Our canine and furry companions are known for their cute, funny, and sometimes quirky and bizarre behaviors – like when they lick each other’s ears. This behavior might be gross to you, but it’s normal to them. So how did it start, and why do they do it?
Where Did It All Start?
Most dog breeds were pack animals even before we made them our close friends. According to the ever-temporary social structure of a pack, the animals need to establish good communication. While they may have other forms of communication like barking, licking is one of the most common ones.
Centuries ago, before we began to domestic dogs, they lived as pack animals. During a pack reunion, pack members used to show their presence to other dogs by licking. Thus, licking was an essential part of their pack life.
You might think of licking as an ancient high five for dogs. Genetically, dogs are still pack animals, and so licking might go on for eternity.
Two dogs that are closer to each other often engage in grooming. Your dog may lick you to show affection and lick another dog to show love. Grooming and showing affection start when they are puppies.
A mother dog regularly licks her puppies to show affection and groom her puppies. Therefore, a puppy may learn from their mom that licking is a good sign of affection and the tongue a tool for grooming.
The 6 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears
As we have mentioned, dogs may lick each other for several reasons. Here are some of the reasons why:
You think your dog is gross, but surprisingly, they care about their hygiene too. Your hound may groom by licking themselves. However, dogs cannot reach their ears for grooming, and this is where the other dogs come in.
Two dogs close to each other or dogs from the same family feel comfortable grooming each other. Licking each other’s ears thus is one of the grooming processes.
However, while licking may ward off ear mites from your pup, too much licking may cause irritation. If the other dog licking them is too aggressive, your hound’s ears may have irritable skin.
Aggressive licking may also cause ear infections to your pup, so be sure to check the ears, clean them and try to control the licking.
As earlier mentioned, genetically, dogs are still pack animals. There must be dogs on a higher rank and those on a lower rank in a pack setting. The stronger and older ones are usually on the higher rank, while the smaller and younger are the ones on the lower rank.
These dogs on the lower rank will show their reverence, respect, and submission to the older dogs by licking them. That is why you might have noticed that your younger dogs may lick the older ones in your home if you have more than one dog.
3. Delicious Ear Wax!
No matter how gross it sounds, it’s the truth for many dogs; some of them just love the taste of ear wax. Ear wax is believed to be on the salty side, so if you have a pooch that loves salty stuff, they certainly will love ear wax.
The love for earwax, however, may not be the best if it becomes an excessive one. If your dog is crazy about ear wax, they may drive the other dog crazy. Moreover, as we said, too much licking may be harmful, so be sure to try and stop this behavior.
Dogs have an incredibly strong sense of smell. In fact, it is said that a dog can smell an infection even before the infection presents its signs and symptoms. Therefore, another reason your dog might be licking the other dog’s ears is that they can smell an infection, and they are trying to clean it out.
Infections sometimes produce discharge or yeast, and again, however gross it sounds, your dog may love it. If you notice that your dog who does not lick its companion starts to lick them, you can consider taking your dog to the vet for a check-up.
5. It’s Better than a Butt Sniff
Some dogs love the good old butt sniff way of greetings, but some dogs may prevent this from happening. If this happens, the sniffing dog will be forced to use the licking method, which is also as effective.
6. Licking Has a Soothing Effect
We all have our nervous tics, and dogs do have theirs too. Dogs deal with their nervous tics by licking. They can lick their own paws or lick other dog’s ears. If you have an anxious dog, perhaps that is why they keep licking other dog’s ears.
The only way to solve this is not by stopping the licking. You can choose to direct the licking urge somewhere else. We will discuss this in the section below.
Is It Safe?
Now you know why dogs lick each other’s ears, your next question would be if this behavior is safe. Depending on why they are doing it, the answer is both a yes and a no.
In many cases, it is healthy for the licked dog. However, if you have an excessive licker, then it might not be safe for the licked dog. If it is sudden licking then, it might be a sign of an ear infection, so you might want to consult with your vet.
How Do I Stop It?
If you have an excessive licker, you want to stop them from frequently licking other dogs. Fortunately, it is easy, and you can stop them from licking each other’s ears by:
Divert Your Dog’s Attention
You could perhaps get them an interactive toy to play with. It is very important to present the toy before the licking behavior starts to avoid reinforcing it and making the problem worst. Be observant and take note for scenarios when the behavior is initiated, soon you will be able to anticipate the behavior and this is the point where you will start a play session or present a toy.
The typical dog toys may effectively entertain your dog, but some dogs get bored too easily. If this is the case, an interactive toy is your best bet. These toys may have treats, and for your dog to get the treat, they need to play with the toy to get it. It’s a wise idea for you to get multiple toys for your dog to play with every day of the week.
Give Them Something to Lick
Remember, one reason for your dog’s licking your other dog’s ears is because it soothes them. They may lick part of their anybody, but they get bored and choose to lick other dogs, including licking their ears.
A silicone lick pad comes in handy in this case. You can get your dog a silicone lick pad and stick it on the wall.
You can then apply some peanut butter on the pad and get your dog to lick the pad. The silicone pad does not allow the dog to lick all the butter quickly, so your dog will spend considerable time licking the pad and using it to soothe themselves.
While it seems and sounds gross to see your dog licking other dogs, licking is still ordinary for most dogs. However, you need to look closely to identify if it gets excessive.
If it does, you need to act. Either visit a vet, find something that will distract them, or give them something else they can lick.
- You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog Twitch in Their Sleep?
Featured Image Credit: Susan Schmitz, Shuttetstock