Why Does My Dog Smell My Ears?

Why Does My Dog Smell My Ears

It is not unusual for dogs to act strangely when it comes to their relationship with their owners. Throughout their lifetime, they will pick up many different habits, most of which will directly relate to their keen sense of smell – for example, some dogs like to smell their owner’s ears – and here’s why.

Why does my dog smell my ears? Dogs like to smell your ears as they can be a place where dirt, sweat and oils build up. This is the most likely reason for the inquisitive smelling, as it results in tantalizing smells and taste for a dog to sniff at your ears. It could also mean you have an ear infection.

Unlike humans, dogs primarily use their noses to connect with the world around them, sometimes gaining an insight into information that you might be unaware of.

Likewise, without their keen sense of smell, dogs would struggle to communicate effectively with other dogs or hunt in the wild.

Back to the ear smelling though… there’s more to it than you might think.

Why dogs like to smell human ears

One of the most common habits dogs display is the tendency to sniff their owner’s bodies (even the belly buttons). Although harmless, this can be embarrassing for many people, especially if their dog has a penchant for smelling inappropriate areas whilst out in public.

Thankfully, in most cases, this behavior is harmless. Instead, it will be your dog’s way of cementing you as a pack member. Despite this, you may find yourself confused if your dog begins to sniff at your ears regularly.

If you look online, you will find many other curious pet parents asking about this bizarre phenomenon. It seems as if ear sniffing is a common behavior for our canine companions, regardless of how weird and unsettling this trait can be at the best of times.

Naturally, you may begin to suspect that something is wrong with your ears, especially if this behavior happens regularly. After all, most of us have heard the rumors about dogs being able to detect illnesses and other medical issues through their sense of smell.

As many popular forms of entertainment would have us believe (television shows and movies are the main culprits) canines have the amazing ability to detect even the most serious of medical issues, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Handy Hint: I talk more about dog’s being able to smell ear infections a little lower down the page.

However, is ear sniffing a cause for concern? Are our canine companions detecting a legitimate problem with our ears, or is it just one of their many unique methods of showing love and affection?

Receiving rewards for troublesome behavior

First and foremost, dogs are very clever animals and will often think of various ways to give them rewards. At times, they may partake in troublesome behaviors to elicit a response from us.

For example, dogs who are being trained in leash control may learn to briefly pull on the lead and then come close to receive a treat.

Similarly, some canines may bite at or attempt to play tug of war with their leash if they realize you are likely to take out your treats to stop this behavior.

Many pet parents underestimate the efforts that their pooch will go to receive additional food. At home, this type of behavior can sometimes be even more common with younger dogs, or food-motivated breeds who are especially prone to eliciting rewards from their owners.

Most dog owners are not keen on their dog continuously licking at their ears or face, and as such, will grab a toy or snack to distract their pooch.

Although it might seem harmless on the surface, rewarding your dog for unwanted behavior is harmful and may result in them purposefully being naughty in the future.

Furthermore, this could lead to your dog developing other unpleasant habits or potentially bothering guests when they visit your home. Instead, you should firmly rebuke your dog if their ear-licking habit is getting out of control.

With enough repetitions, they should eventually learn that this behavior is not encouraged nor appropriate.

The boredom factor

Like children, dogs require a lot of exercise and stimulation to remain happy and content. Without daily walks or regular bouts of playtime with their owners or other canines, dogs can quickly become bored and restless.

For example, they may begin to dig up the garden, tear up their toys, chew on things around the home, and act up in various ways. Furthermore, this behavior is extremely common in high-energy breeds of dogs, such as Siberian Huskies, Border Collies, Jack Russel Terriers, and Dalmations.

If you own one of these breeds, make sure they get enough exercise.

Similarly, you may find that your dog will approach you when it is seeking attention or bored, often jumping up or licking at your ears or face to get you to play. If this is the case, and your dog is normally relaxed, you should try and play with your pooch for at least ten minutes when they are showing signs of restlessness.

However, make sure that you do not encourage this behavior too often, as your dog may develop a constant habit of bothering you in the future.

Additionally, your dog may smell your ears if he is searching for something to do. This behavior is quite common in older dogs, who are unable to run around as much as they used to. Instead, older canines will sometimes wander around the home or garden, sniffing at different objects (including your ears), as well as people and pets.

If this is the case, and your dog smelling your ears is beginning to bother you, try taking your older dog for a leisurely walk. Once tired, they will begin to relax and settle.

Enjoying the smell of your ears

Your dog may sometimes smell at your ears mainly because he likes the scent. Although it may sound weird, dogs love pretty much all scents, regardless of whether they smell unpleasant.

Furthermore, they can also detect scents that are virtually undetectable to humans, giving them many reasons to smell areas that might seem odorless to us. Thankfully, this is normal behavior and nothing to be concerned about.

If you notice your dog has only just started sniffing around your ears, think back to whether you have recently used a new shampoo product, or something similar, such as a potent hair gel.

If this is the case, your dog might be curious about this new smell and could be investigating where it is coming from. After some time, they should get used to this new scent and stop this behavior.

However, do not be surprised if your pooch continues this habit once you buy another new hair product.

Handy Hint: Whilst dogs have an amazing sense of smell, they can’t smell DNA!

Comfort and affection

Through years of ownership, many dogs naturally develop a very close bond with their owners. Alongside this, they will also develop their own unique personality traits and habits. Due to this, every dog has its own way of showing affection and love for its owner. For example, some dogs will lean against their owners, whilst others will lick at their face or ears.

Unfortunately, this behavior can quickly become frustrating if it happens regularly, and as such, dogs should be trained to show their affection in less intrusive ways.

Without appropriate training, well-meaning canines may jump at and lick relentlessly at people who visit the home. Likewise, they may learn negative habits which can take months or even years for their owners to eliminate successfully.

Can my dog smell my ear infection?

Incredibly, dogs can smell ear infections in humans. This is due to their amazing sense of smell, which is around 10 times more effective than humans. Canines will often detect minute changes in their owner’s bodies before their owners are aware something is amiss.

For example, if you begin to develop an ear infection, your ear wax will start to smell, which your pooch will quickly pick up on. In a wild setting, dogs use their noses to determine whether pack members are sick, adjusting their behavior to take care of them.

Although it is our job to take care of our dogs, this does not stop them from feeling concerned for us. As such, we should listen to them if they show any signs of detecting issues with our health.


Most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about if your dog starts to smell your ears. Unless of course, it’s a sign that you have an ear infection.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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