Why Do My Dogs Lick Each Other's Ears?

Have you ever witnessed your dog giving another canine a tongue bath and wondered what she was doing? Is she giving kisses? Does she really like him? While people are often guilty of projecting their own feelings and social behaviors on dogs incorrectly, in this case, you may be right. Ever wondered why your dog is licking other dogs' ears? It could be affection, or in some cases, the sign of a medical issue.

Labradors playing
Why Do My Dogs Lick Each Other's Ears?
credit: Stefan Cristian Cioata/Moment/GettyImages

Why do dogs lick?

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs lick for many reasons, which range from hygiene to submission to plain old affection. While dogs can often be seen licking themselves during the occasional bathing ritual, paired-up pals can sometimes be seen licking each other. The most common reason for this seemingly intimate behavior goes back to their days as pack animals. Within dog packs, a hierarchy is formed, with a more dominant dog at the top of the social ladder and submissive canines below them. Submissive dogs and wolves, which include puppies, can often be seen licking at the mouths of dominant dogs for food, acceptance, or even just to say hello.

Of course, licking isn't only a sign of submissive behavior. Because dogs are naturally social creatures, friendliness and camaraderie aren't uncommon among dogs, whether they're in a pack of six, or even when just sharing a home with another pet. Licking in this instance can indicate kinship, or as Wag puts it, a "high five" shared between members of the same canine team, which is often seen when dogs greet each other. While dogs don't use human language to communicate, they have their own ways of expressing themselves, and licking is one of them.

Dog licking other dog's ears

You may have seen your dog licking other dogs' ears, but why? This can usually be attributed to one of two reasons. On the one hand, your dog licking other dogs' ears is nothing more than good old fashioned hospitality. Because dogs can't reach their own ears to clean them, sometimes another dog will offer a hygienic ear-cleaning with that trusty tongue. This can be another way to express affection and is usually seen between dogs with particularly strong relationships, like mother and pup, or dogs that share the same home.

On the other hand, your dog may be licking the ears of his canine companion for medical reasons, says Pet Helpful. Dogs are known for their keen sense of smell, which can pick up scents ranging from a tasty treat that fell between the couch cushions to disease and even cancer inside the human body (depending on the dog, of course.) Among these olfactory efforts are sniffing out disease in other animals, including ear infections or other related health issues. If you notice that your dog's ears are being licked often, a trip to the veterinarian is recommended to rule out possible health issues.

What about licking other animals?

Of course, dogs aren't limited to only licking members of their own species. If your dog is the solo canine in the home, she may look to you as a member of her pack and might use licking as a way to show her affection. An energetic dog who covers your face in licks could be saying, "I'm so happy to see you!" or "I'm nervous, what's happening?" A gentle lick of your hand might signify, "Hi, I'm here, please notice me!"

Should I be concerned?

If you're just running into the occasional lick or even a frequent lick that doesn't last for more than a couple seconds, you likely have nothing to worry about. If your dog is licking nonstop, however, it's definitely worth taking a closer look.

Dogs who lick their own bodies for extended periods of time typically do so to ease irritation on the skin or to address a wound or injury. If your dog is licking her own paws excessively, check for redness or dry skin, which could be the sign of a yeast or bacterial infection caused by allergies, according to PetMD.

The AKC states that constant licking around the anus could be a sign that her anal glands are impacted as well, and both are worth a trip to the doctor to determine the cause, as they are often quick fixes. Obsessive licking can also be the sign of a behavioral disorder, and should also be mentioned to a medical professional to rule out any underlying issues.