You and your pup are best buds. Your pet goes with you on your runs. They curl up next to you while you and your family watch TV. You adore your pooch except for one thing: They like to lick your ears. You thought it was cute at first, but now it’s kind of gross.
All dogs have their quirks. Understanding why your pet does something may make you think about it a bit differently. We’re not saying that you have to let your pup do the behavior, though. Just know that your pooch is acting the same way that dogs probably have done for thousands of years. Let’s find out what this licking behavior means, along with a few tips for stopping it if it bothers you.
Dogs and wolves share a common ancestor from 34,000 years ago. Scientists have long suspected this relationship because of the high number of common behavioral traits that the two species share. Both animals are social creatures. For example, puppies can form attachments to places and people as young as 3 weeks old.
Dogs communicate in a wide range of ways through their expressions, body posture, vocalizations, and of course, tail-wagging. They can also read the emotions of other people and their owners. It makes sense, given the close association that canines have had with humans since domestication. The other point to keep in mind is the physical interaction that dogs have with each other and humans.
Reasons for Your Dog’s Behavior
It’s not a stretch to suggest that dogs experience emotions, not unlike humans. Like us, they feel happy, sad, angry, or anxious. This is what we need to look at to explain why your pup licks your ears. As it turns out, emotions are a significant factor in the answer.
1. They Feel Secure With You.
It’s logical to assume that if an animal lets a person get close to them, there is trust in the relationship. After all, they are vulnerable at that point. If a dog reads the situation wrong, they could get punished or hurt. It follows that if your pup is putting their face near yours, they feel secure being around you. That says a great deal about your pet.
2. Your Pup Loves You.
Dogs are quite capable of forming attachments even at a young age. When your pup licks your face, it’s their way of showing emotion. In this case, your pet makes it clear that they have positive feelings for you.
3. You’re Part of the Pack.
Mutual grooming is hardwired in many species, from dogs and cats to primates. It helps cement the bonds that exist between members of their tribe. Perhaps in your pup’s mind, that’s what you are too: You’re a part of the pack. One thing that pack animals do is take care of each other. It’s baked into a canine’s DNA to look after the group because it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.
4. They Like Your Personal Care Products.
Researchers have found that many animals, including dogs, are born with an innate sense of good smells and bad ones. Many involve do-or-die types of situations, such as knowing what foods to eat or avoid. The fact remains that maybe your pup just likes the aftershave or shampoo that you’re using. They lick your face because of what you smell like.
5. Your Pet Is Being Submissive.
Dogs often engage in submissive behavior, especially if you’ve caught them doing something naughty. They may cower and give you those sad puppy eyes. A pup may also try to please you with certain behaviors, such as licking your ears. They’re trying to diffuse an awkward situation.
6. You Pup Needs Something to Do.
Boredom is sometimes a part of a dog’s world. Perhaps, it’s raining, and you can’t go on your daily walk as usual. Your pup might start licking your ears for something to do or to get you to change your mind about that tour of the neighborhood. Your pooch wants a distraction, and you’re right there to provide it.
Fixing the Problem
We understand if you don’t like your dog licking your ears, but remember that your pet is doing what comes naturally to them. It’s not unlike a cat scratching the furniture. They don’t understand when you show that you don’t like their behavior. The same thing applies to your dog. Our suggested remedies to the problem focus more on gently swaying your pup’s behavior.
1. Change Your Personal Care Products.
You can start by switching your personal care products. Your pet may stop licking on their own if you don’t smell the same way anymore. It’s an easy way to eliminate it as a possible cause, in any case. If your pup persists, then you’ll need to try something else.
2. Don’t Encourage Them.
Simply letting your dog lick your ears reinforces the behavior. If you coo at your pup or laugh, they might make a positive association with it. We suggest walking or moving away if they start it up again. Stand up from the floor or get up off the couch. It won’t take your pet long to move on to the next thing.
3. Distract Your Pet With Something Else.
If the cause is boredom, then you need to find something to distract your pup. Few things will keep a dog busy for long stretches than a Kong toy filled with peanut butter. The essential thing is not to create a cause-and-effect situation. That is, don’t give your pet the treat after they’ve just been licking you.
4. Consult Your Vet If It’s Excessive.
Licking your ears now and again is acceptable. However, if your dog becomes obsessive with it, it’s time to take action. Some pets engage in compulsive behavior if they’re feeling anxious or nervous. Your vet can refer you to a dog trainer after ruling out any physical causes.
One of the reasons that we love our pets so much is because they show their affection so readily. If you let your dog lick your face or hands, they might make their way to your ears. Remember that reinforcing the bonds between canines and their owners goes back thousands of years. If you’d rather that they show their love in a different way, give them something else to do.
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Featured Image Credit: Lubo Ivanko, Shutterstock
- Dog Social Behavior
- Reasons for Your Dog’s Behavior
- Fixing the Problem
- Final Thoughts