Does your dog lick your ears in the morning when you wake up?
Is this the first thing they do at the start of the day?
Are you curious why they do this?
Would you like to find out why?
Let’s find out…
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Ears in the Morning?
Your dog licks your ears in the morning for one of several reasons. The most likely reason is that they are saying hello and letting you know they want you to wake up.
Dogs lick other dogs and people to express affection and strengthen social bonds. Having both been asleep all night, your dog could be licking your ears as a way of connecting with you.
But there could be other reasons why they lick your ears when you wake up in the morning.
So let’s look at a list and see which one feels most likely to you.
- Your dog is saying hello and waking you up.
- Your dog needs a potty break.
- Your dog likes the taste of your ears.
- Your dog is being submissive.
- There is something wrong with your ears.
- Your dog is grooming you.
- Your dog is stressed or in pain.
- You have accidentally trained them to do it.
Now we can look at this list in more detail to help you figure out what is driving your dog’s morning ear licking rituals.
1. Your Dog is Saying Hello and Waking You Up
Dogs are social animals, and being part of a pack or family is very important.
When your dog licks your ears in the morning as you wake up, it could be that they are happy to reconnect with you after you have both been asleep.
If this is the reason, your dog will seem happy to see you and not show any signs of anxiety or stress.
2. Your Dog Needs a Potty Break
Like most people, most dogs need to go to the toilet when they first wake up.
Your dog might be licking your ears to nudge you into getting up so you can take them for a walk or let them out into the yard.
The easiest way to tell if this is the case is to lead them to where you would take them outside and see how they react.
If they are excited to get out there, you have your answer as to why your dog licks your ears when you wake up in the morning.
NOTE – This post might be interesting for you to read. It looks at the question – why do dogs have floppy ears?
3. Your Dog Likes the Taste of Your Ears
Let’s be honest: dogs like licking things that humans wouldn’t dream of doing!
Maybe to your dog, your ear wax is a delicious treat.
If you think about it, your ears won’t be accessible to your pet pooch for most of the day.
But when you lie in bed first thing in the morning, they can get to your ears much more accessible.
So, could it be that they would lick your ears all day if they could, but the morning is the only time they can get close enough?
NOTE – You might also want to read this post about why dogs pull their ears back.
4. Your Dog is Being Submissive
When interacting with other dogs, the more submissive dog will sometimes express their status by licking and grooming the more dominant one.
In most cases, pet dogs see their owners as the dominant member of the pack, which could explain why they lick your ears when you wake up in the morning.
5. There is Something Wrong With Your Ears
Dogs have an incredible ability to smell health issues in other dogs and humans.
First thing in the morning, your ears are easily accessible to your pup when you are lying in bed.
If something smells unusual, interesting, or even alarming to your dog, they might lick your ears to investigate the smell.
If you have any ear pain, a sudden problem with your hearing, a build-up of ear wax, or anything similar, you should speak to your doctor to see what is going on.
You can even tell them that your dog alerted you to the issue with your ears.
Dogs doing this sort of thing is more common than you might think, so your doctor shouldn’t think you are crazy.
6. Your Dog is Grooming You
Humans and many other types of animals take part in a practice known as social grooming when they groom each other rather than self-grooming.
For dogs, one of the benefits of this is that another dog can reach parts of the body the dog can’t reach itself.
This includes the ears. Dogs can’t clean their ears, but other dogs can easily do so.
In a nutshell, it could be that your dog is cleaning your ears for the same reason (and also because it thinks they need cleaning).
7. Your Dog is Stressed Or in Pain
Sadly, dogs can’t talk to their owners, but fortunately, they have other ways of communicating with us non-verbally.
Dogs use barks, whines, growls, body language, licking, biting, and nuzzling to communicate with their owners and other dogs.
Your dog might wake up stressed or in pain and is licking your ears to let you know about it.
If you think this might be the case for your pup, keep a close eye out for any other signs of distress, pain, or sickness, and take them to the vet if you think something serious is wrong with them.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this site lists helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills.
(If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country, there is a lot of support for dog owners who are in difficulty).
8. You Have Accidentally Trained to Lick Your Ears When You Wake in the Morning
While this might sound surprising, it is easy to train your dog into a behavior pattern accidentally.
For example, let’s say your dog randomly licked your ears one day, and without thinking, you laughed and stroked them.
The dog felt good because you reacted warmly and gave them some attention.
The next morning they repeated the behavior, and you gave them a nice cuddle this time.
They have now learned that if they lick your ears as you wake up each morning, you will give them some attention.
You could, of course, look at it the other way around. Your dog has trained you to pet them when they lick your ears.
Perhaps our dogs are a lot smarter than we realize.
Why Do Dogs Lick People?
Obviously, dogs don’t just lick their owner’s ears. They also lick other parts of the body and also clothing.
Why do they do this? Let’s look at some of the main reasons:
- Social grooming.
- Showing affection.
- Expressing empathy.
- Some humans have tasty skin.
- To gain attention.
In the same way, dogs engage in mutual grooming with other dogs. They also do so with humans.
So, yes. If your dog is licking you, it might be because it thinks you are unclean!
But it could also be a way of bonding with you. You can decide for yourself which it is!
Dogs will lick and nuzzle humans to express affection towards them.
While this may leave you covered in unpleasant and slimy dog saliva, at least it was well-intentioned!
Dogs are very smart. They can often tell when humans are sad, sick, or in pain.
What is even more awesome is they will often try to alleviate the suffering and express empathy by licking the person who is sad or sick.
Some Humans Have Tasty Skin
Dogs often lick humans because their skin tastes nice.
It might be that the person has just eaten some tasty food, or possibly that they have been sweating, and the dog likes the taste of the salty sweat.
To Gain Attention
Most dogs love getting attention from their owners, and they are clever enough to learn ways to get that attention.
If they try to get your attention by licking you and you respond by stroking them, they will learn to repeat this action in the future when they want to be petted.
(You might not realize it, but your dog is training you to behave in certain ways, just like you teach them).
Before we carry on, you might enjoy this short but interesting video about dogs and their human licking habits.
Click the video to start playing:
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Ears in the Morning
When trying to train a dog not to lick, we first need to remember that licking is a perfectly natural behavior for them.
This means it might be hard to eliminate licking entirely, and you should only try to do so with good reason.
With that said, there is a simple two-step process that should be very effective with most dogs:
- Use the “No” command to stop the licking.
- Use distraction and praise to redirect the dog’s attention.
Let’s look at each step more closely:
Training and Using the “No” Command
If you have not already trained your dog to obey the no command, you should prioritize it.
Select a behavior you want them to stop doing – in this case, licking your ears in the morning when you wake up – you need to catch them in the act of doing it, say “No” in a firm voice, and physically stop them from doing it.
For example, if your dog was licking your hand, you would pull your hand away and say the “No” command clearly and firmly.
Once they understand the “No” command for hand licking, it will be much easier to train them to understand it in a different context, such as barking, jumping up at people, or licking your ears.
So you should work through a few different behaviors until they understand that “No” means stop what they are doing, whatever it is.
The more you repeat this training, the more likely it is to work.
Using Distraction and Praise to Encourage A Different Behavior
After successfully using the “No” command to stop the dog from licking, you should reward and distract them.
Give them a treat, pet them, or give verbal praise, so they associate stopping with feeling good.
Then play with them, let them go outside, move them around the house, or do something similar to distract them from returning to the licking.
If you keep up with this simple two-step process, you will notice a reduction in their behavior.
Not only that, but if they do carry on with the licking, you will be able to stop them much more quickly.
Please note that if you struggle to stop your dog from licking, it may be because they are doing so due to stress, boredom, or a medical condition.
If this might be the case, you should do your best to fix the underlying cause and, if need be, take the dog to the vet to get checked out.
Final Thoughts on Why Your Dog Licks Your Ears in the Morning
Your dog licks your ears in the morning because of one of these reasons:
- To say hello and to wake you up
- They need a potty break.
- Your ears are tasty.
- To show submission.
- Something is wrong with your ears, and they can smell it.
- They are grooming you.
- The dog is suffering from stress or pain.
- You have inadvertently trained them to do it.
It’s also worth noting that when you lie in bed in the morning, this might be the only time of day when your dog can get close enough to your ears to lick them.
They might do it a lot more often if they could reach!
That’s the end of the post answering the question – why does my dog lick my ears in the morning?
Please post in the box directly below if you have any questions or comments.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!