Why Do Dogs Love Having their Ears Rubbed?

March 26, 2015

By Langley Cornwell

One of our rescue dogs is skittish and fearful. We are always on the lookout for ways to help this dog relax and take it easy. We’ve done all kinds of behavioral work and tried multiple training techniques. The good news is that he seems to making progress. Even so, there is plenty of work that still needs to be done.

The other evening after he finished eating his favorite grain free dog food – CANIDAE PURE Elements with Lamb – he was lying on the sofa next to me and I began rubbing his ears. He snuggled closer and I began to feel all of the tension slowly leaving his body; it was if someone had stuck a tiny pin in a ball and the air was seeping out gradually. I know all the tricks for putting our cat into this state of relaxed euphoria, but I’d never been able to get this dog to fully let go until that moment. With a big grin on his goofy, loveable face, he fell into a happy trance.

It turns out that rubbing a dog’s ears is a natural sedative, almost like a tranquilizer.

Nerve Centers

The ears of a dog are one of three nerve centers on his body. The other nerve centers are between his toes and the center of his belly; all of these places are extremely sensitive to the touch. The benefit of knowing where these nerve centers are is that you know where to rub your dog to instigate relaxation. And it’s more than simple relaxation. When you stroke your dog’s ears, the sensation he feels goes further than just the ears themselves. The intense pleasure he feels extends deep into his body.

It works like this: the ears of a dog contain nerve freeways that spread all the way to his internal organs. So by rubbing his ears you are making him feel good from the inside out and back again. In fact, people who conduct canine acupuncture and acupressure oftentimes focus on a dog’s ears exclusively. Applying pressure to the ears activates these nerve impulses to directly stimulate specific organs in the body. Much like reflexology and the human feet, there is a complete map of the canine body on their ears.

The Science

Apparently it’s not at all uncommon for a dog to slip happily into a state of bliss when his ears are being rubbed. A rubbing, stroking motion stimulates the pituitary and hypothalamus glands which releases endorphins. The secretion of these feel-good, pain-killing hormones makes a dog feel relaxed to the point of blissfulness. Essentially, you are naturally tranquilizing your dog.

The Added Benefit

Dogs crave attention and affection from their owners, so a good ear-rubbing session is also an excellent bonding exercise. But all this is not only good for the dog; it’s good for the person doing the rubbing. Experts have discovered that humans derive many of the identical benefits that their canine companions do while they are enjoying each other’s touch. It seems that rubbing your dog’s ears triggers a similar endorphin response in humans, which helps us relax and even lowers our blood pressure.

Ears of All Shapes and Sizes

This phenomenon is not breed specific – almost all dogs respond with deep pleasure when they have their ears rubbed. So if you’ve got a cute little Papillion with wing shaped ears, a slow moving basset hound with big floppy ears, a stately German shepherd with sharp peaked ears or a sweet Golden retriever with soft, furry ears, give them a rub and see what happens. A good ear-rubbing session is the perfect win-win scenario. The whole exercise is good for the dog and good for the human.

Have you ever used ear-rubbing as a natural sedative? Did it relax your dog?

Photos by Langley Cornwell

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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