. The heartening thing, though, is that this type of bacteria is mainly found in cats and transferred when they scratch, not in a dog’s lick.
Another thing to keep in mind is that dogs lick their backsides a lot as part of their self-cleaning and grooming habits. If there is any presence of bacteria in your dog’s faeces, like salmonella or campylobacter, there is a chance that these can be transferred to humans when they lick. Again, this is rare, but it can still happen.
Obsessive Licking Is A Problem
There is a multitude of ways that dogs demonstrate obsessive licking. Either they will be licking themselves (typically the paws), objects (such as your carpet or furniture), or you.
You will need to address obsessive licking because there is an underlying reason. Occasional ear licking is fine. Licking feels good to dogs, and they do it because it calms them down on some level.
Overuse of this stress reliever is common in anxious, tense, and stressed dogs. If your dog behaves this way, you might need to visit a dog behaviourist to evaluate your dog.
There can be several problems causing your dog to lick ears obsessively, and these include:
- Hormonal imbalance
It’s not too concerning when a dog is licking a lot, but if it starts to create skin problems or the dog is constantly licking one spot and begins to lose chunks of hair and fur, you’ll need to speak to your vet.
Letting your dog lick your ears is a personal choice; some dog owners love it, while others dislike it.
If you’re a dog owner who encourages dogs to lick their ears, just be mindful of letting them lick you on the mouth, eyes, and nose; it has been known for dogs to pass on bacterial infections, rare, I know, but it does happen.
Mike is the proud owner of a 7-year-old Cockapoo named Luna. He loves to share stories, tips and information about owning a Cockapoo. With over7 years of experience as an owner, Mike is passionate about helping others own and care for their dog.