Okay – it's true. To be blunt, Lewie sucks… Mo's ears! It's totally gross and something he's been doing since he was a puppy (he's now 4). For all the ear sucking Lewie does, we NEVER catch him. He times it perfectly when we are in bed or not on the main floor of our house.
We always wonder how it starts, what Mo's reaction is, and how long it lasts – because based on the wetness of Mo's ears, it seems like it lasts for hours! And, yes, we've tried to dissuade Lewie with things like dog-safe sour apple spray on Mo's ears, but that just seems to be a delicious seasoning to Lewie.
Determined to get to the bottom of what was going on with the ear sucking, we bought a nanny cam – also known as a mini home camera that we could run through the night to catch Lewie in the act.
But first, we did some research. We learned that dogs may engage in sucking behavior for various reasons, and it can manifest in different ways, such as sucking on stuffed animals (Lewie does this too), blankets (do shirt sleeves count?), or even another dog's ear (holy Moses!).
We learned there are some common reasons behind this behavior:
- Comfort and Security: Sucking can provide dogs with a sense of comfort and security, similar to how a pacifier soothes a human baby. It may remind them of nursing from their mother as puppies.
- Stress and Anxiety: Dogs may suck on objects as a coping mechanism when they are feeling stressed or anxious. The repetitive motion can have a calming effect on them.
- Boredom: Dogs may resort to sucking behavior out of boredom, especially if they lack mental or physical stimulation. It can serve as a self-soothing activity when they have nothing else to do.
- Teething: Puppies, in particular, may suck on objects when they are teething. Chewing and sucking can help alleviate the discomfort of incoming teeth.
- Nurturing Instinct: Some dogs have a strong nurturing instinct and may suck on objects or even another dog's ear as a way of expressing affection or bonding.
- Hunger: In some cases, a dog might suck on objects if they are feeling hungry or have an oral fixation. This is less common but can occur.
- Medical Issues: Sucking behavior can also be related to medical issues, such as gastrointestinal problems or dental discomfort. If a dog suddenly starts sucking on objects excessively, it's essential to rule out any underlying health concerns.
- Habit: Dogs can develop habits, just like humans. If they've engaged in sucking behavior for a while, it may become a habit that persists even if the initial reason is no longer present.
- Social Interaction: If a dog sucks on another dog's ear, it could be a form of social interaction or play. Dogs use various behaviors to communicate and bond with one another.
- Exploration: Puppies and curious dogs may suck on objects as a way to explore their environment. This is common in young dogs as they learn about the world around them.
In reviewing the list, we think the reasons behind Lew's sucking fall into a few of these categories – namely comfort and security, nurturing instinct (Mo acts like Lew's mother), habit, and social interaction.
Now onto the video. We caught Lewie the first time the camera was on! You can watch below to see how it all unfolds.
So, the mystery is solved! We guess if Mo is okay with it – and he's not being harmed by it, then we are okay with it. Lewie is definitely okay with it, but we did want to know if this behavior could be harmful to Mo. One sentence we never expected to type into Google: "Is having a dog's ears sucked by another dog dangerous?"
Here's what we learned: Allowing one dog to suck on another dog's ears is generally not considered dangerous as long as both dogs are comfortable with the interaction, and it doesn't escalate into aggressive behavior. It's a common behavior seen in many dog interactions. (Phew!)
That being said, it's important to monitor the dogs during this interaction to ensure it remains friendly and doesn't escalate into a conflict. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Consent: Ensure that both dogs are willing participants. If one dog is uncomfortable or seems distressed, it's essential to separate them to prevent any potential issues.
- Playfulness: Dogs can engage in playful behaviors, and ear-licking can be a form of play. Watch for signs of playfulness, such as relaxed body language, wagging tails, and play bows.
- Body Language: Pay attention to the body language of both dogs. If you notice signs of tension, fear, aggression, or discomfort, intervene immediately.
- Aggression: In some cases, one dog may become possessive or aggressive during such interactions. If this happens, separate the dogs to prevent any potential harm.
- Hygiene: Ensure that both dogs are healthy, and their ears are clean. Excessive moisture or saliva can sometimes lead to ear infections, so it's important to keep an eye on their ear health.
So, the good news is that while ear-licking itself is not inherently dangerous, it's essential to be aware of the overall context and the dogs' behavior to ensure a safe and positive interaction. With that in mind, we'll keep an eye on Mo and Lew – or should we say, the camera will be keeping an eye on them.
Note: We are not veterinarians. If you have concerns about your dogs' behavior or their interactions with other dogs, consider consulting your vet, a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for guidance.