“Yummm…Earwax!”…Said no one ever! Except maybe your dog.
If you own more than one dog, you might be wondering why your dogs lick each other’s ears. Believe it or not, your dog isn’t weird. Just about all dogs that are part of the same “pack” do this to each other.
Although the primary reason is for grooming (more on that shortly), there are many other reasons dogs lick each other’s ears. Dogs don’t communicate the same way humans do. Humans mostly communicate with their words. Dogs communicate with their body language.
This behavior is usually harmless, but it can become an issue for some dogs. At the end of this article, we will talk about some things you can do to correct this behavior if it becomes an issue.
But first, let’s talk about all the top 8 reasons dogs lick each other’s ears.
The Primary Reason – Grooming
This typically only happens amongst dogs that are part of the same “pack.” It’s unlikely two dogs that just met will groom each other. Dogs can groom themselves really well. But one area on their body they can’t reach is the inside of their ears.
That’s where the other dog comes in. Dogs want to make sure everyone in the pack stays healthy, which is why one of their survival instincts is to clean each other’s ears. The healthier the pack is, the more likely they are to survive.
Unless this behavior becomes a problem, don’t try to stop it. I know it looks gross to us, but it’s excellent for your dog’s overall health.
They’re Saying “Hello Friend”
We greet each other with a handshake, high five, or a wave. That’s not how dogs greet each other. It’s common for dogs to greet each other by licking each other. Sometimes they’ll lick each other on the eyes, sometimes in the ears. Whatever the case may be, there’s a good chance they’re just saying, “Hello friend.”
Can Be a Sign of Submission
Dogs communicate submission in multiple ways. The way we are most familiar with is by a dog rolling onto their back with their paws up in the ear. Another way dogs show submission is by the submissive dog licking the ears of the dominant dog. The submissive dog is gently letting the dominant dog know that they are aware of the pack order, and they aren’t a threat.
They Like The Taste?!
Ok, even as a dog lover, I have to admit this one is kind of gross. But it’s true…sometimes dogs will lick each other’s ears because they legitimately like the taste of ear wax. This can become a problem for multiple reasons, one of which is it will drive the other dog crazy. If your dog happens to be one of the ones that like the taste of earwax, we will go over how to put an end to this behavior in the next section.
They’re Treating a Wound or Infection
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. In fact, multiple studies have shown that dogs can smell the bacteria from an infection before signs and symptoms of an infection are present. One reason your dog might be licking your other dog’s ear is because they can smell the infection and want to clean it out as much as possible.
If your dog usually doesn’t lick your other dog’s ear as much as they are right now, you may want to schedule a visit to the vet to see if your furry friend has an ear infection.
It’s Soothing For The Licking Dog
We all have our own unique nervous tics. Dogs have nervous tics also. One of the most common ways dogs soothe themselves is by licking. Sometimes they’ll lick their own paws, other times they’ll lick other dogs ears.
Licking is incredibly soothing for dogs. If you have an anxious and stressed dog, this could be the reason they are excessively licking your other dog’s ears. The good news is this is an easy behavior to fix. You don’t want to stop the licking, you just need to redirect it somewhere else.
It Replaces Butt Sniffing
Most dogs will greet each other with a good ole’ fashioned butt sniff. However, sometimes a dog will block the other dog from sniffing their butt. When this happens, the next best alternative is to lick the ears.
If this is their first time meeting the other dog, they probably won’t lick inside the ears. They’ll just lick around them.
As you know, dogs put their noses in the strangest places out of curiosity. They might be licking each other’s ears because they’re curious about what’s inside. It can also be a learned instinct. When a puppy is hungry, they’ll often signal their hunger to their mother by licking. When the puppy gets older, they might carry on with this behavior out of instinct.
Is This Behavior Safe?
Now that you know why your dogs lick each other’s ears, you’re probably wondering whether or not this behavior is safe. The answer is both yes and no.
In most cases, it won’t cause any harm. In fact, in most cases, it’s good for the health of the dog getting licked. But every once in awhile, you’ll get an “excessive licker,” which can cause irritation and infections due to the continually moist ear.
Excessive licking can also be a symptom of a compulsive disorder. If you notice your dog is licking more than usual, you might want to schedule a trip to the vet to see if they have a compulsive disorder.
How To Stop This Behavior
If you do have an excessive licker on your hands, the good news is the fact that this behavior is relatively easy to fix.
There are two ways to fix this problem.
- Divert Their Attention
- Give Them Something Else to Lick
Let’s first talk about how to divert their attention.
Diverting Their Attention
One of the best ways to get your dog to stop licking your other dog’s ear is to make them focus on something else. Our favorite way to divert your dog’s attention is to use interactive dog toys.
Some dogs get bored quickly and need to be mentally challenged. Although typical dog toys will entertain some dogs, they will eventually get boring for dogs that need a challenge.
That’s where interactive dog toys come in. These toys usually involve treats, but instead of just giving your dog a treat, your dog has to earn it.
Sometimes these toys will force your dog to roll around a ball for a certain period of time before a treat will come out. Other toys will force your dog to sniff around and find the treats with their nose.
It’s a good idea to get multiple toys and allow your dog to play with a different one each day of the week. This will keep them focused on the toy and will spend less time licking your other dog’s ears.
Give Them Something Else to Lick
For most excessive lickers, interactive dog toys should do the trick…but what if it doesn’t work? What if your dog plays with the toy for a few minutes, then goes back to licking the ears of your other dog?
That’s when you’ll want to give them something else to lick. Remember, one of the reasons dogs lick each other’s ears is because licking is soothing for them. Sure, they can lick their paw or legs to get the same soothing effect, but they’ve developed a habit of licking the ears of your other dog. When a dog develops a habit, it’s hard to break it.
The only way to get them to break this habit is to encourage them to lick something else. The easiest way to do that is to use a licking pad. These pads usually have soft silicone tips and stick to any surface. You spread a small amount of peanut butter on the pad and stick it on a wall for your dog to lick.
The silicone tips make it hard for your dog to lick all the peanut butter, which means your dog will be spending plenty of time soothing themselves by licking the pad instead of the ears of your other dog.
You can even use the licking pad to distract your dog from other things they don’t like, such as bath time, nail trimming, or brushing. A lick pad is something just about every dog owner should have.
It’s Normal For Dogs to Lick Each Others Ears
I know it seems gross, but it’s entirely normal for dogs to lick each other’s ears. In most cases, the reason for this behavior is grooming. Your dogs are just trying to keep each other healthy. This means there is no cause for concern with this behavior.
However, if you feel like the licking is excessive, it can cause sores and infections for the dog being licked. In that case, give the two methods mentioned above a try. It’s also never a bad idea to schedule an appointment with the vet.
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