You’re taken aback as your dog nibbles your ears…
“I’m not your chew toy!” That’s what you tell them.
But your canine persists in nibbling…
Oh, why do they do that?
Read on to discover:
- 13 reasons why your dog nibbles your ears.
- 5 tips on how to stop your pooch from ear-nibbling you.
- If your dog wants to eat you and shows it through this behavior.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog nibble my ears?
- 13 reasons why your dog nibbles your ears
- #1: It’s a normal communicative behavior
- #2: They want to know you more
- #3: A regular social interaction called grooming
- #4: A show of comfort and trust
- #5: It’s due to boredom
- #6: Affection
- #7: Playfulness
- #8: Excitement
- #9: Encouragement
- #10: Attention-seeking
- #11: Anxiety
- #12: They’re hungry
- #13: They like the taste
- Should I let my dog nibble me?
- How do I stop my dog from nibbling my ears? 5 tips
- People also ask:
Why does my dog nibble my ears?
Your dog nibbles your ears to communicate, socialize, and bond with you. It’s also due to boredom, affection, playfulness, excitement, encouragement, hunger, or attention-seeking. They do it as a display of anxiety, comfort, or trust. Sometimes, they like the taste of your ears.
13 reasons why your dog nibbles your ears
#1: It’s a normal communicative behavior
Belonging to an entirely different species, dogs have their ways of communicating.
One of those ways is tactile communication.
It’s where they use physical contact to send a message.
Moreover, humans practice tactile communication with dogs too. However, not a lot of people understand the significance of this form of contact.
Here’s what research says about this type of communication:
It could result in many emotional states in you and your canine.
That’s because physical contact between human and dog can:
- Reinforce your dog positively.
- Increase immune system functions in humans.
- Decrease heart rate, therefore calming the person.
Furthermore, tactile communication only lasts for a short time. That’s why dogs rarely use this mode of communication.
It’s only humans that initiate and maintain this type of contact.
Now, there are many kinds of tactile communication…
However, let’s just focus on nibbling.
According to research, nibbling isn’t related to status at all.
That means that there’s no show of dominance or appeasement in this behavior.
All it reflects are highly positive emotions towards another being.
Moreover, the contact alone creates emotional bonds between the individuals. And that can happen regardless of your dog’s status in the social group.
#2: They want to know you more
I previously mentioned that this form of contact strengthens your bond with your dog…
However, physical contact’s not the only way to do that…
Your pooch might be multitasking.
This time they’re using their strong sense of smell.
Let’s first understand the power of a dog’s nose…
Vets say dogs smell at least 10,000 times better than humans do.
Now, what does this connect to nibbling your ears?
Doing so lets them near an area that they don’t usually reach.
While nibbling your ears, they’re also able to smell you in that part.
With that, your pooch gets more familiar with you. They get to know your smell even better.
The importance of familiarity in dogs
Dogs flourish in consistency, which is also similar to familiarity.
For your fur baby, they like things the way they are. That’s why changing furniture or moving to a new apartment could shock your pooch…
Even things like changes in your work schedule can affect them, too.
Warning: That shock coming from change can even cause depression in dogs. That’s what vets from PetMD say.
Moreover, familiarity has positive effects on your dog.
Based on this study’s findings, empathy and familiarity in dogs have a link.
Dogs are compelled to share food with their canine friends, but only if they’re familiar with them.
You’ve probably seen your pooch nibble on another dog.
If you have a cat, your dog could nibble at your cat as well.
Now, when it comes to nibbling you…
That’s where it gets weird.
Moreover, the part that your pup’s nibbling is your ear…
So far, you’ve learned in this article that nibbling is a form of communication…
In this part, I’ll talk about how nibbling is a part of grooming. Such is a normal social interaction in dogs.
Let’s first start with the fact that:
Dogs can’t go on a grocery run and purchase hygienic items.
So what do they do?
Grooming in dogs
Dogs make use of what they have: their tongue, teeth, and mouth.
Now, grooming is the attempt to clean themselves using those body parts.
And since they don’t have long hands and gripping fingers…
They rely on fellow canines to reach the body parts that they can’t.
That’s why grooming is an essential form of social interaction in dogs. It’s also part of their tactile communication.
Furthermore, nibbling is part of that grooming behavior.
It’s also called corn cobbing.
That’s because it looks like your dog is eating corn on a cob. That’s due to the open-and-close motion that they do with their mouth.
Now, I said earlier that it might be weird for you that your dog nibbles you.
On the other hand, your canine is unbothered. This is just normal and social behavior for them…
So, there’s nothing to feel weird about this…
Your pooch just wants to help you clean up.
Note: Your ears could be clean, but your pooch would still do this.
#4: A show of comfort and trust
I want to let you know that dogs only groom those that they’re close to.
Back in the wild, grooming is a part of the pack’s activities.
Today, the family that takes care of a dog is their pack…
That includes you!
With that, your dog is driven to groom you as a part of taking care of you.
There’s this thing called allogrooming…
And let me share with you what experts say about it…
Dogs do it without any expectation for any return of the same behavior.
Furthermore, you can’t really reciprocate in the same way. You can’t nibble or lick your dog in return…
If you would, that would be called mutual grooming. It’s because you returned the favor, and both of you have benefited from the interaction.
Overall, this interaction represents hygiene, sociability, and trust.
With that, you can say that when your dog nibbles your ears, they trust you. It also means that they’re comfortable with you.
Read more: 21 Signs Your Dog Fully Trusts You (With His Life!)
#5: It’s due to boredom
Here comes the #1 enemy of dog parents all over the world…
It’s dog boredom.
Why did I give it that title?
It’s because boredom affects your dog in many different ways. And these could affect you, too.
It’s still vague, so let me explain further…
Boredom extremely torments your dog. That’s because they’re highly social beings…
That’s why having nothing to do or pay attention to is torture for them!
So, your bored pooch creates their own entertainment when they feel dull.
In this case, your pup chooses to access your ears and nibble them.
If it isn’t your ears, there are other signs of boredom. Those are:
- Being restless.
- Excessive barking.
- Chewing your socks, clothes, or blankets.
- Trying to access the trash or food cabinets.
- Humping anything, like your arm or your cat.
- Whining when they see you or feel you’re around.
Warning: Boredom is an unhealthy feeling for your dog.
It can make your dog unhappy.
Moreover, experts say that it can contribute to more serious problems like:
- Separation anxiety.
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Lastly, these are the causes of boredom according to AKC:
- Lack of exercise.
- Insufficient training.
- Inadequate socialization.
- Insufficient mental stimulation.
Nibbling your ears is a gesture of affection from your dog.
It might start with a simple licking of ears at first…
Then, gradually, your pup begins to feel more love and turn to nibble.
Dogs and love
“Does my dog really love me?”
The answer to that question is a big ‘yes!’
This research says so…
Neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Berns studied the brains of 12 trained and awake dogs. Along with his co-authors, they did so using fMRI scanning.
They investigated the dogs’ reactions to the following:
- Strange dog.
- Familiar dog.
- Strange human.
- Familiar human.
The study concluded that dogs reacted differently to the scent of a familiar human.
When exposed to a familiar human scent, the dogs’ ‘brain reward center’ lit up. That reward center is referred to as the ‘caudate nucleus’ in the paper.
Moreover, this reward center in a canine’s brain is also present in humans.
It can light up on humans when they’re shown pictures of people they love…
Now that you know the capability of a dog feeling love, you gotta spot it in action.
Vets give us a list of how dogs show their love. Those are:
- Gazing lovingly at you.
- Following you everywhere.
- Snuggling at you after mealtime.
- Sleeping beside you to protect you.
- Bringing you their toys to play with.
- Jumping at you, whether you’re sitting or standing.
Also check out: Quiz: Does My Dog Love Me? Test It With These 27 Signs
That ear-nibbling could be your pup’s way to ask you…
“Ask me what?”
They’re hoping you’d play with them.
Dog’s can’t come up to you and say, “Hooman, let’s play…”
Instead, they make use of their body language and tactile communication.
Other signs of playfulness are:
- Play bowing.
- Bouncy movements.
- Exposing their belly.
- Play-growling, which is accompanied by calm grunts.
Moreover, you might be worried about your dog nibbling your ears.
That’s because the behavior involves dog teeth being near your face…
Experts guarantee that if it’s playful, it won’t be harsh. Your dog won’t be carrying any tension on their mouth…
Therefore it won’t involve any aggression.
Warning: Pain during play nibbling would depend on your dog’s bite inhibition. If they’re properly trained, your dog could control their mouth and cause less to no pain.
What play frequency has to say
This study suggests something about a dog’s play frequency…
It says that play forms an emotionally-based bond between humans and dogs.
Lastly, it’s also an indicator of the quality of your relationship with your pooch.
Imagine a replay of a game in whatever sport.
When someone scores, you’d see that crowds hug each other to celebrate.
Those hugs are a response to excitement…
Dogs may not experience the same situation, but they know the feeling…
And our canine friends can’t hide their excitement, too!
They show this enthusiasm in many ways.
And that includes nibbling your ears if they can reach it…
Situations that could get your dog excited:
- The anticipation of food.
- Noticing that you’re getting up.
- Seeing their leash, which indicates that they’re about to go on a walk.
- When you put your shoes on, meaning you’re going out. Your pooch thinks that they’re going with you.
Other signs of an excited dog include:
- Play bowing.
- Gazing eyes.
- Relaxed mouth and ears.
- Extreme wagging of the tail.
Since you’re in this article, one thing’s safe to say…
You’ve experienced your dog nibbling your ears.
The sensation might have felt weird and tingly…
That’s why you’re taken aback when Fido nibbles on.
You might have smacked them or pushed them when they did.
And if you’re ticklish, you might have let out a little giggle…
For your pooch, that smack or push wasn’t a ‘stop.’
They interpreted it as a game, and that you’re retaliating…
In the latter reaction, your pooch took that giggling as a sign of enjoyment. With that, the behavior became encouraged.
This instance is an example of how dogs learn through validation.
Simple reactions from you could reinforce the wrong behavior.
Even an unintentional response could cause this damage, too. Moreover, your scolding or disapproval could do the same…
You’re lying in bed, and you’re just taking a breather.
Minutes later, you hear your pooch come into your room. They jump on the bed with you…
Then suddenly, it happens…
Fido nibbles your ear!
When they do, you pull back and look them in the eye.
You notice that their eyes are like pleading…
Let’s go inside your dog’s mind for a while:
“Nomnomnom…Hooman, notice me now…”
That might be going on in your pup’s mind while they nibbled your ears.
Then, once you look at them, they use their puppy eyes to get what they came to get…
Oh, it’s all a quest for attention.
“Why do dogs always crave attention?”
As I previously mentioned, it’s because they’re highly social beings.
Every day at every moment, they crave the spotlight. And according to experts, dogs are determined to get it…
Even if it means nibbling your ear.
There are other ways your dog does this gambit. Other attention-seeking behaviors are:
- Barking at you.
- Jumping on you.
- Pulling your clothes.
- Nudging their nose at your body.
- Dropping their toys in front of you.
- Stealing things that you’re holding. They do this to make you chase them.
This is like a continuation of reason #8.
That’s because excitement is still in the equation.
Your pup nibbles your ears because they feel happy to see you.
They don’t intend to hide that they miss you. And, it won’t matter for your pup on how they display it…
The good thing is you’re near them…
But, what made them feel this extreme longing?
It might be due to separation anxiety.
This explanation is applicable in a scenario where you just came home.
Once you’re settled, that’s where your dog reaches for your ear. When they do, they start nibbling.
The behavior’s part of the over-excitement that a dog with anxiety displays.
The ASPCA Org gives us other signs of separation anxiety. Those are:
- Trying to escape.
- Poop-eating or coprophagia.
- Crying when you’re about to leave.
- Chewing your belongings like clothes, blankets, shoes, and socks.
Note: You won’t always notice some of those signs. That’s because those are displayed at times when you’re not home.
On the other hand, causes of separation anxiety are:
- Moving to a new residence.
- The loss of a family member.
- Abandonment. This is applicable if your dog is adopted from the shelter.
- Abrupt schedule changes. An example is when your work schedule is altered, therefore, they’re left at a different time.
Reading tip: Why Does My Dog All Of A Sudden Have (Separation) Anxiety?
#12: They’re hungry
As I said in reason #1, this behavior is a form of communication.
This time, your pooch hopes to send one message…
And that’s the fact that they’re hungry.
“Do they want to eat my ear, too?”
No, not all…
It’s a genuine gesture of asking you for food.
How to tell if your dog is hungry:
- They’ve recently been active.
- You’re able to feel their ribcage.
- You might have missed a meal (so double-check).
However, don’t be fooled. That’s because…
Sometimes, dogs beg for food
The habit of your pooch begging for food might be from:
- Giving them table scraps.
- Inconsistent feeding schedule.
- The amount of food they eat varies from meal to meal.
- Low-quality diet, which gives them a nutritional deficiency. That condition always makes them hungry despite consistent meals.
Signs of this behavior are whining and barking at you.
You’d especially notice those while you’re eating your meal or holding food.
#13: They like the taste
“First they’re hungry, now they like the taste…Is this the part where they want to eat me?”
No…your canine has no intention of making you their next dinner…
However, your canine really enjoys the taste of your ears.
Regardless if your ear is squeaky clean, this could still be a plausible reason.
Naturally, your skin is a little salty. It’s due to the sodium contents of your sweat.
That tinge of saltiness could be a taste that your dog enjoys.
Additionally, there’s no denying that human ears are a little bitter.
It’s due to the secretion of ear wax. It’s a natural discharge from the ear, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about…
You shouldn’t worry as well…
Your pooch doesn’t want to eat you at all. Although, they obviously want a little taste…
Should I let my dog nibble me?
It’s up to you if you would let your dog nibble you. It only poses minimal health risks. However, allowing your dog to nibble you will encourage the behavior.
First of all, dogs use their mouths to explore the world. With that, you might not be aware of how dirty your dog’s mouth is.
One health risk to look out for is infections.
You might experience that if your dog nibbles at or near an open wound.
That’s regardless of whether the wound is big or small.
Warning for you: If you let your dog nibble your ears, you could have ear infections. That medical condition is dangerous for humans. That’s because it might cause ear pain and loss of hearing.
Furthermore, if you let your dog nibble you, they might see it as a wanted behavior.
The next thing you know, they do it to other people. And others might not be a fan of nibbling.
How do I stop my dog from nibbling my ears? 5 tips
#1: Redirect their energy through exercise
As you learned, your pup will nibble your ear when they get excited or bored.
Whichever it is between the two, it’s guaranteed that Fido holds a lot of energy at the moment.
A way to ensure that your dog doesn’t do that anymore is to redirect their energy.
Make them use their stamina on something else.
By doing so, they might not make an effort to reach your ears anymore. They’ll be all set.
But how exactly?
You have to make sure that your dog gets the right amount of exercise daily.
That’s because if Fido gets enough exercise, they’ll be calmer. Plus, they’ll be relaxed and more obedient, too.
“But how much exercise does my dog need?”
Generally speaking, your dog would need at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
However, there are still factors to consider. Those are:
- General health status.
#2: Avoid encouragement
I previously mentioned that encouragement is a culprit for this behavior.
With that, your pooch is conditioned to think that such behavior is encouraged.
Fortunately, that is fixable.
Starting from now, you should avoid encouraging your dog to nibble your ear.
Here’s a step-by-step plan of action:
Step #1: When your dog nibbles your ears, pull away from them. Do so without speaking or reacting.
That’s because you don’t want to send the wrong idea to your pooch.
Step #2: If they reach you again, you can pull away again. You could also totally get away from them at a distance where they won’t reach your ear.
It’s important that your pooch still sees you. That’s because it’s essential on step #3.
Step #3: Wait for your pup to calm down and stop nibbling. If you’re distanced from them, wait for them to behave.
Step #4: Once they’re settled and calm, that’s where you pay attention to them. You could even reward them with treats.
By doing this, your canine would think that nibbling doesn’t get them anything anymore. Instead, all they have to do is behave and remain patient.
#3: Distract them
Dogs are easy to distract.
Wanna know why?
It’s because of their innate prey drive. The predator in them hyper focuses on an object, especially those that are moving.
That’s why dogs tend to chase kids on their bikes…
Now that you know that, you can take advantage of that fact.
You could distract your pooch with a colorful and intriguing chew toy.
Try these squeaky animal plush chew toys. These will definitely trigger your dog’s drive and shift their attention.
Your dog’s an aggressive chewer? This colorful and rough rope chew toy would be perfect for them.
Have that chew toy ready whenever your dog nibbles your ear. You can also do it if you see that they’re about to do so…
#4: Answer to their needs
Sometimes, when your dog nibbles your ear, they need something…
As their dog parent, you’re urged to try and fulfill these requests. If it’s not the time to do so, you should still take note.
It’s because these needs might not be isolated cases. If it occurs too many times, your dog might need your attention.
Feed them the right amount of food
Your canine might be really hungry or begging…
The exact reason matters less. That’s because both pose a risk to your dog’s health.
To curb both hunger and begging, here’s what you can do:
- Give 2 meals per day between an 8 to 12-hour interval.
- Don’t give them any of your food while you’re eating. Doing so might prevent begging.
- Feed them high-quality meals. Stray away from commercial dog foods full of fillers and preservatives.
“How about the amount of food?”
There are many factors on a dog’s daily food requirement. Namely:
- Metabolic rate.
- Physical activity.
- General well-being.
On their next vet visit, you could ask their veterinarian for the real needed amount. There, they will calculate your dog’s daily needed calories.
The amount that they would come up with must be split into 2. Like I said before, it’s recommended to feed your dog twice a day.
If you give your dog any mid-day snacks, add that to the equation, too.
Work on their anxiety
One reason for the nibbling could be anxiety. Such a condition is a serious one and requires your attention.
There are many available ways to lessen this anxiety. Those are:
- Stay low-key. When leaving, don’t do a dramatic exit.
- Waiting for a while before you greet your dog at home.
- Leave them some recently worn clothes. It has your smell in them, and your pooch could calm down with your scent.
- Before you leave, distract them with the same chew toy I mentioned in tip #3. You could also use an interactive toy to really trick your pooch.
Note: If their anxiety persists, you might need to seek a vet’s help.
Continue reading: 19 Proven Ways To Calm Your Anxious Dog (How-To Guide)
#5: Remain consistent
If you choose not to let your dog nibble your ear…
Then, there’s that for the behavior.
No more nibbling of ears for your dog. Ever.
The goal here is to remain consistent with your preferences.
If you don’t, your canine could get confused. With that, the behavior only gets even worse.
They could also develop other habits that you may or may not enjoy…
People also ask:
Why does my dog nibble my nose and ears?
Your dog nibbles your nose and ears as a form of communication and grooming. It’s also a display of affection, boredom, comfort, or playfulness. Lastly, it could be a way of asking for attention, food, or interaction.
Nibbling is a part of dogs’ tactile communication. Moreover, it falls under their tendency to groom another being.
Grooming is done to socialize, create bonds, and remain hygienic. That’s why they only do it on selected creatures that they trust.
So, if they nibble you, they’re comfortable with you and trust you.
What more does it communicate?
Your pooch might be asking or showing you their affection. They might also be requesting food, play, or your attention.
Nibbling might also be a learned behavior from encouragement or boredom.
What does nibbling on the ear mean?
Nibbling on the ear means just the same as your dog nibbling other parts of your body. They do it to communicate with you or try to groom you. To be exact, they aim to ask for attention, food, interaction, affection, playtime, or something to do.
When your dog nibbles your ears, they’re communicating. They might be sending a message to you related to:
Moreover, nibbling is part of a dog’s grooming behavior.
Your canine might be aiming to clean up your ears. They would do so even if it’s already clean to start with.
That’s because grooming is an important part of social interactions in dogs.
Why does my dog lick then nibble me?
Your dog licks then nibbles you as a sign of boredom, affection, playfulness, or excitement. It’s your dog’s way of telling you those things, as licking and nibbling is a form of communication. Sometimes, they do it because the behavior is encouraged or they want something.
It’s normal for dogs to lick then nibble you. That’s because it’s part of their way of communicating with you.
Moreover, they could be telling you that they want something. It could be food or just your attention.