Our canine companions are known for having many cute, quirky, and sometimes even bizarre behaviors. Many of them stem from some evolutionary behavior or communication mechanism. Others are just unique to the family dog.
You may have noticed your pet licking the ears of another dog, cat, or even human in the household. This borderline gross behavior is not uncommon among dogs, but most pet owners have to wonder why their dog is licking ears. There are two possible answers to this age old question.
Ear Licking is a Complex Canine Behavior
Dogs are pack animals, meaning that most of their day to day activities are some form of communication. The ever changing social structure in a pack makes it necessary that dogs are good communicators.
Two dogs who are close friends or family members often engage in mutual grooming. The ears are a place that can get pretty dirty, and dogs are unable to groom them on their own. If you see a dog licking ears, whether they belong to another dog, a cat, or even you, he or she is saying two things:
- I am comfortable with you and accept you as part of my pack.
- I respect and love you.
Many times the more submissive dog of the two animals will be the one doing the licking, as it is a sign of respect and admiration. Next time you get an earful of tongue from your pooch, remember it just means he adores you!
Your Dog is Licking Ears Because Dogs Can Be Gross
Sometimes, however, ear licking goes back to another innate dog behavior: being a little bit disgusting sometimes. Some dogs develop a penchant for the taste of ear wax. Who needs a peanut butter filled Kong when your kitty friend has an ear canal full of wax?
Ear wax is a little on the salty side and can make a tasty treat for pooches with a sophisticated palate. Other dogs are attracted to the change in smell (and probably taste) of the discharge in an ear when there is an infection present. A sudden interest in another pet’s ears may indicate there is a problem in the ear canal.
Dogs depend on their mouths to experience the world, and ear licking is one way of exploring. If the behavior is excessive, though, you do need to be careful. Sometimes continued moisture in an ear can to contribute to an ear infection, so it is best to discourage more than the occasional lick.
If ear licking becomes a problem, try to distract your pet with interactive toys and other types of affection. Once in a while a pet will develop an almost compulsive type behavior that requires medical intervention.
If your dog is licking another pet’s ears excessively, please let us know. We are happy to check out the lick-ee for signs of an ear problem as well as the lick-er, if needed.