Nothing gives us joy more than seeing our dogs smile.
Well, maybe winning the lottery is a close second.
But a happy pooch = happy life.
And one of the things we do to make them happy is pet them.
Rubbing your fur baby in their ear is a classic dog parent move.
They just glow like the sun.
But it can make someone wonder, “What is up with ear rubs?”
Why do our pooch like them so much?
Is there a secret “happy” button in there somewhere?
Read on to learn:
- When the best time is to rub their ears.
- If rubbing their ears is equivalent to feeling high.
- 13 surprising reasons why dogs like their ears rubbed.
- And that’s just the beginning…
Table of contents
Why do dogs like their ears rubbed?
Dogs like their ears being rubbed because this part of their body has a lot of nerves and it’s very sensitive. Canines also see physical touch such as rubs as a way to bond with you. Ear rubbing releases endorphins and makes them feel ecstatic. It can also make your dog feel comforted and loved.
13 reasons why dogs like their ears rubbed
#1: They can’t massage their ears
…And they like it when someone does it for them.
While it’s true that dogs can reach their ears, the only action they can do is scratching.
They might even rub their ears on rough surfaces such as walls and floors to relieve the feeling.
However, when you rub them, it feels like a massage.
Soft. Warm. Gentle.
Just like how it feels when your massage therapist just hits the right spot.
It can sometimes feel like you’re flying into outer space on a cloud made of cotton candy.
That’s how your dog feels at times when you rub their ears.
It can also help them feel relaxed.
Gentle rubs and massages can also help your pooch:
- Be less anxious.
- Reduce muscle pains.
- Relieve muscle tightness.
- Have better blood circulation
When you do try rubbing their ears, you must do it tenderly.
There are dogs whose ears can be sensitive and will grow with deformities if you play rough with it.
Especially if your dog belongs to a breed that has naturally pointy or standing ears such as:
- Boston terrier.
- Belgian malinois.
- German Shepherd.
- Alaskan malamute.
You might hinder the healthy growth of their ears, so rub them gently.
#2: Their ears have nerve endings
…Which means they have lots and lots of receptors that make it sensitive.
Have you ever tried using a head scalp massager?
These bad boys look like one of these.
If you or someone you know owns this and has tried to use it on you, you know what I’m talking about.
The eye-roll and sighs that come with it when you use the head scalp massager?
That’s a given.
It feels like your soul is being taken by the angels using their soft and warm hands.
This happens because our scalps have nerve endings that are sensitive to the touch.
A study shows that head massages reduced signs of depression and managed anxiety levels.
This might be what’s happening to your pooch, too.
I mean just look at them enjoying a good head massage:
If you also rub them in their ears, you could be hitting the sensitive nerve endings and induce the same reaction from them.
Eyes closed and head pushed forward in pleasure…
“Ahh… life is good”, your fur baby might think.
#3: They are comfortable with you
Dogs are very loving creatures.
Especially to those who provide them with the same level of affection and care.
And when you’ve built this level of relationship with your fur baby, they start to become comfortable with you.
They let you do things that they normally wouldn’t let strangers do to them.
Dogs would usually be uncomfortable when humans touch their mouths. But some might tolerate it if it comes from their dog parent.
And that could be one of the reasons why they like it when you rub their ears.
Because they’re comfortable with you and they trust you.
#4: It feels like grooming to them
Dogs are hygienic creatures and they love keeping themselves clean.
However, baby pups still don’t know how to do this.
It’s not like they can watch a Youtube how-to video and learn how to bathe themselves in the bathroom.
Complete with full haircare and skincare products that would make your pooch look like a Hollywood star.
What happens is that their biological mom is the one that grooms them to keep them clean.
She licks her babies all over to remove dirt and excess hair.
Dog moms even do this when they give birth to help their pups breathe.
It’s a behavior in canines that signify care and love and that’s why your dog would also lick you at times.
Grooming is one of the ways they show affection.
And when you rub their ears, they are reminded of the way their dog parents used to lick them.
#5: It’s a way they build a relationship with you
Physical touch is one of the most common ways to bond with your pooch.
Cuddles, kisses, even scratches can help you create a long-lasting and happy relationship with your fur baby.
And it’s not just good for them, it’s beneficial for fur parents like you, too.
Based on a study, human-animal interactions have been found to have a positive effect on both humans and animals. During times of affection, human and animal brains release oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is closely related to our social ties as humans.
It releases a surge of positive feelings in you and helps create better bonds and relationships with others.
But this isn’t exclusive to humans alone.
Dogs can feel this way, too… towards you!
This can happen when you rub their ears. Or when you apply any other modes of physical touch mentioned earlier.
The more you do it, the more you spend time being with your pooch, the stronger your bond will be.
#6: It releases endorphins
“Wait… what’s the difference between oxytocin and endorphins?”
The distinction between the two puzzled me before, too.
It might be minute but, there is a difference between these two hormones.
Oxytocin is mainly produced through physical touch and can increase the bond between two beings.
Endorphins on the other hand are typically released by our bodies to relieve pain and stress.
This usually happens when we engage in reward-giving activities.
This includes rubbing your dog’s ears.
It can also be a way for you to familiarize yourself with your pooch.
Rubbing your dog’s ears can also reduce feelings of anxiety.
It makes them feel safe, comforted and loved.
#7: It has a calming effect
Imagine sitting on your comfy couch. You’re reading a good book. And sipping your green tea on a cozy afternoon.
Sounds like a relaxing and calming moment, right?
Oh, I’d love to have one of these soon.
And your pooch sure would love to experience a relaxing activity, too.
Well, they can. It’s just they won’t achieve it by doing what we humans do to relax and calm down.
I mean, it would be funny to see your dog with their eyes closed listening to an empowering podcast with a glass of sangria in their paws.
And they’d whisper softly to themselves, “You’re strong, loved, and cared for”.
They can’t do this, unfortunately.
However, you, their fur parent, can do something about it.
One of the ways you can calm the down is by rubbing their ears.
As long as you do it gently and with consistent light pressure on their ears – they’re well on their way to Nirvana.
You might find this helpful especially if you have hyperactive dogs that are just full of energy.
The ones that can outrun Mr. Incredible’s son, Dash? Yep, they exist.
According to the AKC, examples of these dog breeds are the following:
- Russell Terrier.
- Golden Retriever.
- German Shepherd.
- Shetland Sheepdog.
- Australian Shepherd.
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
- Dalmatian. (Maybe because they’re used to running from Cruella de Vil?)
#8: They are ticklish
We all have that one friend that is ticklish. And boy, do we enjoy tickling them!
One quick rub and they’re down on the ground. Folded like laundry trying hard to breathe through the sensation.
They might even laugh uncontrollably and it makes us laugh, too.
Well, humans aren’t alone in feeling this sensation.
Mammals, and in this case, dogs, can feel ticklish.
When you rub your dog in their ears, they feel a surge of sensation in that area.
They sometimes even do involuntary movements when rubbed. For example, kicking and thumping their legs.
They also have other reactions when they like the rubs such as:
- Wagging their tail.
- Laying down on the ground.
Just make sure that they really are enjoying the ear rubs and the ticklish feeling.
“How do I know if they don’t like it?”
If they do the following actions, they might not be into it at the moment:
- Tucking their tail.
- Showing their teeth.
- Curling away from you.
#9: It means you’re spending quality time with them
There are a number of love languages we humans have.
But if we ask our pooch, they might speak all the love languages.
They like spending every waking moment with us and being by our side.
They’d especially like it if you’ve been gone for the whole day.
Like when you go to work, or out for a full day errand run.
But it’s okay. Life sometimes gets in the way of us spending time with our pooch.
And when we do have the time to spare to be with them, they always welcome us back with open arms… ugh, paws.
Cuddling, kissing, playing with them. These are all means of spending quality time with our fur babies.
This could be why your pooch does weird things like following you around. And sniffing your leg all day long.
Spending quality time with them includes something as simple as rubbing their ears.
This feeling of wanting to be with you all day is more evident in canines who are considered as “velcro dogs”
They are highly likely to be clingy canines and want your attention more often.
Examples of these dogs are:
- Shih Tzu.
- Great Dane.
- Welsh Corgi.
- Basset Hound.
- Cocker Spaniel.
- Giant Schnauzer.
They are like pieces of metal and you’re a gigantic magnet.
They might even come and jump on you while you’re chilling on your couch.
#10: They see you enjoying it
A dog’s love is unconditional.
You could be coming home from work, tired, a little sweaty, and grumpy. Despite that, your pooch will always greet you with a wagging tail.
And because of their enthusiasm and positive energy, you smile. And become a little bit happier, too.
Dogs are like a song that triggers a happy memory.
Just hearing the first few notes and you’re smiling.
And surprise, surprise, your dog knows and loves it when you’re happy.
A study even shows that our pooch can hear our emotions.
It goes on to mention previous studies that show dogs can read human emotions through our faces.
That’s why canines make excellent emotional support pets because they can understand and know how someone feels.
#11: They get high from all the hormones
Yes, dogs get high from the chemicals released by their own brains.
Where do you think Snoop Dogg got his name?
If your pooch were a rap artist, they’d sing, “Smoke hormones every day”.
Kidding aside, yes, they do feel a sensation of being “high” when you rub their ears.
Maybe not to the extent of taking actual recreational drugs, but the feeling is still there.
This is related to #6 as the reason why dogs feel “high” is due to the release of endorphins from their brains.
With the surge of this hormone comes the feeling of being relaxed and calm that’s why they might look like they’re “high”.
It can induce a euphoric feeling in them and helps them be more relaxed and lower their anxiety levels.
When this happens, they tend to be more laid back and have a tranquil outward appearance.
#12: You relieved an itch
We can call it a lucky coincidence. But yes, your dog might like you rubbing their ears because you scratched an itch.
Remember how it feels when someone relieves you of this feeling?
Especially if it’s a part of your back you can’t reach?
Ooohhh. Yep, that’s how it is with your pooch sometimes.
And when you do this, they’ll be eternally grateful to you.
Wanting to have an itch scratched could also be a reason why your dog rolls on their back when you approach them.
However, this is all good if the itch is a one-time-only feeling.
“So you’re saying there’s a bad kind of itch?”
But don’t worry, let’s discuss what you can do to help alleviate this.
Fleas and mites
One of the main reasons why your pooch is feeling itchy is because of parasites.
They might be biting your pooch or are even burrowing under their skin.
“What then, should I do?”
You can start removing pests by using anti-flea shampoo.
These are specifically created for dogs so that it doesn’t give them any rashes and other skin problems.
Here is an example of an effective anti-flea and tick dog shampoo on Amazon.
If you do find out that the parasite infestation has already spread throughout their body, then a visit to the vet might be better.
They can give your pooch oral tablets to help alleviate the problem.
Your vet can also check other skin issues caused by ticks and provide them with treatments.
To keep fleas out of your pooch, make sure that your home is free from these pests.
Here are some ways you can do this:
- Trim your bushes and lawn.
- Put anti-flea products e.g. tick collar on your dog to keep them safe when you’re out on a walk.
- Regularly clean and expose every corner of your home as these pests have the tendency to hide from sunlight.
This health problem might stem from different sources such as:
- Interactions with other dogs.
If you notice your dog frequently scratching an area in their body such as their ears, check out the condition of their skin.
There should be no cuts and wounds that have been created due to their itching behavior.
If you do see some, then a visit to the vet will also be helpful.
In the case of food allergies, they can help you rule out which food might have triggered the allergy.
Vets can do a blood and saliva test to know the possible causes of their condition.
If your pooch already has inflammation, redness, and other skin irritations due to the allergies, then your vet might do the following:
- Giving them antihistamine.
- Medicated shampoo baths.
- Giving them antibiotics and antifungal medications.
#13: You have trained them to like ear rubs
“Yeah, uhh… no, I don’t think so.”
Well, not explicitly.
There are certain behaviors that your dog does that could be a result of you mistakenly training them.
“Really? How so?”
Dogs have the tendency to repeat a behavior when you encourage them.
You can do this by giving them treats, attention, and other forms of rewards after you rub their ears.
They might be thinking, “Hey, if I let my hooman rub my ear, I’ll get treats.”
And then continually let you rub their ears.
They might even start to ask for rubs just to get the rewards after.
Well, it wouldn’t be extra work for us.
After all, we love seeing them happy and if rubbing their ears makes them feel this way, then we fur parents would love to oblige.
People also ask:
Do dogs really get high when you rub their ears?
Dogs do get the feeling of being high when you rub their ears. This is caused by the surge of endorphins from their brains. Hormones can have an effect on your pooch. Endorphins specifically are known to make your pooch calm, relaxed, and have lower feelings of anxiety.
It isn’t the kind of high that makes your fur babies drooling addicts to a certain drug.
However, the mixture of chemicals released by their brains might make them seem that way.
Just look at them smiling with their eyes closed, looking laid back and happy.
Do dogs like being scratched behind their ears?
Dogs like being scratched behind their ears. Canines consider physical affection such as cuddling, petting, and rubs a form of bonding. Their brains will also release hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins due to these activities. Dogs may also associate rubbing with grooming.
It’s a memory they might closely relate to their biological mom.
When they were young, they didn’t have the skills to clean themselves yet.
What happened then?
Their dog mom would clean them by licking them all over.
The feeling of rubbing their ears mimics the same sensation.
Why does my dog groan when I rub his ears?
Dogs groan when you rub their ears because it’s a reaction to the pleasure they’re feeling at the moment. Canines have been known to communicate their feelings through vocalizations. The most frequent ones they do are moans, groans, and sighing.
They might even whine or growl in a low-pitched voice to indicate that they are feeling pleasure.
Rubbing your dog’s ears is a positive physical interaction for them.
It releases certain hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins. These make canines feel good.
That’s why some dogs react this way to show that they like it.