If you’ve seen photographs or videos of pugs, you might have noticed that they have a hard time leaving each other’s ears alone. Even if the other dog in question is a different breed, the pug will keep licking its ears as if they were ice cream cones. I’ve noticed this behavior too, which prompted me to search for a reason why pugs are constantly licking other dogs’ ears.
Why Do Pugs Lick Other Dogs’ Ears?
The main reason why pugs lick other dogs’ ears is the same reason why many other breeds do the same: as a mark of affection. This may sound strange and downright unpleasant to humans, but for dogs, the desire to lick is hard-wired into their DNA.
Here’s why: When puppies are newborns, their mothers will lick them for several reasons: to encourage them to breathe, to get them clean, and to communicate in other subtle ways. Naturally, the dogs will often respond by licking their mothers right back.
Ear licking is a behavior that is imprinted into their memories from an early age and is a sign they’re being cared for. This is also why many dogs enjoy licking the faces of the humans who care for them—they’re letting us know that we’ve taken the place of their canine mothers as their caregivers and leaders of the pack.
Speaking of pack leaders, affection isn’t the only reason why pugs lick other dogs’ ears. When dogs communicate in the wild, the low-ranking pack members will often lick the other, more dominant members as a mark of respect. This submissive gesture is important when it comes to establishing harmony within the pack.
As a rule, pugs get along very well with other dogs. When dogs feel comfortable in a group, they try to make the other dogs feel just as relaxed by engaging in a grooming session. Since dogs can’t lick their own ears, they’ll lick the ears of their companions instead.
The Taste Factor
There’s another, simpler reason for excessive ear-licking: Your pug simply likes the taste of whatever he’s finding in the other dog’s ear.
This is another explanation that won’t make much sense to humans, but dogs enjoy the taste of many things that we wouldn’t even consider eating. Even if there’s no wax buildup to speak of, the ear canal probably has a salty flavor that the pug can’t resist.
Remember: Dogs use their senses of smell and taste to make sense of the world around them. That means they’ll try to explore places that seem interesting by using their noses—and, in this case, their mouths.
The act of licking is a therapeutic one for most dogs, including pugs. Think of it as a form of stress relief, similar to the feeling you might get from nibbling on your nails or picking at the ends of your hair.
The act gives them a temporary rush of satisfaction, especially if they’re using it as a way to show affection to a fellow pack member.
Should I Try to Correct the Behavior?
In most cases, there’s no reason to do so. As long as the ear-licking doesn’t go on for too long, and as long as the one being licked is enjoying the attention, there’s no need to worry. As I’ve mentioned, the behavior is perfectly normal and rooted in your pug’s desire to fit in with his new pack.
That said, if your pug is licking your other dog’s ears for an especially long time, it could become physically irritating to the other dog. If this is the case, try distracting the pug with a favorite toy or a tasty treat.
Also, you might want to check the oft-licked ears for signs of infection. Since bacteria thrives in warm, moist environments, the ear canal can become inflamed if your pug gets his snout in there too often.
On the subject of infections: If the dog that’s being licked is being treated for an existing infection with a topical remedy, you should keep your pug away from him or her until the treatment is over.
Other Signs That Licking Might Be a Problem
If you find that your pug is licking constantly, there might be an underlying reason for his agitation. Seek advice from your veterinarian to rule out any of the following issues:
- Skin irritations—could be a problem if the dog is licking himself just as often as he licks the other dogs’ ears.
- Anxiety—He might be acting out to relieve his frustration.
- Boredom—If there’s not enough stimulation in the home, the dog will find his own.
- A compulsive disorder—a professional should be able to give you an accurate diagnosis.
Final Word On Why Dogs Lick Each Others Ears
This is completely normal behavior for both dogs and puppies. As long as this instinctual behavior doesn’t turn into obsessive behavior, it is fine.
If your dog starts exhibiting this behavior regularly, it’s time to stop in and avoid future problems from developing.
References And Further Reading
Cuteness – Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other’s Ears?