Does your dog love to lick other dog's ears? Are you worried that your dog's ear licking passes the limit of social acceptance? Let's face it, most dogs are friendly. They love to show us and their fellow canines lots of affection although they do, because of the way in which nature created them, have limited manners in which they can do it. Tail wags and a few licks here or there, around the ear zone in particular, are about it, which is usually more than enough for most other dogs and us dog lovers too. Ear licking amongst dogs is in some ways, even though it might not seem it, comparable to us humans exchanging a handshake. It's a dog's way of saying hello, look at me and who are you. However, some dogs can get quite carried away with their ear licking technique. In fact, they can go completely overboard about it.
The Root of the Behavior
A dog licking another dog's ears is, in the canine world, a natural greeting. Way back when before we began to domesticate dogs they were pack animals and ear licking between dogs derives its origins from those past times. During a pack reunion, dogs would establish their presence among their companions and let the others know they were there by licking each others ears. Think of it like an ancient and somewhat primal high five. It was a fundamental part of pack life. Dog's still are, genetically at least, pack animals and so will probably continue to ear lick until the end of time.
On a more technical note, dog’s ears are, for them, in an inaccessible zone. Unless they set to scratching at an ear with a back leg, there's just no way they can get at them and they sometimes still can't connect. A dog licking another dog's ears is basically the only chance they've got of having a freshen up in that area. In some ways similar to when monkeys perform a communal and reciprocal picking through of their fur to remove dirt and parasites, dogs lick each others ears as a grooming favor. You'd help your friend out in the same way, wouldn't you?
Dog ear wax has a very distinctive smell. Can you honestly say you hadn't noticed? Okay, it's true, we don't go around sniffing dog's ears. Your pet, with his superior nasal sensory perception does and loves it. It's part of who he is. He'll sniff and then lick. Dogs have different flavor favorites to what we might would generally consider appealing. They love stuff that smells bad. Yes, the stinkier the better. Have you never noticed how your dog will search out anything which we would consider completely gross and then, no matter how decomposed it is, eat it?
Encouraging the Behavior
It may not have anything to do with the other dog’s ears at all. Some dogs just like to lick other dogs as a form of attention or affection. When they were puppies, your dogs were constantly being bathed and groomed by their mother so it is just natural for them to continue this example with their extended family as a form of affection. In some instances, doggy ear wax can turn into the equivalent of canine catnip. Similar to a human's relationship with chocolate. The more you smell it then the more you want it. It is actually proven to be addictive. So much so, your dog might find licking another dog's ears more attractive than any treat you try to tempt them with.
As we all know, your dog has an acute sense of smell. On many occasions, their excellent olfactory skills have been put to good use for sniffing out drugs, explosives, or even searching for people buried in rubble after an earthquake. Dogs also have a nose for infection so if your dog suddenly becomes keen to relentlessly lick another dog's ear, it could mean that pup is suffering from an ear infection. Therefore, it may be beneficial to take both dogs to see a veterinary professional as soon as you can to get them checked out.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A dog continuously licking another dog's ears can give the other dog serious ear problems. It can result in soreness on the lobe or worse, an infection in the dog's ear canal. A good solution is to take part in some training sessions where your dog will be able to mingle with others and relearn at what level he needs to execute his social skills. Continual ear licking can be a sign of a developing compulsive behavior disorder. If you are worried about the extent of your dog's ear licking and feel it is necessary to curb or put a stop to your dog's over-exuberant ear bashing it may be worthwhile to consult your pets veterinary professional.
A dog licking the ear of another dog is a thing dogs do. It means a lot to them. It's their way of integrating into the pack or of passing on a social favor in the form of a bit of friendly grooming.
But just keep in mind, although ear licking is instinctual it can evolve into something more and so you need to be keeping an eye on it. Though don't forget, ear licking is one of the few limited ways a dog can show affection and we all need some of that. Though it does have to be mentioned there are some clever mutts who have mastered the technique of giving hugs. Does yours?
Written by a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020