Why Does My Dog Nibble My Ear?

Dogs are one of the best companions a human being can have. They are friendly, loyal, and can understand our emotions. Dogs are a human’s best friend.

That being said, dogs can also have some other quite odd behaviors that can be endearing at best and gross at worst.

why does my dog nibble my ear
Why does my dog nibble my ear?

Many people don’t realize that most dog behaviors we think are “odd” are the way dogs naturally communicate with other dogs and with us.

One of these odd behaviors is licking and nibbling ears. If your dog has ever nibbled your ear, you have probably thought, “eww gross,” or “that tickles.” Immediately after, you might have asked yourself the question, why does my dog nibble my ear?

The good news is that dogs exhibit this reasonably typical behavior. Dogs do this as a way of demonstrating their love and affection to other dogs and humans. This behavior indicates that the dog is comfortable around you and accepts you.

Submissive dogs or dogs lower on the pecking order often do nibbling on ears. Understanding this behavior is a great way to better understand your dog and its personality.

Keep reading to find out why your dog nibbles your ear and what this tells you about your furry friend.

Why Dogs Nibble Ears?

As I mentioned, dogs nibble your ears as a sign of affection and love. Whether you enjoy the nibbles or hate them, there is much to learn about your dog’s behavior. One thing is sure.

Your dog isn’t trying to clean your ears.

Dogs have scent glands on their faces that release pheromones. Pheromones are chemicals that communicate information about the dog’s emotional state, health, and more. When a dog nibbles your ear, they leave its scent on you as a way of claiming you as its own.

This behavior is widespread among dogs that live in close quarters with other dogs, such as at a kennel or in a multi-dog household. Nibbling ears is the dog’s way of establishing dominance over the other dog and claiming them as their own.

The nibbling behavior can also be a sign of submission on the part of the dog. A dog that licks and nibbles your ear is telling you that it sees you as the alpha dog or leader of the pack.

This behavior is most common in puppies and young dogs. As they grow older, dogs typically outgrow this behavior and lick your face instead as a sign of affection.

However, some dogs will continue to nibble on your ear as a sign of affection even as they grow into older and fully grown dogs.

brown dog nibbling ear
Brown dog nibbling owner’s ear.

Mouthing vs. Nibbling

Many dog owners confuse mouthing and nibbling. These behaviors are both common in dogs, but there is a distinct difference.

Unlike nibbling, mouthing is a grabbing action that dogs do with their mouth. However, mouthing does not involve the use of teeth.

Puppies and young dogs often do mouthing to explore their environment. It is also an expected behavior in dogs that are teething.

Labrador puppy biting
A Labrador puppy biting the finger of his owner.

Mouthing is not generally considered a sign of affection the way nibbling is. Mouthing can often be a sign that the dog is feeling playful or wants to play, and it can also be a sign of excitement or frustration.

Mouthing often starts as a fun and playful action when a dog is a puppy. However, as your dog gets older, this behavior can become dangerous.

If your dog is mouthing you, it is essential to redirect the behavior positively. Allowing your dog to mouth can encourage your dog to bite in the future.

Other Reasons for Nibbling

Beyond showing affection, dogs can nibble on your ear for various reasons.

Jack Russell Terrier nibbles ear
Jack Russell Terrier puppy nibbles the owner’s ear while playing.

Your Dog is Playing

One of the most common reasons why dogs nibble is playing. If a puppy has ever nibbled on you, this is likely why. Puppies are full of energy and often use their mouths to play with their owners.

As puppies grow into adult dogs, they typically outgrow this playful nibbling behavior. However, some dogs will continue to nibble during play, even as adults.

Your Dog Likes the Taste

This might seem odd, but dogs like the taste of our skin. Your dog might like the taste if you have sweated recently and there is salt on your skin (e.g. a dog that enjoys licking legs after exercise). Your dog may be nibbling because they like the taste of your ear.

dog biting tail due to stress
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Your Dog Is Stressed

Believe it or not, dogs can get stressed just like humans. When a dog feels stressed, they may nibble on their skin or their owners’ skin. This behavior is often referred to as “stress licking.”

If your dog is nibbling on your ear and you can’t seem to stop them, it may be a sign that they are feeling stressed. Try to identify any potential sources of stress in your dog’s life and address it.

Your Dog Wants Something

Another reason why dogs nibble is that they want your attention. Since your dog cannot communicate with you, nibbling could be their way of expressing, “Hey, I need this.”

If you notice that your dog only nibbles your ear when they want something, this is likely why.

Your Dog Smells Something

Another reason why your dog nibbles your ear is that they smell something. Dogs have a great sense of smell. It is much stronger than our sense of smell.

Your dog may be exploring the scent if you are wearing lotion, sunscreen, cologne, or perfume.

Your Dog Loves You

The best reason why a dog is nibbling on your ear is love! If your dog is nibbling gently and not using its teeth, it is likely a sign of affection. Dogs often show their love by licking or nibbling on their owner’s ear.

Should You Allow Your Dog to Nibble Your Ear?

Now that you know why your dog nibbles, you might be wondering if you should allow this behavior.

As we mentioned earlier, mouthing can often turn into biting. If you allow your dog to mouth you, your dog may think it is okay to do so with their teeth. Allowing this behavior can lead to a bite, which can cause serious injury.

Nibbling is different than mouthing. Nibbling is typically done with the teeth but without applying pressure. It is not considered to be as dangerous as mouthing or biting.

That said, you should not allow your dog to nibble on your ear. Nibbling can still turn into biting if you are not careful.

If your dog is struggling to control their impulses, it might not realize that its nibbling is hurting you, and this can have severe consequences down the run. These consequences can be hazardous if you have small children.

French Bulldog with her owner
A French Bulldog with her owner.

How to Stop Your Dog From Nibbling on Your Ears?

If your dog is nibbling your ear, positively redirect the behavior. For example, give your dog a chew toy or bone to bite on instead.

If your dog is nibbling because they want something, such as food or to go outside, give them what they want. Giving the dog what it wants will help to stop the unwanted behavior.

If your dog is nibbling because they are stressed, try to identify and address the source. This process may require some trial and error.

If you are unsure why your dog is nibbling on your ear, it is best to consult a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. They will be able to help you identify the root cause of the problem and come up with a plan to address it.

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Why Does My Dog Nibble My Nose?

Another odd dog behavior is nibbling on noses. A nibble on the nose can be even stranger than a nibble on the ear!

The reasons may be similar to why your dog is nibbling on your ear. It is a way for them to communicate with you, show affection, and let you know that you are part of their family.

However, this behavior should be discouraged, like nibbling on the ear. In the long run, this behavior could result in the dog biting you.

Labrador Retriever nibbles nose
Labrador Retriever nibbles nose of his owner.

Why Do Dogs Nibble Other Dog’s Ears?

Dogs may nibble on other dogs’ ears for many of the same reasons why they nibble on human ears. It could be a sign of affection or a way to communicate.

If you notice your dog nibbling on other dogs’ ears, it is best to discourage this behavior. You do not want your dog to become a nuisance to other dogs or their owners.

In some cases, nibbling on other dogs’ ears could signify dominance. If you are concerned that this is the case, it is best to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. They will be able to help.

dog licking other dogs ears
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Wrap Up

Dogs nibble on our ears for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is that they like the taste of our skin. Dogs may also nibble on our ears because they are stressed, want something, or smell something.

It is crucial not to allow your dog to nibble on your ear as it can lead to biting.