A pair of pupsLet’s face it, dogs have some quirky habits. Whether it is staring at the dishwasher, bogarting the bed, or an obsession with your underwear, most of our canine companions have a strange tendency or two. While The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center may not know exactly why your dog does everything he or she does, today we tackle one of the great mysteries of pet ownership: why dogs lick ears.

The Behavioral Aspects of Ear Licking

When it comes to answering why dogs lick ears, there seem to be some powerful behavioral forces at play. Dogs by nature are pack-oriented, and because of this, many of their behaviors can be explained by communication and social structure.

Ear licking within the pack structure communicates a few things:

  • A level of comfort between pack members
  • Dedication to the pack by participating in mutual grooming
  • Respect between pack members
  • A sense of love and care

In most cases, the more submissive of two animals will be the one who is doing most of the licking. Sometimes, this means that you might be on the receiving end of a good ear slurp.

The Truth Behind Why Dogs Lick Ears

While it sounds all nice and scientific to pretend like your dog’s strange habits are dictated by complex ethological drives, sometimes dogs are just dogs. Truthfully, some dogs lick ears because of their social instincts, but there are other reasons why your pet may be obsessed with this habit.

Perhaps the most common reason (and, true to canine form, the grossest) is that some dogs may develop a penchant for ear wax. If your pooch has a more sophisticated palate, the slightly salty secretions of the ear canal may be just the thing to satisfy.

Dogs often tend to explore their environment with their tongues, and so ear licking may be just another way to expand their knowledge of the world.

When a pet takes a sudden interest in another pet’s ears, it is often a sign that something is awry. An ear infection or other problem may change the odor or discharge in an ear, drawing attention. If your dog is suddenly obsessed with another pet’s ear, give us a call so that we can check things out.

Some animals are more interested in ears than others. If your pet is doing a lot of licking, the excess moisture can accumulate in the canal, causing issues. It is probably best to discourage the behavior with other distractions.

Dogs lick ears for a variety of reasons. Whether it is due to social structure, grooming behavior, boredom, an ear infection, or a taste for the exotic, this bizarre dog behavior is just one more way our pets keep us on our toes.