Why Do Dogs Lick Your Ears? Solving The Mystery

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Ears? Photo of a dog licking his owners ears

Let’s face it, dogs have some weird habits. One of those weird habits that may be driving you crazy is their incessant need to lick your ears! Not sure what to do about it, or what it means? Here’s a quick guide to help you out.

Dogs lick your ears because they’re showing you that they care. There is more detail to that, of course, but dogs love to lick your ears because it’s how they show you that they care about you. Below, you’ll learn more about those love-based reasons, what you should know about when to avoid dog ear licks, and how to make it stop (if you want it to)!

Why do dogs lick your ears?

As we mentioned, dog ear licking is done in most cases to show you that they care. Think of it as part of their love language. In more detail, however, your dog may be licking your ears for these reasons:

  • They love you and missed you
  • They are acknowledging that you are in charge
  • They want to help you stay clean
  • They’re bored and want attention
  • Your ears taste good (gross, huh?)

They love you and missed you

If you’ve been gone to work all day and you get home to them wagging their tails and whining and licking you all over — especially your ears — they’re just telling you that they’ve missed you and want to show you just how much they love you. It’s sorta gross, maybe, but kinda cute too!

They are acknowledging that you are in charge

Back in their pack days, licking another dog’s ears was a sign that they were in charge and that the licker was submissive to him. So, a dog that licks your ears could be telling you that they acknowledge you’re in charge. This is especially so if it’s just a few licks here and there rather than frantic licking!

They want to help you stay clean

Also back in their pack days, dogs weren’t able to clean their own ears. So, other pack members would do that job for them, and they would return the favor. Your dog might just be trying to help make sure that you stay clean and free from bacteria! Sort of like how they’re known for licking food off your fingers or face, right? It’s kind of nice, but dogs don’t seem to understand that we are very capable of cleaning our ears out ourselves.

They’re bored and want attention

Dogs — the smarties that they are — know that a lot of humans aren’t super fond of them licking your ears. So if they’re bored and want attention, they’ll lick or even nip at your ears. This is frustrating, especially because it usually works, right? We’ll discuss this more a little later on if you want to make this a habit of the past.

Your ears taste good

What else is there to say about this other than just “ew, gross”? Exactly, enough said. And we move on…

Can I get sick from dog licking?

Some people just hate their dog licking their face or their ears. It’s not uncommon at all, actually, even if you are the most attentive and loving pet parent! The thing is, dog tongues aren’t exactly the cleanest things in the world. After all, they lick the floor, the garbage, eat bugs, sometimes poop (barf!) and, of course, drink from the toilet…

Feeling a little queasy? Us, too. The good news is that, as dirty as a dog’s mouth can be, it’s pretty rare to get sick or to get an ear infection from your dog licking your face and ears. This is especially the case if you make sure your dog has proper dental hygiene (which is important for all sorts of reasons). 

That being said, the more that your dog licks your ears, the more likely it is that you may get an ear infection. Dogs may lick away the ear wax (which helps clean your ears out), but remember that ear wax plays the important role of protecting the insides of your ears from bacteria and other dangerous particles. 

If your dog licks away your protection and also leaves a drooly amount of liquid in its place (we know, we know — yuck!), you may get a few more ear infections. If you’re predisposed to them, this is also more likely. 

While it isn’t totally impossible to get sick from a dog licking you, the chances are very rare! At least there’s that, right?

When should I not let my dog lick my ears?

On that same topic, however, there are a few situations where you’re going to want to keep your dog from licking your ears even if it’s a habit that doesn’t normally bother you! This is to protect both you and your furry best friend from having any complications from this habit.

If you have broken skin, don’t let your dog lick over it. While dog tongues can be known to soothe irritation and it may help your cut or scrape feel better, it also can deposit bacteria and also potentially irritate the area, keeping it from healing properly. Whether it’s a sore, a bite, or just a scratch, keep your dog’s tongue away from it!

You’ll also want to keep your ear dog-tongue-free if you’re sick. While most viruses and illnesses can’t be transferred from human to dog, it’s still not a good idea to allow him to lick your face or ears when you are sick. While it may not make him sick with the same problem, it can cause an infection in his mouth! Plus, it may go and lick someone else in your household and pass it on to them.

Also, keep licking a no-go if they’re sick. Sure, you may not be able to catch anything from your dog as far as colds or flu cases (though it is possible), but you don’t want to have contaminated slime on your face or in your ears, either. It could lead to an ear infection and other skin-related issues! Plus, it’s gross, if we’re being honest!

Do I have to let my dog lick my ears?

Okay, so we’ve talked about the various reasons why a dog may be licking your ears and what it means, but what about the emotion on the human’s side? Sure, it’s sweet that your dog is telling you how much he cares, but you don’t have to like it! Ear licking is not a requirement for being a responsible and loving pet parent after all!

If you want to curb the licking behavior, take a moment to understand why your dog is doing it. If he’s just telling you he loves you, you can show him other ways to do that (more on that in a moment). If he’s trying to get your attention, you’ll find that will go away if you give him lots of love and attention in other ways. If he’s trying to clean your ears, well, you just have to spend more time on your own personal hygiene!

First and foremost, you’ll want to let your dog know that you don’t like it when they clean your ears. Remember, it’s a love language to them, so if you don’t love it, they won’t want to do it either once they understand that it isn’t a good thing for you. 

From the very beginning, curb the behavior with a proper command such as “No” or “Stop”, etc. Reward the stopping with a treat or another incentive. Eventually, he’ll learn that you don’t want the ear licks and won’t do them anymore. This is part of why basic command training is so important with puppies and dogs when you first get them!

If your pup is just so excited that he can’t possibly contain himself and needs to lick your ears, distract him! Get him an IQ toy or a puzzle toy or even just a classic Kong toy filled with dog-safe peanut butter! Once he has something else to focus his attention on, he’ll forget all about it, and then, when he’s had his fill of that, he’ll settle down for a cuddle on the couch with you instead of trying to give you a bath!

Dogs certainly have some quickie habits that don’t always make sense to us humans. Maybe those habits are cute or maybe they’re frustrating and gross. Whichever side you find yourself on, you don’t need to settle for anything that you aren’t comfortable with. Whatever reason why your dog licks your ears, it’s up to you whether you want it to be part of your shared love language or not!

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Dog Advisory Council

A team whose main goal is to serve knowledge about the canine world. Together since 2012, we thrive to transform and inform, so each dog can live a happy and fulfilling life. Read more about us.