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It happens when you least expect it: You’re lounging on the couch with your best four-legged buddy relaxing after a long day. Suddenly, you feel it… a wet, cold, canine tongue in your ear canal. Your pup seems perfectly thrilled with this, but you’re not. So now you’re wondering, “Why does my dog lick my ears?”

It’s only natural to ask yourself why this is happening. It turns out, there are other reasons besides affection.

Here’s a look at some of the reasons your dog might lick your ears and whether that affectionate lick from your beloved companion could be bad for your health.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Ears? Is It The Taste Or Just An Act Of Affection?

why does my dog lick my ears | Ultimate Pet NutritionNot every dog will lick their pet parent’s ears. But it is a relatively common behavior. The most obvious answer as to why a pet will lick your ears – or your face, your hands, or any other part of your body – is affection. It’s simply their way of saying they love you.

All dogs are part of a pack. This can consist of themselves and other dogs, or the pack can consist of dogs and their humans. When your dog licks you, it could be their way of showing they accept you as the leader of the pack. It’s not only a sign of affection, but of respect as well.1

When it comes to licking your ears specifically, though, it could also mean that your ears smell and taste good. And while it may be a gross thought to consider, some dogs might like the taste of human ear wax.2

Your Dog’s Behavior And Instincts: They’re “Grooming” You When They Lick Your Ears

The act of licking your ears could also be your pet’s way of grooming you. This goes back to the instinctual behavior dogs exhibit with other members of their pack. Dogs commonly groom one another. There are certain parts of the body – such as the ears – that they can’t clean by themselves. So, other members of the pack help them out.3

Of course, dogs may occasionally get a little carried away with grooming. Cleaning the other dogs’ ears in the pack can help them avoid problems such as ear mites. But if they do it too much, that can lead to irritation – and possibly even an ear infection.4

If you have more than one dog, you should check their ears regularly to make sure this isn’t happening. As far as a dog licking a human, the chances of you developing an infection are pretty slim. If, however, you have an inner ear problem, keep your dog away from this area at all times. The reason is that there is a risk of developing a more serious issue.5

Ear Licking May Be A Sign Of Submissive Respect

why does my dog lick my ears | Ultimate Pet Nutrition

Some dogs may lick their pet parent’s ears because they’re being submissive. As mentioned earlier, dogs might see their parents as the leader of their pack. In order to properly communicate their respect, a dog will lick ears (or elsewhere).6

Whenever your dog licks your skin, especially around the face, they’re saying they are fine with the fact that you are in charge. In a manner of speaking, you are the alpha dog of the pack. Dogs show submission in other ways as well, such as crouching down, showing you their bellies, and putting their tails between their legs.7

When Licking Is A Sign Of A Potential Health Issue

While licking is one of the most common types of dog behavior, there are times where it can be a sign of a potential health issue.

For example, a dog suffering from allergy issues will often lick between their toes or show signs of itching skin, such as chewing. They may be allergic to a flea bite, airborne pollen, or dust.8

Lip licking is another indication of other health issues. It might mean your dog has an upset stomach. The same holds true if your dog licks the walls, the floor, part of your furniture, or any other type of odd place (including your ears, if that’s out of the norm for them). Excessive drool and lip smacking or licking are other indications of nausea. Contact your vet if your dog shows these signs, especially if they have a loss of appetite and vomiting.9

If your vet says there’s no health problem, yet you’re still concerned about your dog’s excessive licking, consider talking to a veterinary behaviorist.

Can You Catch A Disease From Your Dog’s Licking?

dog licking womans face | Ultimate Pet Nutrition

You love your pet, of course, and you enjoy that special bonding time. A lot of bonding involves getting dog kisses – whether they’re on your ears, your face, or anywhere else. In some rare instances, however, that may cause health issues.

A dog’s mouth does contain bacteria. There is a possibility that these bacteria can sometimes be transferred to humans. One example is a type of bacteria, known as Pasteurella, may cause skin or lymph node infections. That said, most of these types of infections are transmitted through cat scratches – not dog licks.10

Unfortunately, dogs will often lick their backsides. And if they have bacteria in their feces, like Campylobacter or Salmonella, they can sometimes transfer those microbes to humans when they lick them. It’s rare, but it can happen.11

Reducing The Risks Of Health Problems From Dog Saliva

Dog Licking | Ultimate Pet NutritionEven though the chances of catching anything bad from puppy kisses and licks (in your ears, and elsewhere) are very small, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk.

  • Don’t let your dog lick areas where you have a cut or a sore. Dog saliva can actually kill some forms of bacteria, but it can also lead to an infection.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after interacting with your dog – especially if your pup is ill.
  • Keep your dog as well-groomed and clean as possible.12

So, why does your pup love to lick your ears? As you now know, it’s often because they adore you. You’re a part of their pack, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. And keep in mind that there is very little chance you’ll ever get sick due to a doggie ear lick or dog kiss. But taking a few simple precautions can’t hurt.

Learn More:
What To Know About A Dog Growl And What To Do About Aggressive Behavior In Dogs
Strange Dog Behavior: Weird Pup Habits And What They Mean
Strange Dog Behavior: Why is My Dog Licking the Floor?