BehaviorCommunication & InteractionWhy Dogs Lick Your Ears: The Science of Slobber

Why Dogs Lick Your Ears: The Science of Slobber

Dogs lick ears to show affection, submission, or to gather information about their human through taste and smell. It may also feel soothing for the dog, as licking releases endorphins, promoting feelings of comfort and pleasure.

Have you ever wondered why your dog licks your ears? You’re not alone; a majority of dog owners have noticed their pet engaging in this behavior.

It is important to understand that ear licking isn’t just a sign of affection, but can also be an indicator of underlying health issues.

In this article, we will discuss the various reasons why dogs lick our ears, as well as tips on how to manage and control your dog’s ear licking habit.

Key Takeaways

  • Licking ears is a form of communication and grooming behavior for dogs.
  • Dogs may lick ears out of relaxation, affection, or to establish dominance.
  • Dogs have taste buds and may enjoy the taste of residue on the ears.
  • Licking ears can be a sign of attention-seeking behavior or a way for dogs to show affection.

Understanding Dog Behavior and Communication

Dogs use licking as a form of communication, so understanding their behavior can help us decipher why they might lick our ears.

Mutual grooming is an important part of canine behavior. When a dog licks your ears, it’s likely that they’re trying to groom you in the same way that they would groom other dogs.

In some cases, it could be a sign that your pup is feeling relaxed around you or wants to show affection.

It also may indicate that your dog is trying to establish dominance over you by asserting their authority as pack leader.

Whatever the reason for the lick, it’s usually a sign that your pup is comfortable with you and enjoys spending time with you.

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Ears?

It may come as a surprise to you, but it’s quite common for dogs to lick their owners’ ears.

This behavior can be a sign of taste exploration, an attention-seeking gesture, a sign of affection, or even due to grooming or anxiety or stress.

When your dog licks your ears, they are engaging in one of these behaviors. However, understanding the underlying motivation can help you determine if any action needs to be taken.


The taste buds on a dog’s tongue are similar in structure and function to those found in humans, allowing them to enjoy sweet, salty, sour or bitter tastes from food or skin secretions. Therefore, it is possible that when a dog licks your ear they are actually enjoying the taste of whatever residue might be left there from skincare products or sweat.


Excessive licking may be an attention-seeking behavior. It can signify that the dog is feeling submissive and seeking approval from you. This type of licking behavior is quite common amongst puppies or younger dogs as they are still trying to find their place in the family dynamic and get used to being around humans.

When a puppy licks your ears, it could indicate that they lack confidence and need reassurance. On the other hand, if an older dog starts to lick your ears, it could mean that they feel neglected or unloved and are vying for more attention from you.

Dog owners should take note of when their pet is licking their ears so they can understand what might be causing this behavior and provide them with necessary emotional support.

Sign of Affection

When your dog gives you a kiss on the cheek, it’s their way of showing you affection. Dogs may also lick the ears because they are expressing their love and devotion for you. Licking is an instinctive behavior that dogs employ as one of the ways they communicate with each other, so it makes sense that this would extend to humans too.

While some people find licks from a dog’s tongue uncomfortable or even annoying, most dogs will try to lick your ear if they feel close enough to you and want to show their affection.

If the licking is because they want to show affection, there’s no reason to worry as long as the licking isn’t excessive – usually it’s just your pup being quirky and wanting some extra cuddles!


Dogs have a natural instinct to groom themselves and their owners. When they lick their own fur or fur of another dog, it helps keep them clean and free from debris or dirt that might get caught in their coats.

This same behavior is seen when dogs lick your ears – they are cleaning them as if they were cleaning their own coat. Remember, dogs are pack animals and you are part of their pack!

Anxiety or Stress

Another reason why dogs may lick your ears is due to anxiety or stress. Dogs often use licking as a way to signal their need for comfort and reassurance. If they are feeling anxious, they will try to express this in a variety of ways, including licking your ears.

This behavior can also be seen in puppies when they are particularly stressed or worried about something. Licking the area around the ears helps them feel secure and safe. It has been observed that dogs who are left alone too often or who experience separation anxiety may resort to licking their owners’ ears more frequently than normal.

Additionally, if a dog experiences any kind of trauma, it can lead to increased ear-licking in order to cope with the situation and find comfort.


This behavior, known as submissive licking, can also be seen in wolves when they interact with each other.

When a dog is licking the face and ears of their owners, they may be trying to demonstrate respect and loyalty. It’s a sign of submission that shows the dog trusts its owner and will comply with requests. Submissive licking is an instinctive behavior for most dogs, and it increases when they feel threatened or scared.

The purpose is to appease the dominant individual in order to avoid conflict and maintain harmony within the relationship.

Licking also serves as a form of communication between canine companions, allowing them to express themselves without resorting to aggression or violence.

Is it Safe For Dogs to Lick Your Ear

You might be wondering if it’s safe for your dog to lick your ear. While there is no definitive answer, there are a few things to consider before allowing your pup to do so.

Most dog trainers agree that dogs use licking as an expression of affection and submission, so letting them lick your ear may be seen as a sign of acceptance and trust.

However, if you have any kind of ear infection or other medical condition, it is best not to allow your pup near the affected area as their saliva could spread the bacteria or virus causing the condition.

Additionally, if you have any allergies or sensitive skin, their saliva may trigger an allergic reaction or irritate the area further.

Ultimately, it comes down to assessing whether allowing them to lick your ears is worth taking potential risks on a case-by-case basis.

Ways to Manage and Control Your Dog’s Ear Licking Habit

Managing and controlling your dog’s ear licking habit can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

You can redirect their attention when they start to lick their ears by calling them away or replacing the behavior with positive reinforcement.

Furthermore, you can discourage the behavior by providing distractions such as interactive toys and training the ‘Leave It’ command.

All of these methods will help you to better manage and control your pup’s ear licking habit.

Redirect Their Attention

Redirecting your dog’s attention when they start to lick your ears can help prevent them from developing the habit. As soon as you notice that your dog is about to start licking, distract them with a toy or other object to keep them occupied and away from your ears.

Replace Licking With Positive Behavior

Instead of licking your ears, reward your pup when they engage in positive behaviors such as playing with a toy or chewing on a bone. You may want to consider teaching them an alternative behavior to replace the unwanted licking. For example, if they like to lick your ears when they are excited, try teaching them ‘sit’ or ‘down’ instead.

You will need to be patient and consistent when implementing any new training methods with your pup. Start by providing lots of treats for completing the desired behavior correctly and make sure not to give any rewards for continuing the undesired action.

Breaking down each task into small steps can make it easier for them to understand what is expected from them. With enough practice, your pup should learn that engaging in desired behaviors will result in positive reinforcement.

Discourage the Behavior

If your dog is persistently licking your ears, it’s important to discourage this behavior.

You aren’t punishing the dog; instead, you’re trying to redirect its attention and replace the undesired action with a more positive one.

To do this, when your pet begins licking your ear, firmly but calmly say ‘no’ and give a verbal command such as ‘sit’ or ‘down.’ This will help keep their focus on you rather than on the undesired behavior.

Distract With Interactive Toys

Providing an interactive toy is an effective way to discourage the behavior as it provides an alternative for your pet.

Interactive toys like puzzles and treat dispensers are excellent for dogs that have separation anxiety, as they keep them occupied for long periods of time. For dogs that are particularly active, you can use balls or rope toys to keep them entertained when you’re not around.

Place the toy in a spot where your pet will easily access it and monitor their reaction after introducing it. If they seem interested in playing with the toy, reward them with treats or praise while they play with it. Remember to rotate toys regularly so that your pet does not become bored or used to one particular toy.

Train the “Leave It” Command

Teaching your pet the “Leave It” command can be an effective way to keep them away from your ears.

The purpose of this command is to teach the dog that when you tell it to leave something/someone alone, they must obey.

  • To begin, take a treat in one hand and have the dog sit in front of you. Show him the treat and say ‘Leave It.’
  • If he tries to grab it, cover it with your other hand and repeat ‘Leave It,’ until he eventually stops trying.
  • Once he has stopped, praise him and give him a different reward such as a toy or affection.
  • Repeat this process multiple times until your dog has learned that when you say ‘Leave It’ they must remain still and wait for further instruction.

This technique can also be used if your pet attempts to lick your ear – simply tell them “No! Leave It!”

They will learn that this behavior is not acceptable and stop attempting it.

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