Behavior, Blog

Why Does My Dog Nibble My Ear?

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Author: Jacob Kay

Why does my dog nibble my ear? – This is a common query among many dog owners across the country and is a valid one. As an experienced dog owner, you may have surely encountered such weird behaviour. While they are lovely and adorable you have always seen them eating their own poop, licking your nose or other such annoying behaviour.

The simple reasoning behind a dog nibbling your ear is that they are showing their love for you. Strange way of showing it, isn’t it? This article will provide you with such reasons and explain why your dog nibbles and licks your ear. You will also find some tips and tricks to stop this behaviour.

Why Does My Dog Nibble My Ear?

A dog will nibble your ear if they consider you the alpha of their group. It’s a sign of submission and acceptance. In general, you will observe this behaviour in puppies and younger dogs. This doesn’t imply that the adult dogs won’t nibble your ear.

There is no underlying cause explaining such behaviour in dogs. However, one of the reasons that is often used for explaining this is- that they pick the habit of licking and nibbling while grooming each other when they weren’t nurtured by humans.

Let’s understand different reasons to see why dogs nibble your ear:

  • Showing affection

As a dog owner when you show your love by hugging, the same sentiment is shared by your furry friend through this behaviour. We know they are emotional animals and love expressing their emotions. In fact, they nibble their fellow dog’s ears to express their love.

Hence, it’s obvious for them to use the same behaviour while expressing their affection for you. So, whether it’s anger, jealousy, or love, they will start nibbling your ear as it’s their way of sharing their emotion with you.

  • Intent to play

If your puppy is nibbling your ear or even face, they are showing the intent of playing. This is a common behaviour and many dogs have shown this behaviour while showing their willingness to play. in fact, if you observe them with their fellow canine friends, they nibble each other’s ears while playing. However, this behaviour is more common in puppies and as they grow, it fades away.

  • Curiosity

As an experienced dog owner, you are probably aware that dogs have a sense of curiosity. This curious nature of their makes them smell, lick, bite and taste different things regardless of what it is. So, it’s normal for them to apply this instinctive behaviour and in the process end up nibbling your ear.

Further, if you have changed your body fragrance, or applied some cream on your face you can expect them to nibble your ears, especially if you have used any cream. It’s an indirect invitation for them and they will bite your ear to taste the fragrance of the new cream you used.

  • Grooming you

Before humans began to groom the dogs, their natural habitat was wild and they used to clean each other by licking and nibbling activities. So, when they see some dirt near your ear, they try and clean it. This grooming from your furry friend is safe and there is nothing to be worried about.

However, there is a genuine concern as well. The nibbling of ears may lead to bacterial infection and if the dog nibbles aggressively, an accidental ear bite can occur. Such instances can completely damage the ear. So, if you are concerned about the saliva getting into your ear canal, you can try diverting your furry friend’s attention.

  • Seeking attention

It’s possible that when your dog licked or bit your ear to get your attention, they succeeded. So, while you ignore this aspect, dogs will always continue the pattern which works out for them and as this was the only way they got your attention, you will see them nibble your ear more often.

Interestingly, many dog owners encourage this behaviour and this makes it a habit. There is no issue with the encouragement but, often this biting behaviour starts to reflect more in their routine. For instance, the dog will start nibbling the ears of the family members as well.

  • Boredom

At times, your dog is simply bored and to cope with this boredom, they will try doing different activities. And nibbling your ear is one such activity. They will nibble and lick your ear to keep themselves busy.

As a dog owner, it’s crucial for you to control the instinct to nibble your ear out of boredom. Try engaging them in different exercises or simply play fetch with them. Just make sure you don’t allow this behaviour to become their habit.

  • Excitement

When your dog is happy or excited, you will see them lick your face and nibble your ear. This is their way of greeting and expressing their excitement. For instance, if they are alone in the house for a longer period you will see them burst with joy once you enter the house.

Further, if you provide a food treat or simply give them a new toy, they will nibble your ear out of excitement.

Additional reasons for dogs nibbling ears

Image by: LSOphoto / iStockphoto

There are many reasons for a dog’s nibbling behaviour, there are some additional reasons as well. Here are some of them:

  • Dog wants something – lack of attention can cause your dog to chew your ears and gain your attention. They may either want their meal or some toy to play with.
  • Has to poop – seems strange but, often you’ll see them nibble your face and ear suggesting they need to poop.
  • Is stressed – when your dog is in stress, you will see them nibble their own skin and also your face or ear.

Now, before we get details on how to control this behaviour, let’s have some insights into a similar behaviour trait i.e. mouthing.

Mouthing vs. Nibbling

There is common confusion between mouthing and nibbling, both events are comprehended as identical behaviour but, there is a small distinction. While nibbling involves gentle chewing, mouthing behaviour only includes grabbing stuff.

So, when a dog is showing mouthing behaviour it’s only because they are trying to assess their environment. In addition, the mouthing behaviour also suggests their wish to play with you, their frustration, or their excitement.

Controlling The Nibbling Behaviour Of The Dog

While the nibbling behaviour is not bothersome, it can get annoying, gross, and dangerous (if the dog bites your ear). So, it’s important to control this nibbling behaviour and make sure it doesn’t become their instinctive response for every activity. Here are some of the tips you can consider to manage such licking and nibbling behaviour.

Image by: Tatsiana Volkava / iStockphoto

#1 Divert their attention

Diverting their attention is the simplest way to get your furry friend to stop nibbling your ear. Use some toy or food item to distract them. In addition, you simply instruct them to go near the play area. This will show them you are willing to play and they will hop off and settle at the place.

#2 Exercise

Many dogs get bored easily. There are many reasons causing this boredom. But, mainly the lack of exercise bores them and they behave differently, in this case nibbling. The lack of exercise has more impact on highly energetic dogs. So it’s crucial you provide your dog with enough exercise so that they don’t have the energy left for nibbling your ear.

#3 Food treat

A tasty food treat always helps in managing the dog’s behaviour. You can easily control their nibbling behaviour with the help of different food treats. So, here are some basic tricks you can consider:

  • Whenever your dog nibbles your ear, show them the food treat you have prepared for them. This will redirect their focus and they will stop nibbling your ear in that moment.
  • Make them smell the treat but, don’t serve immediately. After some time, give them the treat and see their response. Continue this routine for a couple of days.
  • After a couple of days, you’ll see that they have stopped nibbling your ear. Instead, they will remain at the place you serve them the food treat.

The food treat trick will surely work but, it’s possible that your dog may still nibble your ear once in a while. This is normal, however, if you wish to make sure they don’t get back to nibbling you don’t give them the treat that day. This will let them know that the behaviour is inappropriate and if they want their treat they must stop nibbling your ear.

#4 Chew toys

The nibbling behaviour in puppies is more in comparison with the adult dogs. But, often they do this because they are teething. In such cases, their urge to nibble on things and you will rise. So, try using chew toys to help them release this urge.

Also, make sure you avoid using small toys or the ones that break down easily. The reason is simple, your furry friend may end up swallowing the toy or the broken pieces. This can lead to blockage in their stomach and cause health issues.

#5 Socialising

Socialising your furry friend with other people and fellow canine is a nice way to take their mind off the nibbling. This will not only help you control their licking and nibbling behaviour but, also help relieve them from stress and control their fearful aggressive behaviour.

#6 Improve their obedience

You can always work on your dog’s obedience and improve their ability to follow different commands. To stop them from nibbling you can set up some phrases such as “stop it”, “don’t”, and “bad dog”. Use these phrases frequently and make realise this behaviour is not acceptable.

They will feel sad but, you can make up for it by using some small chewy toys as a distraction and avoid making them feel bad about the interference with their nibbling.

#7 Remain strict

It’s important you show firm resistance when the dog nibbles your ears. This means you have to be strict and reject any attempt they make for nibbling your ear.

While you leverage these techniques to control the nibbling behaviour, it’s important to remain patient and use them with a proper strategy at a gradual pace. Otherwise, it may elevate the behaviour or worse make them more aggressive.

Also, make sure you don’t punish or yell at your dog if they are not following your instructions. This will make them fearful and their mental condition can get bad.


Why does my dog lick and nibble my ear?

Normally, when a dog wants to express certain emotions or share their feeling such as excitement or just feel like greeting you, it will lick and nibble your ear. This is their way of acknowledging you as their leader and also showing the love and respect they have for you. Sometimes it’s also the lotion you use for your skin, the list can go on.

Why do dogs lick your face and ears?

Dog licking your face and ears is a normal behaviour and a positive gesture from their side. If you are not having issues with this activity, you can allow them to lick or nibble your face or ears once in a while. But, remember, too much leeway can make this a habit and they will start nibbling your ear every time they need something.

Should I allow my dog to nibble my ear?

Yes, you can choose to allow your dog to nibble your ear. But, if you make it a habit, they will continue to nibble your ear unnecessarily. Also, at times dogs’ impulsive behaviour can result in extra pressure and a small nibble can turn into a big bite. This can damage your ear and because you didn’t resist or control their behaviour, they are not aware that it’s hurting you.

Do dogs licking human ears cause infection?

Yes, some vet experts suggest that when a dog continuously licks and nibbles a human ear, there is a possibility of infection. This infection may pass around and other family members may also suffer. The chances are slim but, if your dog does develop this habit, you should try and control it.

Concluding Remarks

We hope you got a precise answer to your query – why does my dog nibble my ear? The common aspect is that they like ears and the smell around that region, especially if you apply some sort of lotion. In addition, factors such as love, stress, and excitement also impact their nibbling behaviour.

The nibbling behaviour is normal and fades away as the pup becomes an adult. But, you have to control it or else risk your pup reflecting the same behaviour in their adulthood. The continuous nibbling behaviour can also make them lick other people’s ears and it’s not a good sign.

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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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