Just about every dog loves to have their ears rubbed. Have you ever wondered why that is? It is almost like they get high on life when you rub their ears. A dog gets so much joy from it that they will start to lean in closer, roll their eyes up to the ceiling, and they may even sigh at you. A dog goes into this very relaxed state when you rub and scratch their ears. It almost makes you wonder what they are thinking and feeling at that moment. Could it be that ear rubbing gives them some kind of intense feelings like we get when we get a massage or do some vigorous exercise?
The Root of the Behavior
So why do dogs enjoy having their ears rubbed? There are two main parts to the root of this dog behavior. These two things are reflexology and endorphins. Much like humans, when you rub or massage certain points on a dog, this action triggers relaxation, happy feelings, and a sense of calm that can make them freeze in their tracks to enjoy it. A dog’s ears have a lot of nerve endings. This is most likely because sound is one of their stronger senses, along with scent, of course. By rubbing a dog's ears you are giving them pleasure and relaxing them in a way that they enjoy quite a bit. In humans, we study reflexology of certain areas like hands and feet for health purposes. In dogs, there are maps of their ears showing you where to massage and where to apply pressure. By studying these reflexology maps of a dog’s ear you could learn how to rub their ears in ways that relax them and make them happy. This can be very useful during stressful situations such as when you have to take your pup to the vet. Check out some articles on the internet for more on dog reflexology. Not only that, rubbing a dog’s ears stimulates the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands in a dog. These glands then release endorphins in the dog. We all know how endorphins can make a human happy. Endorphins pretty much do the same things for dogs as they do for humans. A dog becomes much more relaxed and happy when these endorphins are released. These brain chemicals are the same ones that reduce depression and increase pleasure in humans as well as animals so that explains a lot about why your dog wants his ears rubbed.
Encouraging the Behavior
When training your dog to perform certain tasks, you do not always have to reward him with doggie treats. You can reinforce good behavior by giving them a gentle rub on the ears and saying “well done” or “good job.” Positive rewards, whether they are treat based or praising your dog will encourage them to continue to perform a task the appropriate way or the way you want them to do it. Giving your dog a little ear rub for doing what he is supposed to do is sometimes better than getting a treat. Although the way to a dog’s heart is through their stomach most of the time, they also really enjoy any kind of pleasurable attention from their human. Most dogs thoroughly enjoy a good ear rub! And you do not have to just do this when your dog has done something you want him to. Rubbing his ears while sitting on the couch watching television or reading a book can go a long way to forming a nice bond between you and your canine companion. He is always going to be receptive to your touch, unless there is something wrong that you should know about.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Not all ear rubs are welcomed by dogs. Some dogs are timid or nervous with strangers petting their hands on their heads. You also have to consider heights and heads are seen as dominance to a dog, so some dogs may not like some people rubbing their heads. Another thing to consider is if your dog has his ears clipped. Dogs with clipped ears have very sensitive ears and they may not find pleasure in people rubbing their ears. Lastly, if a dog has an ear infection he may get upset or aggressive when you touch his ears. Ear infections are common in dogs. You can remedy this by routinely cleaning your dog’s ears. However, if you suspect your dog has an ear infection, be sure to contact your vet for treatment. Typically, dogs like their ears rubbed but just be aware of these other situations in case your dog exhibits pain or irritation when his ears are rubbed.