We’ve all been ear-attacked by a dog or puppy in our lives—it’s inevitable. If you bend down to greet them, you’ll get a wet willy in no time. So, what seems to be the fascination with dogs licking our ears? Is there some secret goodie in there we don’t know about?
There may not even be just one, but a combination of reasons your dogs tickle your lobes. Let’s figure out what your dog is trying to say.
Licking in Dogs
Dogs use their tongues to communicate many things with us. It’s one of their love languages. In the wild, dogs lick each other to show affection, groom each other, and nurture pups. Because they consider their humans part of their pack, it’s no wonder they lick us, too.
So, if your dog fancies your ears, why might that be? They’re probably not very hard to decode. Dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves—we just have to pay attention to the message.
1. Your Dog Loves You
One of the major reasons a dog licks you is probably the most obvious—they are showing you they love you. They often lick ears upon greeting you or if you are suddenly eye-level with them. Dogs love making contact with your face. It’s a direct sign of intimacy, allowing them to show you how much they care.
They gladly give it to you without question because they want your love and approval back. In showing us affection through licks, they are telling you that this partnership is definitely mutual. Isn’t it sweet to think about how many ways our dogs show us appreciation?
2. Your Dogs Likes the Way Your Ears Taste
As gross as it may seem to us, dogs might like the taste of our ears. Earwax is an oily, bitter substance that dogs might be drawn to, creating a punchy tasting layer of goodness. The inside of an ear offers a much richer flavor than licking a plain old cheek, after all.
Let’s face it—it wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. They’ve probably made you gag with how many gross things they’re willing to put in their mouth. But if your dog comes in close for some kisses and gravitates towards your ears, it could be a “weird taste” thing.
3. Your Dog Is Grooming You
Have you cleaned your ears lately? Your dog might just be doing a good deed and giving you a nice tongue swab. They’re pros at getting into all the crevices you can’t reach—just let them show you!
Grooming is a behavior that dogs perform in their packs, keeping each other clean and healthy. They learn this action early on from their doting mothers as they grow up. They truly think that by grooming you that they’re doing you a service.
4. Your Dog Is Submissive
Your dog knows that you’re the boss. In nature, when dogs develop a hierarchy, the rest of the pack respects the master. Dogs quickly pick up on who is head of household—and where they rank in the equation. They might kick back a time or two, but when push comes to shove, they know you’re the head honcho.
They want to make sure they demonstrate their place and deep devotion to you as their master. Submissive licking is acceptance of the order, so you can smile thankfully knowing your buddy respects you.
5. Your Dog Is Looking for Comfort
There’s no denying our pups rely on us for comfort. They love us very much, and it’s relaxing for them to show us how they feel. When we love them back—well, that makes all the difference. This reassurance makes your dog feel secure and wanted.
On the opposite side, your dog might be trying to console you. We emit energy that our dogs can feel, which is why they are so in tune with our emotions. If they think you’re upset or having a bad day, this could be their way of letting you know it’s okay—they’re here for you.
6. Your Dog Is Trying to Get Attention
Does all this ear licking give you the giggles? They can tell it’s a trigger of laughter, and your dog loves to see you smile. They might also think that due to your reaction, you’re ready to play. Your actions trigger their responses, so it’s all fair game once you act happy.
If they get attention when they lick your ears, they’re probably going to repeat the behavior. Whatever gets the gold, right?
Don’t Shame Ear Licking
If your dog’s licking is irritating you, the worst thing you can do is shame them or shoo them away because of it. There are ways to channel your dog’s licking behavior without adverse reactions.
If you want your dog to stop, you can try to redirect their attention. Since most dogs lose every ounce of their attention span when you pick up a ball or a treat, you can try to throw them off course.
If they are trying to show loving, consoling, or grooming behavior, the worst thing you can do is punish them. This response only causes confusion and heartbreak. It can even lead to unwanted behaviors like nervousness or destructive tendencies.
Your dog should always feel safe with you as its owner. It’s tempting to yell at them to get away when they invade your space. And it’s equally essential for your dog to learn boundaries and manners. You can reach each goal harmoniously without overreacting to licking.
What Is Obsessive Licking?
Obsessive licking in dogs is a self-stimulatory behavior that could have many root causes. Usually, these dogs over-groom themselves and lick other random objects constantly.
If your dog exhibits these behaviors, licking themselves, objects, and other critters, you might want to figure out why. There are a few reasons for compulsive licking.
Dry skin and parasites can also be culprits, but they might not cause them to lick anything other than themselves. So, if your ears seem to be the target and not their skin, it’s best to explore other avenues of possibility.
When to Worry
You shouldn’t worry about your dog’s licking tendencies unless it’s affecting their health. If it is a hormonal imbalance, anxiety, or pain, it might worsen over time. Be mindful of any accompanying symptoms.
Get them to the vet to evaluate if they start losing patches of hair or have skin irritation due to excessive licking.
Is Your Dog Licking Your Face Unsanitary?
Dog licking is really not much of an issue to us humans, but it does have its downsides. If you think about what your dog does with its mouth all day, it might not come as a shock that it’s best not to have your canines lick your face.
However, if they do lick your skin, it’s unlikely to cause any real issues. Such a small amount of bacteria is absorbed this way. However, the eyes, mouth, and ears have mucous membranes where bacteria can enter our systems.
Most pathogens aren’t compatible with different species. But parasites and disease transmission are a real thing. Even if you have a dog that’s indoors only, you don’t always know what they pick up on their travels—even if it’s only to the backyard.
Zoonoses are diseases that can pass between species, such as dogs and humans.
Most of the time, licking is no big deal at all. They are just trying to love or take care of you. Especially if you just get home after being gone, they attack your ears like they haven’t seen you in ages. It’s typically standard, expected behavior.
If your dog is lunging for your upper half, just make sure they keep away from your ears, nose, and mouth since their saliva can contain potentially transmittable diseases. That shouldn’t stop you from accepting a sloppy kiss every once in a while.
Featured Image Credit: Lazy_Bear, Shutterstock
Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.