When you see two dogs playing together, you have probably noticed that there is some ear biting involved. And you surely asked yourself why this happens. Why do dogs bite other dogs’ ears? Are they playing or has it turned into a fight? Should I stop my dog from biting other dogs’ ears?
In this article, we’ll answer all of the questions mentioned above, so you can understand what’s happening the next time you see your dog involved in an ear biting situation.
Reasons why dogs bite other dogs’ ears
There are two main reasons why dogs could be biting their furry friend’s ears: because they are playing or because they are doing it as a sign of aggression. But how can you know whether they are having fun or about to start a fight? Well, luckily, there are some other signs you can look for that will help you determine the root of the behavior.
Many dogs love to play rough, or as many professionals call it, “play fight”. They love to engage in game sessions that include growling and, in some cases, ear biting.
The first time you see your dog play like this you might feel worried and scared. It’s very common for pet parents to think that their pooches will hurt themselves when they rough play.
But the truth is that it’s extremely common for dogs to play like this. If your dog and the one they are playing with both seem to like it, there’s no reason why you should put an end to this playful encounter.
The question we ask ourselves right now is “why do they go after the ears?”. It’s no coincidence that many dogs like to bite their friend’s ears, there has to be a reason why so many dogs like to bite ears and not tails or legs (which some dogs like to do btw).
As a matter of fact, there are a few specific reasons why dogs like to bite other dog’s ears.
- It’s an easy body part to grab. What’s more accessible than two big floppy ears?
- It shows dominance. Although two dogs might be peacefully playing, one of them might want to assert their dominance. And they can do so by biting the other one’s ears.
Now that we have established why dogs bite other dogs’ ears, let’s answer the other pending question: how can you tell if they are really playing or if they are fighting?
Well, we published an article some time ago that focused on this specific question “how to tell if dogs are playing or fighting”. It goes over the play behaviors, the fight behaviors and it shares some tips on how to prevent a dog fight at the park.
Nevertheless, we are going to share with you the key points you need to keep in mind to figure out whether you are witnessing an aggressive or playful ear biting.
- If the dog whose ears are being bitten is coming back for more, they are probably enjoying themselves. If they want to run away and seem scared, they are probably not perceiving it as a game and want the ear biting to stop.
- They are definitely playing if they are also showing some of these behaviors: the play bow, play growling, taking turns, showing vulnerability and making bouncy movements.
- If you see that the other dog’s ear is wounded, it’s definitely time to stop. This might sound like quite an obvious reason. But the truth is some pet parents tend to let their dog play with others unsupervised. And although their dog might mean no harm, they can unintentionally bite harder and hurt the other dog. That’s why it’s so important to always be present when your dog is playing with others.
The other reason why dogs bite other dogs’ ears is because they are fighting. The same reason why dogs bite each other’s ears when playing (because they are accessible) is the same reason why they do it when fighting.
It tends to be quite easy to identify when two dogs are fighting because, you know, it’s a fight. But in some cases, pet parents struggle to notice if their dogs are still playing or if the situation has escalated into a fight.
When that’s the case, there are some signs you can look for to confirm dogs are fighting, or about to start a fight:
- Tense body language
- Fight growling
- Running away
- Teeth showing
How can you stop your dog from biting other dogs’ ears?
If the dogs involved have no problem with the ear biting, there is no reason why you should stop this encounter. Nevertheless, there are some cases in which you might want to stop your dog from biting the other one’s ears, such as when the ear is wounded or if the other dog seems uncomfortable with your dog doing that.
Some dogs don’t like having their ears bitten, maybe because they suffered a trauma in the past such as being seriously bitten by another dog, or simply because they don’t like it. If that’s the case, it’s 100% okay.
Every pet parent should respect the others and stop their dog from doing something that’s making another one uncomfortable.
Whatever the reason is, there is an easy tip you can follow to stop your dog from biting other dogs’ ears.
One of the best ways to stop your dog from doing things they shouldn’t do, is to distract them. When they are passionately biting their friends' ears, call their name and have in hand a treat they love so they will come to you. This technique will also help you reinforce your calling training, so they will come to you whenever you call them. With time and practice, your dog will learn to come when you call them even if you are not carrying a treat.