As a responsible pet owner, you may have observed your furry friend engage in various behaviors that you may find curious or even amusing. One such behavior is when your dog licks another dog’s ear. You may be wondering, “Why does my dog lick my other dog’s ear?”
Dogs communicate through body language, and licking is a form of communication, submission or deference When a dog licks another dog’s ear, it could be a way of expressing affection or establishing a social bond. Dogs also use licking as a way of showing submission, and in a group of dogs, the one who licks the other is often seen as the subordinate.
Additionally, dogs may lick each other’s ears as a way of grooming and maintaining hygiene, as they often use their tongues to clean themselves and each other. Understanding why dogs lick each other’s ears can help you interpret their behavior and improve your relationship with your furry friends.
Another reason why your dog might lick your other dog’s ear is for grooming purposes. Dogs have the instinct to groom themselves, and licking is one of the ways they do this. Your dog may be removing dirt or debris from the other dog’s ear or simply keeping it clean. If your dog is licking another dog’s ear, it could be a way of showing that it recognizes the other dog’s dominance.
The reasons why dogs lick each other’s ears
Dogs have several reasons why they may lick each other’s ears, including:
- Social grooming: Dogs are social animals, and they use grooming as a way to strengthen their social bonds. Licking each other’s ears is one way they can show affection and care for each other.
- Cleaning: Dogs have a strong instinct to keep themselves and their packmates clean. Licking each other’s ears can help remove dirt and debris from hard-to-reach places.
- Submission: Licking another dog’s ears can be a submissive gesture, indicating that the dog recognizes the other as dominant. This behavior is often seen in puppies or younger dogs interacting with older, more established pack members.
- Comfort: Some dogs may find comfort in licking each other’s ears, particularly if they are feeling anxious or stressed. The act of licking can release endorphins, which can help to calm both the licker and the recipient.
Dogs use various forms of body language to communicate with each other, and ear licking is one of them. Ear licking can have a social aspect as it is a common behavior between dogs that have a close bond or relationship. Some of the social aspects of dog ear licking are:
- Affection: Ear licking is a way for dogs to show affection and strengthen their social bonds. When one dog licks another dog’s ears, it can indicate that they care for and trust each other.
- Submission: In some cases, ear licking can be a submissive behavior, where the licker is acknowledging the dominance of the other dog. This is more commonly seen in younger or less dominant dogs interacting with more established or older pack members.
- Grooming: Dogs are social animals and grooming is a way for them to maintain their social bonds. Ear licking can help to clean and groom the ears, which can be difficult for dogs to do themselves.
- Calming signals: Dogs may use ear licking as a calming signal, especially when they are anxious or stressed. The act of licking can release endorphins, which can help to calm both the licker and the recipient.
How dogs use licking as a form of communication
Dogs use licking as a form of communication in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples:
- Affection: Licking can be a sign of affection between dogs or between a dog and its owner. Dogs may lick their owner’s face, hands, or feet as a way of showing love and affection.
- Submission: Licking can also be a sign of submission in dogs. A less dominant dog may lick a more dominant dog’s mouth or muzzle as a sign of respect and submission.
- Grooming: Dogs groom themselves and each other through licking. When a dog licks another dog, it may be helping to remove dirt, debris, or parasites from their coat.
- Communication: Dogs may also use licking as a way to communicate with each other. For example, a mother dog may lick her puppies to signal that it’s time to nurse or to soothe them when they’re upset.
- Anxiety: Some dogs may lick excessively when they’re feeling anxious or stressed. This can be a self-soothing behavior that helps them to calm down.
The different types of dog ear-licking behaviors
When it comes to ear licking, dogs can exhibit different types of behaviors depending on the context and their intentions. Here are some of the different types of ear-licking behaviors you may observe in dogs:
- Playful ear licking: When dogs are playing with each other, they may engage in ear licking as part of their play. This is usually a gentle and non-aggressive behavior that may occur when dogs are chasing each other or wrestling.
- Affectionate ear licking: Dogs may lick each other’s ears as a way to show affection and strengthen their bond. This behavior is often accompanied by other signs of affection, such as wagging tails, nuzzling, and cuddling.
- Anxious ear licking: If a dog is feeling anxious or stressed, it may lick its ears or the ears of another dog as a self-soothing behavior. This type of ear licking may be excessive and can sometimes be a sign of an underlying anxiety disorder.
- Dominant ear licking: In some cases, ear licking can be a dominant behavior, where one dog licks the ears of another dog to assert their dominance. This is more commonly seen in younger or less dominant dogs interacting with more established or older pack members.
- Medical ear licking: If a dog is experiencing an ear infection or other medical issue affecting their ears, they may lick or scratch at their ears excessively as a way of relieving the discomfort.
The impact of dog ear licking on the licked dog’s behavior
The impact of dog ear licking on the licked dog’s behavior can vary depending on the context and relationship between the dogs involved. Here are some possible effects:
- Calming effect: Ear licking can have a calming effect on dogs. The act of licking can release endorphins, which can help to reduce anxiety and stress. If a dog is feeling anxious or upset, ear licking from a trusted companion may help to calm them down.
- Social bonding: Ear licking can strengthen social bonds between dogs. Dogs use a variety of social behaviors to communicate and build relationships, and ear licking is one of them. If two dogs have a close relationship, ear licking can reinforce that bond.
- Submission: In some cases, ear licking can be a sign of submission. If a less dominant dog licks the ears of a more dominant dog, it may be a way of showing respect and acknowledging the other dog’s higher status. This can help to maintain social harmony within a group of dogs.
- Irritation: If a dog is being licked on the ears excessively or roughly, it may become irritated and try to move away or snap at the other dog. In this case, the ear-licking behavior may hurt the licked dog’s behavior.
The possibility of ear infections in dogs caused by excessive licking
Excessive ear licking in dogs can increase the risk of developing ear infections. Here’s how:
- Moisture buildup: When a dog licks their ears excessively, it can cause moisture to build up in the ear canal. This can create a warm and moist environment that is ideal for the growth of bacteria and yeast.
- Trauma: Excessive ear licking can cause trauma to the skin inside the ear canal, which can lead to inflammation and irritation. This can create small abrasions or scratches that can allow bacteria and yeast to enter and cause an infection.
- Allergies: Some dogs may develop allergies to substances in their environment or in their food, which can lead to excessive ear licking as a self-soothing behavior. Allergies can also cause inflammation and irritation in the ear canal, which can increase the risk of developing an infection.
- Anatomy: Some dog breeds with long, floppy ears, such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels, are more prone to ear infections. This is because their ears provide a warm, moist environment that can trap bacteria and yeast.
How to tell if your dog’s ear-licking behavior is normal or excessive
It can be difficult to determine whether your dog’s ear-licking behavior is normal or excessive, as it can depend on several factors such as breed, age, and individual temperament. However, here are some general signs to look out for:
- Frequency: Normal ear-licking behavior is usually occasional and not excessive. If your dog is constantly licking their ears throughout the day, it may be a sign of a problem.
- Duration: Normal ear-licking behavior is usually brief and doesn’t last for an extended period. If your dog is spending several minutes at a time licking their ears, it may be excessive.
- Intensity: Normal ear-licking behavior is usually gentle and not aggressive. If your dog is vigorously licking their ears or causing redness or irritation, it may be excessive.
- Other signs: Excessive ear licking can be a sign of an underlying issue such as allergies, anxiety, or an ear infection. If your dog is showing other signs of discomfort or behavior changes such as shaking their head, scratching at their ears, or being more irritable than usual, it may be a cause for concern.
The impact of ear licking on the bond between two dogs
Ear licking can have a positive impact on the bond between two dogs, particularly if they already have a close relationship. Here are some ways that ear licking can strengthen the bond between two dogs:
- Social bonding: Ear licking is a social behavior that dogs use to communicate and build relationships. If two dogs are licking each other’s ears, it can be a sign that they have a strong social bond.
- Mutual grooming: Ear licking can be a form of mutual grooming between dogs, which can help to build trust and intimacy between them.
- Relaxation and comfort: Ear licking can have a calming effect on dogs, as it releases endorphins that can reduce anxiety and stress. If two dogs are licking each other’s ears, it can be a sign that they feel comfortable and relaxed in each other’s company.
- Reinforcing hierarchy: Ear licking can be a sign of submission, particularly if a less dominant dog is licking the ears of a more dominant dog. This can help to reinforce the hierarchy within a group of dogs, which can promote social harmony and reduce conflict.
How to prevent ear-licking behavior from becoming excessive
Here are some tips to prevent ear-licking behavior from becoming excessive in dogs:
Regular ear cleaning:
Keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry can help to prevent ear infections and reduce the likelihood of excessive ear licking. Use a gentle ear-cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian and avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the ear canal.
Identifying underlying medical conditions:
Excessive ear licking can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as allergies or an ear infection. If you suspect that your dog’s ear-licking behavior is excessive, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues.
Providing mental stimulation:
Dogs may engage in excessive ear licking as a self-soothing behavior if they are bored or anxious. Providing mental stimulation through toys, puzzles, and interactive games can help to reduce anxiety and prevent excessive ear licking.
Training and redirection:
If your dog engages in excessive ear licking, consider training and redirecting the behavior. Teach your dog a “leave it” or “off” command and redirect their attention to an appropriate toy or activity when they start to lick their ears excessively.
Reinforcing positive behaviors:
Reinforce positive behaviors such as calmness and relaxation through positive reinforcement training techniques. Praise and reward your dog when they exhibit calm and relaxed behavior, which can help to reduce anxiety and prevent excessive ear licking.
The potential reasons why a dog may not want their ear licked
There are several reasons why a dog may not want their ear licked by another dog or even by their owner. Here are some potential reasons:
- Sensitivity: Dogs may have sensitive ears and find the sensation of being licked uncomfortable or even painful. If a dog has an ear infection or injury, it may be especially sensitive to being licked.
- Fear or anxiety: Dogs that are fearful or anxious may not want to be approached or touched by other dogs, including having their ears licked. They may perceive the ear licking as a threat or invasion of their personal space.
- Personal preferences: Just like humans, dogs have their personal preferences and boundaries. Some dogs may simply not enjoy being licked on their ears or may prefer to interact with other dogs in different ways.
- Dominance or territorial behavior: In some cases, a dog may not want their ears licked as a way of asserting dominance or protecting its territory. This behavior can be more common in dogs that are not socialized or that have a history of aggression.
- Past experiences: If a dog has had negative experiences with other dogs or with ear licking in the past, it may be hesitant or resistant to having its ears licked in the future.
The impact of ear licking on a dog’s hygiene
While ear licking can be a natural behavior for dogs, excessive ear licking can hurt a dog’s hygiene. Here are some ways that excessive ear licking can affect a dog’s hygiene:
- Excessive moisture: When a dog licks their ears excessively, it can create excess moisture in the ear canal. This moisture can promote the growth of bacteria and yeast, which can lead to ear infections and foul odors.
- Damage to the ear canal: Excessive ear licking can also cause damage to the delicate skin and tissues of the ear canal. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even bleeding in severe cases.
- Spread of germs: Dogs use their mouths to explore and interact with the world around them, which means that their saliva can contain germs and bacteria. When a dog licks their ears or another dog’s ears excessively, it can spread these germs and bacteria, which can lead to infections and other health problems.
- Poor grooming habits: Excessive ear licking can also be a sign of poor grooming habits, as dogs that don’t receive regular grooming may develop dirty, itchy ears that they feel compelled to lick excessively.
The role of ear licking in establishing dominance between dogs
While ear licking can be a normal behavior between dogs, it is not typically associated with establishing dominance. Dominance is a complex concept in dogs, and it can be influenced by many different factors, including breed, personality, and socialization history.
Ear-licking behavior is generally seen as a form of communication between dogs, rather than a display of dominance. When dogs interact with each other, they may use a variety of body language and vocalizations to communicate their intentions and feelings. Ear licking can be a way for dogs to show affection, signal submission, or establish trust and social bonds with one another.
That being said, some dogs may use ear licking as a way to assert dominance over other dogs. This behavior is more likely to occur in dogs that have not been socialized properly or that have a history of aggression.
However, it is important to note that dominance-based interactions are not considered healthy or normal in dog relationships, and should be discouraged through positive training techniques and appropriate management strategies.
How to train your dog to stop licking another dog’s ears
Here are some steps you can take to train your dog to stop licking another dog’s ears:
Teach the “leave it” command:
Start by teaching your dog the “leave it” command. This will help you redirect your dog’s attention when they start licking the other dog’s ears. You can do this by holding a treat in your closed hand and saying “Leave it.” When your dog stops trying to get the treat, reward them with a different treat.
Socialize your dog with other dogs to reduce the desire to lick other dogs’ ears. When dogs are socialized with other dogs, they learn how to communicate and interact properly, which can help reduce the likelihood of unwanted behavior such as licking.
Use a deterrent:
There are sprays and creams available that you can apply to your dog’s mouth or the other dog’s ears to deter licking. These products are generally safe and effective but consult with your vet before using them.
Manage the environment:
If your dog continues to try to lick another dog’s ears, it may be necessary to separate them or keep them on a leash when around other dogs. This will help you intervene when your dog tries to lick the other dog’s ears.
Reward your dog for good behavior. When your dog is playing nicely with another dog and not trying to lick their ears, praise them and give them a treat. This will reinforce good behavior and encourage them to continue playing nicely without the need to lick another dog’s ears.
The difference between playful and aggressive ear-licking behavior
Ear-licking behavior in dogs can be either playful or aggressive, depending on the context and the body language of the dogs involved. Here are some differences between playful and aggressive ear-licking behavior in dogs:
- Body language: In playful ear licking, both dogs will have relaxed body language, and wagging tails, and appear happy and playful. In contrast, aggressive ear licking may be accompanied by stiff body language, raised hackles, and a tense posture.
- Sound: Playful ear licking may be accompanied by soft barks, whines, and growls that sound happy and friendly. Aggressive ear licking may be accompanied by loud, intense barking or growling, and the dogs may show their teeth or snap.
- Context: Playful ear licking occurs during social interactions and playtime, and the dogs involved will often switch roles and take turns licking each other’s ears. In contrast, aggressive ear licking may occur during conflicts or fights between dogs.
- Persistence: Playful ear licking is usually brief and intermittent, while aggressive ear licking can be persistent and may escalate if not interrupted.
The importance of supervising dog interactions to prevent excessive ear licking
Supervising dog interactions is crucial to prevent excessive ear licking, as it can help you identify any problematic behavior and intervene before it escalates into a potentially dangerous situation. Here are some reasons why supervising dog interactions is important:
- Preventing aggression: If your dog tends to excessively lick another dog’s ears, it may cause the other dog to become agitated, annoyed, or fearful. If left unsupervised, this can escalate into a fight, which could result in injuries to both dogs.
- Ensuring positive socialization: Dogs need to socialize with other dogs to develop healthy social skills, but it’s important to ensure that these interactions remain positive. If your dog is constantly licking another dog’s ears, it may interfere with the other dog’s ability to enjoy the interaction and socialize properly.
- Training opportunities: Supervising dog interactions can provide an opportunity for you to train your dog to behave appropriately around other dogs. For example, if your dog tends to excessively lick another dog’s ears, you can use this as an opportunity to teach them the “leave it” command or redirect their attention to a toy or treat.
- Maintaining control: When you supervise dog interactions, you can maintain control over the situation and prevent any potential problems from escalating. This includes separating the dogs if necessary or redirecting their attention to other activities.
How to redirect a dog’s ear-licking behavior
If your dog has a habit of excessive ear licking, you can redirect their behavior using the following methods:
Teach the “leave it” command:
One of the most effective ways to redirect your dog’s ear-licking behavior is by teaching them the “leave it” command. Start by holding a treat in your closed hand and saying “Leave it.” When your dog stops trying to get the treat, reward them with a different treat or toy. Practice this exercise often until your dog learns to obey the “leave it” command.
Offer a toy or chew:
Another way to redirect your dog’s ear-licking behavior is by offering them a toy or chew that they can focus on instead. This can be a good way to distract your dog and redirect their attention away from the other dog’s ears.
Use positive reinforcement:
When your dog is playing nicely with another dog without licking their ears, praise them and offer them a treat or toy as a reward. This will reinforce positive behavior and encourage your dog to continue playing nicely without the need to lick the other dog’s ears.
Distract with play:
If your dog is fixated on another dog’s ears, try distracting them with play. You can toss a ball, play tug-of-war, or engage them in another activity that will redirect their focus away from the other dog’s ears.
Separate the dogs:
If your dog continues to excessively lick another dog’s ears despite your efforts to redirect their behavior, it may be necessary to separate the dogs temporarily. This will allow both dogs to calm down and prevent any potential problems from escalating.
The Impact of ear licking on a Dog’s Mental and Emotional Well-being
Excessive ear licking can hurt a dog’s mental and emotional well-being. Here are some ways it can affect them:
- Stress and anxiety: If a dog is constantly licking another dog’s ears, it can indicate that they are experiencing stress or anxiety. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as feeling threatened or uncomfortable around other dogs or being in an overstimulating environment. Over time, this can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and even depression.
- Fear and aggression: If a dog is repeatedly licked on the ears by another dog, it can cause them to become fearful or even aggressive towards the other dog. This can lead to conflicts and fights between the dogs and can be dangerous for both dogs and their owners.
- Infections and irritation: Excessive ear licking can also cause irritation and infections in the dog’s ears, as the constant moisture and friction can damage the delicate skin in and around the ears. This can lead to discomfort and pain and may require veterinary treatment to resolve.
- Lack of socialization: If a dog is always licking another dog’s ears, it can interfere with their ability to properly socialize with other dogs. This can limit their opportunities for positive interactions and may lead to behavioral problems in the future.
The potential medical issues that may cause a dog to excessively lick another dog’s ears.
Several medical issues may cause a dog to excessively lick another dog’s ears. These include:
- Ear infections: Dogs with ear infections may experience discomfort or itching in their ears, which can lead to excessive licking. If the infected ear has a foul odor or discharge, it’s important to have the dog examined by a veterinarian, as ear infections can be painful and require medical treatment.
- Allergies: Dogs with allergies, such as food allergies or environmental allergies, may experience itching and inflammation in their ears. This can lead to excessive licking and scratching and may require treatment with medications or dietary changes.
- Skin irritations: Dogs with skin irritations, such as hot spots or dermatitis, may experience discomfort and itching in their ears, which can lead to excessive licking. Treatment for skin irritations may include medication, topical treatments, or dietary changes.
- Behavioral issues: In some cases, excessive ear licking may be a result of behavioral issues, such as anxiety or boredom. If the dog’s excessive ear-licking behavior is not related to any underlying medical issues, it may be necessary to address any behavioral issues and provide them with proper training and mental stimulation.
Why does my dog lick my other dog’s ear? In conclusion, dogs may lick each other’s ears for a variety of reasons, such as showing affection, establishing dominance, or as a sign of submission. However, excessive ear licking can be a sign of underlying medical issues or behavioral problems, and it’s important to monitor your dogs’ interactions and intervene if necessary.
As a pet owner, it’s important to provide your dogs with proper training, socialization, and medical care to ensure their well-being and prevent any potential health or behavioral issues.
If you are concerned about your dog’s ear-licking behavior or notice any signs of discomfort or irritation, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.