Dogs bite other dogs ears as an invitation to play. Since dogs can’t use words to communicate, they’ll express their desires through body language. When one dog bites or nips at another dogs ear, it (in most cases) means they are asking to play. Unless biting becomes aggressive, there’s no need to be concerned.
Dog bites are certainly something that needs to be taken seriously. If your dog bites other dogs or even other people, they have to be quarantined for rabies at bare minimum. But dogs love to nip at each other during playtime, so it can be hard to tell when it is time to be concerned.
You may be wondering how to tell the difference between when your dog is simply playing with its friends and when your dog is becoming a safety concern.
It is very common for dogs to bite or nip at each other’s ears, but why do they do it?
Playtime with Friends
Dogs love to play with each other! They are very social animals that thrive when they get to spend time with each other and their owners.
Dogs often bond in ways that appear confrontational, but in truth, they are just having fun. Ear biting is very common for close dogs. Dogs who are friends with each other will play a game where they nibble on each other’s ears to show dominance. This is usually harmless and is just a way to establish their social order, but occasionally it can go too far.
Since ears are located on top of the head, they are easy to reach for other dogs. The trouble is that ears also have many blood vessels in them and are constantly moving. This means that if blood is drawn from a dog’s ear, it will often continue to bleed for quite some time.
The wound takes times to recover because your dog will still use its ears to listen to the world around them. Dogs’ ears never stop moving.
The ear-biting dogs do when playing with each other should not draw blood. A dog who does not have good control of its jaw may injure their playmate, but this does not happen often. If a dog draws blood, it is best to immediately separate the dogs before the situation escalates.
You can look for other signs that your dog is feeling playful (instead of being aggressive). Your dog will “bow” when it is playtime to show that they are not trying to be a threat.
They may run towards their playmate as fast as possible, only to change direction at the last minute, or even just roll onto their backs. These behaviors are perfectly harmless and normal and just mean your dog is having the time of its life!
Dogs also bite each other’s ears if they are genuinely trying to fight. In these situations, you will notice distinctively different behavior than when your dog is playing.
Dogs will often become “aggressive” when they are trying to defend themselves from perceived threats. If your dog thinks that something is about to attack them, take away their resources, or hurt their owners, they quickly shift into attack mode.
This is characterized by a tensing of the muscles across the body and face. If you know your dog well, you can often catch them before they become dangerously aggressive with ear biting.
A simple trick you can use to help defuse the situation is to restrain the dog that is getting too aggressive. The other dog will either come over to the restrained dog or stay away. If they come over, then the dogs are still just playing.
This only works if the dogs are on friendly terms. If there is genuine aggression between the dogs, then you need to get them away from each other.
Any sign of blood or yelps that sound like actual pain are warning signs to separate the dogs immediately.
That Waxy Taste
Another factor contributing to why dogs love to bite or nibble on other dogs’ ears involves their sense of taste.
Dogs love the taste of many things that humans find repulsive. Poop, trash, dead animals, and just about anything else can be on the menu for them. Ear wax is no exception.
Your dog may enjoy biting the ears of other dogs because they like how ear wax tastes! This is gross to us, but is not a problem for the dogs. If your dog likes to get into your ears, this could be the reason behind that as well!
What About Chewing?
Dogs will also chew or lick on the ears of another dog. This is another friendly behavior. Dogs love to experience new tastes and smells, and their friends’ ears can be attractive to them.
Because interacting with ears rarely indicates aggression, dogs will try to explore their friends’ ears- much like how they sniff each other’s butts!
While we may not understand the appeal of ears, to dogs, they are a salty, fun way to play with their friends.
You should still keep an eye on dogs that chew or lick on ears. If a dog’s tongue ends up too deep in an ear canal, there is the possibility of an ear infection.
When Should I Worry?
In most cases, dogs nipping or biting ears is not a behavior that indicates something wrong. However, like all things, it is possible to have too much ear nipping.
This typically will not cause any kind of issue with the biter themselves, but the dog being licked or nipped may eventually develop problems.
Infections can occur when a dog is exposed to repeated nipping on the same spot of its body day in and day out.
Dogs may develop skin conditions in response to the repeated motion and moisture of compulsive nipping or licking.
Your dog should not get moisture in its ears because of the danger it poses. This is why you are also supposed to prevent water from going into your dog’s ears while bathing them. Excessive moisture in the ear can create a petri dish of bacteria and lead to your poor pooch getting infected.
You should also be concerned if your dog continues biting another dog’s ears past the point of playing. Aggression between dogs can quickly escalate.
When Ear Biting Turns Violent
As a dog owner, you need to keep a level head when your dog gets in a scuffle. If they do, you can use a few methods to break up the fight without injuring the dogs involved.
DO NOT GET IN BETWEEN THE DOGS. You’ll put yourself in danger if you do this. Your own dog may not even recognize you in the heat of the moment and could injure or bite you.
Instead, try to shock the dogs with water. The best way to do this is to turn a hose on the fighting dogs to bring them out of their fighting mindset. A wet dog is better than an injured dog!
If water is unavailable, you can try wheelbarrowing your dog away from the other dog. This needs one person per dog to work. This technique involves picking up the fighting dogs by their back legs and walking them backwards until they are no longer in range of each other. From this position, you can calm the dogs down and let them cool off.
Ear Biting is Usually Not a Cause for Concern
If your dog likes to bite or nip at another dog’s ears, it is not a cause for worry. However, always keep an eye on your dog’s behavior. If you are worried they might injure their playmate or be injured themselves, consult a dog trainer to address the issue.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.