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Why Do Dogs Bite Each Other’s Ears?

Dogs love rough play, and you’ve likely noticed that among playing tug-o-war with their favorite rope and chasing each other around the yard that they also love to bite each other’s ears.

The good news is that ear-biting is normal, and assuming that your pooches aren’t growling and being aggressive, dog play is all it is.

However, if you start finding wounds on your dog’s ear, you’re likely wondering why dogs insist on biting each other’s ears and what you can do to fix it.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Bites Another Dog’s Ear?

There are two reasons a dog may bite another dog’s ear—because they’re playing or being aggressive.

When a dog is play-biting another dog’s ear, they typically hover their mouth over the ear, dosing it in drool but usually not biting down hard enough to leave a mark.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to distinguish play from aggression because, during play ear bites, one dog is typically dominant over the other one.

The dogs may also snarl and make small growling noises during play.

In the following sections, we’ll cover dog play and aggression in more detail so that you gain a better understanding of what it means when a dog bites another dog’s ear.

Ear Biting During Dog Play

Is there anything cuter than puppies rolling around together?

Besides giving you joy, puppies learn important skills when they play together—namely, how much pressure they can apply when biting each other’s ears during play.

There are two primary reasons that dogs bite each other’s ears:

  1. It’s an easy body part to grab, serving as a kind of built-in toy
  2. In healthy dog relationships, one dog uses ear-biting to show its dominance over the other dog

Even in the second case, fun is often at the forefront of dog play, even if your Shih Tzu finds itself pinned beneath a Great Dane.

Ear biting can also support dog bonding and encourage dogs to get another dog to play with them.

If your dog meets a new dog, keep a close eye on their behavior until they get used to each other; innocent ear-biting can escalate, especially if dogs forget their puppy training and bite a little too hard.

If your dog’s ear is bleeding, it could be a scary sight to see—blood flow can be heavy for even the most minor bites.

In fact, there’s a scientific reason your dog’s ear bleeds more profusely than a similar bite on a different body part, as an ear’s constant movement makes it more difficult for blood to clot.

Signs that Dogs Want to Play Together

If you’re on the fence about whether your furry love is okay with Fido yanking on her ears, keep an eye out for the following telltale signs of dog play.

  1. Tail wagging
  2. Biting at each other’s mouths—sometimes even clinking teeth—without them yelping
  3. Back rolling, allowing a dog to become dominant over them
  4. Sticking their butt in the hair and pushing their head to the ground
  5. Bolting towards each other and then dodging around the other dog at the last second

Alternatively, you can run the following test—hold onto the collar of the more dominant dog and let the dog that’s getting its ears bit walk away.

If the dog doesn’t leave, or if he goes and returns, you’ll know that he’s enjoying the roughhousing.

Ear Biting During Dog Aggression

You’ve likely stroked your dog’s puppy-like soft ears enough times to know that its skin is delicate.

Therefore, if a canine bites your dog’s ears out of aggression, it could cause serious lacerations; an aggressive dog can bite down strongly on your pooch.

If you’re wondering why aggressive dogs target the ear during a fight, it’s because of how easy they are to wrap their mouth around.

As when dogs play, aggressive dogs also bite ears to show their dominance.

Whether you encounter a stray dog on your street or your normally loving dog suddenly shows aggressive ear-biting behavior towards another dog, below are some reasons that can cause this reaction.

  • Pain
  • Fear
  • Hunting down prey
  • Possessiveness towards an owner, territory, or toy

If dogs become aggressive with each other, find a safe way to break them up as quickly as possible by using an object to divide the dogs so that you (and hopefully a bystander) can grab their collars.

By acting quick enough, you could prevent ear injuries.

Signs that dogs are getting aggressive and may bite their play partner’s ears too forcefully include:

  • Snarling and growling
  • Showing the teeth, including the gums
  • Raised hairs on their backs
  • Flattened ears

Preventing Dogs From Ear Biting

If your dog has a tendency to get carried away during play, the strategies below will help you manage them before they injure another dog’s ear.


Sometimes all it takes is a clap of the hands or a blow of a whistle to pull your pooch away from overzealous biting.

Ideally, the sound should be different than standard noises that the dog typically hears to maximize its effectiveness.

Wheelbarrow Walk

If both dogs seem on the verge of aggression, take the dogs’ back legs and lift them up like you would when doing a wheelbarrow walk with children.

You’ll need two people for this—one for each dog.

Physical Barrier

Whether it be a broom, chair, or another nearby object, forcing your dogs into separation is often effective for giving them a minute to cool off before resuming their play.

Use Water

If you have a hose nearby, open the valve and give the aggressive dog(s) a quick spray.

Alternatively, if you’re indoors, a spray bottle will do the trick.

Wrap Up

In most cases, dogs biting each other’s ears is an innocent act of play and even important for dogs to bond with each other.

If a dog becomes aggressive with its ear-biting, implement the strategies we covered here—you never want to get too close to the disagreement, as you could be putting yourself in harm’s way.

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National Canine Research Association of America