You’re on the couch and your dog rests its head on your lap. What’s your first reaction? Personally, I go for the ears. Those velvety, soft triangles are comforting to touch, aren’t they? So, I do this for my own benefit I admit. But what does your dog feel when you rub its ears?
What’s that far-away look they get? If your dog is anything like mine it seems to go to sleep within minutes.
But do dogs like it when you rub their ears? In most cases yes, dogs do like it when you rub their ears. The reason they like their ears rubbed is relatively complex when you look at the science. But, you should not assume all dogs like an ear rubbing.
Let me clarify so you and your dog understand each other even better.
Do dogs like getting their ears rubbed?
In short, yes, most dogs probably hope for an ear rub when they lie next to you. It’s definitely a form of petting they like and you can use it as positive reinforcement when training a dog.
Can dogs feel pain in their ears?
What you need to consider is that a dog’s ear contains many nerves. So, don’t handle the ears too roughly. The dog may experience pain when you press down too hard.
What happens when you rub a dog’s ears?
The reason dogs like a good ear massage isn’t simply because they like getting touched. Rubbing in that particular part of the body has interesting results related to their bodily functions.
The reason ears are so effective as massage zones is because a dog ear has many nerve endings. These are necessary to give them the excellent hearing abilities they’re known for. The high number of nerve endings also mean they feel your touch in an extra special way on their ears.
In addition, rubbing the ears sets off a process of hormone secretion. This is because you’re stimulating the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland with your actions. Thanks to these glands that now start releasing endorphins—yes, the same hormones that make humans feel happy—your dog is feeling happier than a few minutes ago. Who wouldn’t want to keep on lying next to you to get such helpful treatment?
With loads if endorphins, an ear massage is a way to instantly get your dog to relax.
Do dogs get high when you rub their ears?
The faraway look I mentioned may have you thinking that your dog is high. In a way it is. The high levels of endorphins could be seen as a hormone-high. This can wear off after a while, so your dog is bound to return for repeat treatments.
Why do dogs like getting ears rubbed?
So, an ear rub has a positive effect on your dog. But would they actually want to initiate that contact?
Imagine this in the same way humans think if a visit to a spa, specifically for acupuncture or reflexology. You know these treatments will help you feel relaxed. Your dog can have the same anticipation, for similar outcomes than those human treatments. And you probably know how these treatments help us manage our health better.
An ear rub can be a form of reflexology because of the network of nerves in the ears. They are actually connected to organs and areas of the body, so your rubbing will initiate impulses that travel inside the dog’s body. Yet another way of treating your dog and boosting its general health.
Why should you rub your dog’s ears?
It’s clear that rubbing a dog’s ears has quite a big impact on its body. But is this necessary? Should you prioritize ear rubbing?
I’m sure you want a happy dog, right? You’ll be surprised how an ear rub or two throughout the week can impact your dog’s overall wellbeing.
Once again, let’s compare it to a human scenario. For humans it helps to get endorphins going during exercise or other situations in life. It helps to combat stress and anxiety. It’s no different for our four-legged friends.
He or she may have bouts of depression and stressful situations. Just think of separation anxiety when you’re away all day or the effect thunder has on many animals. By increasing the endorphin levels, you can help counter these effects and have a happier, less tense pet.
With a less high-strung dog, it may even affect general behavior. Perhaps it will be less destructive when it’s alone at home, so it may not chew the couch or dig up your rosebushes again. So, give that ear massage to benefit both you and your dog!
General benefits of rubbing your dog’s ears
Apart from the biological aspect, let’s not forget the purely emotional side of petting your dog. Spending that time with your dog is a way to build relationship with him or her.
An ear massage can even be a special treat for a job well done, such as fetching a ball or sitting when you tell it to. Instead of feeding it dog treats as reward, give your dog a good ear rub. With endorphins in its system, it will be a positive experience. So, ear rubs can be a new method of positive reinforcement. It takes a few seconds more but the dog will consume fewer treats, making it easier to manage its weight.
Another reason to give regular ear rubs is to ensure your dog gets used to someone touching them. This is helpful in the following situations:
- When children play with them and touch the ears, your dog won’t get startled.
- Your dog will be less edgy when the vet examines its face and ears.
- If you need to clean your dog’s ears or treat an ear infection, there’s less chance of it snapping at you for touching the ears.
What if my dog doesn’t like getting his ears rubbed?
I want to be clear: just because rubbing your dog’s ears has many beneficial outcomes, doesn’t mean you can assume all dogs want you to touch their ears. There are a few reasons to always stay cautious.
Firstly, some dogs may not be used to someone touching their ears. So, if you adopt a new dog, take it slow and monitor its reaction.
Secondly, did you know that a dog’s head that’s lower than another is a sign if submission? If a human places its hand in a dog’s head, the dog views it as a human wanting to dominate. Your pet may not accept thus hierarchy from everyone visiting your home, so caution visitors to be careful at first before simply rubbing those ears.
Also, some dogs’ ears may be more sensitive than others. This is often the case with dogs’ ears that have been clipped. With the nerve endings being different than in a normal ear, an ear rub may cause irritation, over stimulation or pain. Once again, first check its reaction when you touch the ears before doing a full rub.
Handy Hint: If your dog doesn’t like having his ears touched and they feel hot, it could be the sign of an ear infection.
For other dogs an ear rub may be a new sensation. They may be startled at first and you’ll have to be gentle and do it a few times before it becomes a much-loved habit.
A dog’s reactions can also tell you something about their health. If there’s an ear infection, a dog who usually loves getting its ears rubs may whimper or become aggressive when you touch them.
Next time you touch those velvety soft ears, perhaps you’ll have more respect for them. Now, use this knowledge to deepen your relationship with your best friend.
If your dog likes ear rubs, give them more ear rubs!