Why Does My Dog Lick My Ears?

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labrador licking girls ears

Does your dog lick your ears? While some dogs never show this behavior, others can take ear licking to an obsession. 

Out of my own dogs, only one is an ear licker, while the other three have never licked my ears.

If your dog enjoys licking your ears, read on to find out why this happens – as well as what to watch out for and how to stop the behavior if needed.

Origin Of Ear Licking

There are different explanations for this curious behavior. Your dog might be licking your ears for one or several of the reasons below:

Mutual Grooming 

Dogs show mutual grooming behaviors in a variety of ways. They especially enjoy to lick human skin, such as hands, feet, faces (of course) and also legs or arms if the owner is wearing short sleeves or shorts. 

Licking members of their family is a bonding activity, strengthens the social structure and lets dogs express their love and appreciation.

Nursing dogs lick their puppies extensively to stimulate their digestion and circulation and clean them.

Show Of Respect

Puppies show respect for older dogs by licking their mouths. It is also an appeasement signal that’s often seen when young dogs try to make older dogs play with them. Dogs licking their owners’ ears can be interpreted in a similar way – your dog is trying to tell you “I respect and value you”.

Sign Of Comfort

Dogs only lick the ears of humans that they feel very comfortable around. If your dog is licking your ears, he is telling you that he feels safe and secure in your company. Especially if you have adopted a rescue dog that shows you ear licking for the first time, take it as a huge compliment – you have earned your dog’s trust.

beagle on owners arm

Should You Interrupt Ear Licking?

If your dog is licking your ears and you do not mind it, there is no reason to interrupt and stop the dog. Your dog feels safe and happy and is showing this to you – if you both enjoy it, let him lick.

However, not everyone is a fan of having their ears licked. If you would rather have your dog stop, simply get up and move out of his reach. You can also use a treat to distract him or suggest in a happy voice to do something else, such as “Do you want to play ball?”

As with all behaviors, if you do not like the licking you should stop it immediately, not after it has gone on for some time. The sooner you interrupt the behavior, the faster your dog will move on and the less likely he is to repeat it.

If you let your dog carry and while you get more and more annoyed and eventually push him away, he will not know what he did wrong. It is much better to stop him as soon as he attempts to start the behavior.

If It Turns Obsessive

Dogs show obsessive licking in a variety of ways. They can be licking themselves (most often their paws, leading to actual raw spots), objects (such as your carpet, furniture, doors etc.) or you.

Obsessive licking is never good and needs to be addressed.

The reason that dogs do this is that licking feels good to them – it is inherently calming. Especially anxious, nervous and stressed dogs tend to overuse this tension relief in unhealthy ways. They might require an assessment by a dog trainer or behaviorist.

Fortunately, we can teach dogs other ways of dealing with their stress, such as chewing or sniffing.

If your dog has an underlying behavioral problem such as reactivity or separation anxiety, this needs to be addressed in separate training sessions. Once you help your dog overcome his behavioral issues, the licking will decrease as a result.

Licking Kids’ Ears

Some dogs especially like to lick young kids’ ears. You should not let your dog do this for a variety of reasons.

 

Babies

First of all, you should of course always supervise your dog and baby.

Letting your dog lick your baby’s ears can easily turn into your dog covering your baby’s whole face with his tongue and mouth. This is unsafe and your dog should absolutely be discouraged from doing so. Lift the baby out of his reach and proactively use baby gates or exercise pens to separate baby and dog.

 

Toddlers

Dogs should also not be allowed to lick toddlers’ ears. This is tempting because they are right at the dog’s level – many dogs cannot resist and just have to go and lick the kid’s ears.

This is likely to lead to escalations further down the line, as the toddler might not appreciate the dog approaching at all times and may push, hit or kick him. Be smart about your kid’s and dog’s interactions and do not let this happen.

The Bottom Line

Licking ears is a natural and common behavior in dogs. As long as you do not mind it, your dog does not become an obsessive licker and he does not lick babies’ and toddlers’ ears, there is nothing wrong with occasional ear licking.

If your dog does lick anything obsessively, consult a trainer to address this issue.