Dog Care

WHY DOES MY DOG NIBBLE MY EAR?

Our dogs exhibit some strange habits from time to time. Some of these habits are adorable while others are just disgusting. Some of these behaviors have been linked to their wolf ancestry, they were means of preservation, communication, and identification in those times.

One of the strange habits our dogs exhibit is nibbling our ears, if you are reading this your dog has likely shown some fascination with your ear. Licking and nibbling on them from time to time. This queer behavior leads you to ask yourself.

“Why does my dog nibble my ear?”

This question is actually a common one discussed in the dog community, and canine experts have come up with some explanations why your dog may be nibbling on your ear.

The reasons why your dog is nibbling on your ear can be broken down into the following reasons.

  1. Your puppy is developing.
  2. Your dog is giving you respect
  3. Your dog is investigating your ear.
  4. Your dog is grooming you.
  5. Your dog is showing your some affection.
  6. Your dog is reminding you of something.
  7. Your dog is being playful.

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Let’s look at each of these reasons in more detail.

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1.Your puppy is developing.

Your puppy may nibble on your ear because he or she is teething. The teething process is one of the developmental stages in a puppy where they start growing puppy teeth. This stage is a bit painful and uncomfortable to them and they might try to nibble on your ear to ease the pain they feel.

Of course, this nibbling is harmless, but even at that, it should not be encouraged. You see your puppy at this stage is trying to explore the world around them. Fortunately or unfortunately for dogs they a limited to the senses of smell and taste for exploration, but this is what makes them develop perfect smell senses.

They are testing out what is called bite inhibition, in simple terms, it means how far they are allowed to bite on something. They usually would test this out on various parts of your body, your legs, hands, ears, etc. The more you don’t resist the nibble, the more they are encouraged to continue.

If your puppy nibbles on your ear, it’s probably advisable to stop playing with the puppy and leave them on their own. This helps to teach them earlier on that this nibbling behavior is not acceptable, and they would be forced to stop this before the nibbling gets dangerous.

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2.Your dog is giving you respect.

In the olden days, wolves used to pay respect to their alphas in different forms. One of the ways in which they did this was by licking and nibbling on the alpha’s ear. This behavior was more prevalent in the ones that were most submissive to the alpha’s authority. It was a way of saying they respect the alpha and are willing to continue being members of his pack.

Fast forward to today’s world, your dog can lick and nibble on your ears for the same reason. They may as well be letting you know that they accept your authority and will willingly go any length to please you.

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3.Your dog is investigating your ear.

Believe it or not, your dog can learn a lot about you from just nibbling and licking your ears. Like we said earlier, a dog’s sense of smell and taste are heightened and these sense organs are highly developed in our dogs.

Our dogs tend to explore the environment and everything around them using these sense organs majorly, which means, your dog can nibble on your ear to investigate the new smell of that new body lotion which you just started using. You may also be coming back from the gym and your dog would nibble and lick the sweat on your skin to get a sense of who you actually are.

Strange enough, our dogs are more attracted to us when we are all sweaty and messy because to them we are in our natural state then, unlike when we bath and cover ourselves up with all sorts of lotions and fragrances. Some dogs even like the bitter taste of your ear wax. As gross as that may be, that is the reality.

So, the next time your dog nibbles on your ear, he or she may just be trying to understand what makes you a unique person, much like in the same way he or she might be trying to spread their scent on you to claim ownership.

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4.Your dog is grooming you.

If you have observed a pack of dogs for some time, you will notice that one of the ways they interact with one another is by grooming themselves. This is a primal instinct, basically pack members take turns grooming each other especially when it involves parts of their body that they cannot reach.

A perfect example is their ear, packs in the family take turns to groom each other’s ear. This area being a difficult area to access for any dog.

This instinct is still very much alive in our dogs no matter how domesticated and well-groomed they are. They transfer this behavior to you being part of the pack, your ear needs some grooming, even though our physiology is such that we can take care of our ears by ourselves. Our dog’s primal instinct would be for them to do it for us. It doesn’t mean your ear is soo dirty, no, it simply means your dog wants to take care of you in his or her own way.

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5.Your dog is showing your some affection.

This form of nibbling your ear is usually accompanied by some nuzzling. Your dog is using this medium to tell you that he or she loves you and is comfortable being around you. The nuzzling after the nibbling is a way of trying to bond with you.

You see one of the ways in which your dog would try to bond with you is called “scent marking”. Their nibbling and nuzzling your ears and trying to be close to you is a way of putting their scent on you. You can compare it to putting on a body deodorant.

This is something they do with that person they consider to be special and want to be affectionate with. This is also a way of telling other dogs that you are taken. Like an engagement ring or a public announcement of their relationship with you.

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6.Your dog is reminding you of something.

As with many things in life, not all answers are as complicated as people would make them out to be. Your dog nibbling on your ear can just be a simple way he or she is trying to remind you of something.

Your ear seems to be the closest to him or her at the time and they probably want to remind you in a manner that would not seem too invasive to you.

Is it potty time? Is it lunchtime? Is it time for your daily walk? No matter what it is, your dog is just trying to remind you to do the needful. After all, you are the top dog and nothing happens in your pack without your approval.

7.Your dog is being playful.

This behavior is common with puppies. They are always in a playful and adventurous mood and would lick and nibble on anything to elicit a reaction. Now, this behavior is not restricted to puppies only. Older dogs are known to lick and nibble an ear in playful moods too, but not as often as a puppy would do so.

When nibbling your ear to play, you will notice that they might move around a bit as if trying to invite you to play.

Now, although the intention behind the nibbling is an innocent one, this should not be encouraged especially for older dogs as this act may lead to injury. Dogs especially older dogs are known to have bitten their owners unintentionally in this manner.


HOW TO STOP YOUR DOG FROM NIBBLING ON YOUR EAR.

Now that we have given you the possible answers to the questions “why does my dog lick my ear” or “why does my dog nibble my ear?” The next question would be should I allow this behavior to continue?

Basically, a dog nibbling on your ear once in a blue moon is not a big deal. It is not something to make a fuss about, but if you notice that your dog is trying to make it a normal habit, you should put a stop to it immediately.

Here are steps you can take to prevent your dog from nibbling on your ear.

i.) Start training your dog on this habit: Any time your dog or puppy nibbles on your ear, you can let out an “Ouch” and leave the area for some time (maybe ten to twenty minutes). You can come back and continue interacting with your dog, but if they are insistent on nibbling your ear then you have to keep extending the time out period. As time goes on your dog will start to realize that nibbling on your ears only brings the negative outcome of abandonment and that is definitely not what they want.

ii.)Provide alternatives: This is especially true for puppies when they are teething. Providing Chew toys will go a long way in helping them to manage the process. Remember they are young, their gums hurt and they basically don’t understand what is going on with their body. In this situation, a variety of chew toys should be made available for your puppies to keep their interest on the toys.

Older dogs do well with puzzle toys, especially the ones in which they get a reward after completing the puzzle. A good example would be kong toys where they get the hidden treat in the toy at the end of the game.

iii.)Take your dog on a walk or exercise them: Your dog may just be feeling bored. Engaging them physically from time to time helps to ease this boredom and take their mind off the nibbling habit.

Most dogs would be excited and the prospect of going out with their dog parents, this represents some form of adventure which most dogs look forward to. They get to find and investigate new sounds, tastes, and smells, and at the end of the day, they are mostly satisfied enough to just relax at home with you without creating a fuss.

iv.)Involve the experts: When all else fails call your vet doctor or a canine behaviorist, there might be more to what is going on with your dog. This may be taking the dimension of compulsive behavior which would need both medical and psychological approaches to deal with it.

Can a dog licking your ear give you an infection?

Yes, you can get an infection by having your ears licked by a dog. This is especially true for dogs that live with other dogs and pets. There is a high probability that your dog can act as an agent carrying some infection from the dog or pet while grooming them and transferring the same to you.

Basically, if you have been exposed to excessive licking from your dog, it is advisable that both of you get medically checked to confirm your infection status and take any other necessary steps required.


IN CONCLUSION

Having your dog nibble on your ear once in a while is not something that should be a major concern, this like a dog trying to hump you are primal instincts and with a little training and redirection, this should be corrected. You can compare it to moving or traveling to another continent with a different set of rules and culture. Things you consider normal would likely not be so there and you will find yourself undergoing some sort of learning curve. This applies to your dog in this instance.

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