dog licking each others ears
Pet Behavioral Problems

Why do Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears?

If you have two dogs, do they lick each other’s ears? Or maybe your dog licks other dogs’ ears on puppy playdates. It’s super common!

Dogs can lick each other’s ears for many reasons. Your dog might be trying to groom the other dog, soothe their own anxiety, and get attention from the other dog. They may just enjoy the taste of earwax! It’s also possible that they sense the other dog has an ear infection.

We’ll talk through all of these reasons and more in this article!

1.     Dogs Bond through Grooming

Grooming one another is how dogs bond with each other and even with humans sometimes! They’ll lick each other mutually (or not, if one of them is a bit selfish!), often focusing on the areas the other dog cannot reach themselves.

This includes the face, ears, and neck.

If your dog is licking another dog to groom them, it shouldn’t be excessive. Your dog likely won’t linger too long on the other dog’s ears, and you’ll see them licking other areas as well.

This isn’t a problematic behavior, and you shouldn’t try to stop it! Grooming means they care about the other dog and see them as a friend or family member.

It also helps out the dog being licked to feel clean and pampered.

dog licks another dogs ear
Ear Licking!

2.     They Find Earwax Tasty!

Okay, so this one’s a bit gross to us humans—but to dogs, who’ll eat just about anything, it makes perfect sense.

Sometimes, dogs find earwax to be tasty. Likely, this is because earwax can taste kind of salty, and dogs love the taste of salt!

This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it might mean the dog being licked has a lot of earwax in their ears. Take a look and, if necessary, clean them out using an ear wash solution made for dogs.

I like to use a paper towel and ear wash to wipe away any ear wax on the outer ear. You can also use cotton swabs or pads, but never insert them into the ear.

If you think your dog has a lot of built-up earwax in the inner ear, see your veterinarian. Trying to clean it out yourself can lodge the wax in deeper and potentially injure your dog.

3.     The Dog being Licked has an Ear Infection

It’s possible that a dog is licking another’s ears because they know it’s infected and are trying to clean or soothe it. If you’ve ever had an ear infection, you know they’re pretty irritating! In dogs, they also smell pretty bad (to us, but who knows—maybe dogs like the smell!).

If you lift your dog’s ear and it looks dark pink or red, it’s likely infected. Excess ear wax can also indicate a problem.

Other symptoms include itching, swelling, head shaking, and head tilting.

Remember, you won’t always be able to see an infection if it’s located in the inner ear. So if you have doubts, it’s always best to see your veterinarian.

Avoid at-home solutions for ear infections—your dog needs medication from the veterinarian, and you could make the problem worse by trying to avoid going to the vet.

4.     The Licking Dog is Self-Soothing

If the dog doing the licking is anxious, they might settle their nerves by licking your other dog’s ears. They may be afraid of something specific, like fireworks outside or a stranger in the house.

Or maybe they have a mental illness like clinical anxiety, separation anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In this case, you’ll likely notice that the licking is repetitive. It may persist even when the other dog has clearly had enough.

Try to eliminate stressors in your dog’s life. If this doesn’t help, consult with your veterinarian to see if the licking is caused by an anxiety disorder.

5.     They Want Attention

Ear licking can be a method of communication for dogs. They might do it as a greeting to say “hello” to the other dog.

They might also lick the other dog’s ears when they want some attention, playtime, or cuddles. They might even use it as a way of waking the other dog up from their slumber.

Watch for other body language, such as bowing and pouncing, which indicate that the dog feels playful and wants the other to join in. Or, your dog might lower their head and get in the other dog’s face after licking them as a way of saying, “now clean me!”

dog licking another dogs head
Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears

When is Ear Licking a Problem?

Often, ear licking isn’t a concern. Dogs lick themselves and each other all of the time, and there’s unlikely to be enough saliva to cause an infection unless the licking is excessive.

Here’s when you should intervene:

  • The licking is excessive
  • The dog being licked is showing signs of annoyance, avoidance, or aggression
  • It’s caused by a medical problem

If your dogs lick one another’s ears for a brief time and then move on to other things, they’re likely grooming or having a quick taste of that delicious earwax. No problem!

But if it’s continuous, you’ll need to get to the root of the issue. Eliminate the possibilities above one by one until you find the cause. I recommend beginning by taking both dogs to the veterinarian to rule out health concerns, then addressing behavioral issues if they both receive a clean bill of health.

Another reason to address the behavior is if it’s bothering your other dog. Excessive licking can cause pain and soreness in the ear—and even if it’s not excessive, someone licking your ear can get annoying!

If the dog being licked begins to avoid the licker, walks away only to be followed, or shows any body language to indicate they dislike the licking, separate the dogs for at least a few minutes.

If the dog is communicating that they don’t like being licked and the other continues, this could potentially lead to a fight. This is especially likely if the licking dog ignores warnings, such as growling or snarling.

Lastly, of course, you want to address medical problems like ear infections and anxiety right away!

How do I Stop my Dog from Licking Another Dog’s Ears?

First, bring both dogs to the veterinarian. They can tell you if one dog has an ear infection, the other has anxiety, or if there’s another medical cause for the behavior.

Once you know it’s not health-related, begin by stopping your dog each time they lick the other dog’s ears.

Try offering a treat or tossing a toy across the room to distract them. These are incompatible behaviors—meaning your dog can’t chase a ball and lick another dog’s ears at the same time.

The reward of getting the treat or playtime for walking away may be enough to teach your dog that you don’t want them licking the other dog’s ears anymore.

But what if they can’t be distracted? In this case, you’ll have to separate the dogs when the licking starts.

Interrupt it consistently and, eventually, your dog will learn that licking means being taken away from their companion.

Don’t treat it as a punishment—you don’t need to scold your dog or anything else. Simply remove them from the situation so that everyone stays safe and reintroduce the dogs again a few minutes later.

This might take a lot of repetition, but eventually, they’ll get it!

If the licking happens often, you might want to keep the dogs separated when you aren’t around. Otherwise, your dog will just learn to lick the other’s ears when you’re not there to stop them.

You want your dog to know that they’ll be stopped every single time they lick the other dog’s ears, no exceptions!