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What do you all have to say about ear licking?? Is this a dominant behavior?

 

Most ear licking I've seen from one dog to another preceeds mounting then usually agression? So I would assume the licker/mounter is being "pushy" towards the other dog? Dominant?

 

Also, someone told me a "behaviorist" told her mounting is a behavior brought on by stress?? Really?!

 

Thoughts/advice and opinions welcome...

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Yes, mounting can be brought on by stress. I've seen it a couple of times with my male who is not at all dominant.

 

Ear licking, well, not sure. But licking can be a stress response. Or getting in another dog's space can be a pushy dog. I don't think I'd read too much into it without seeing the whole situation. Dogs sniff and and lick just because they're dogs sometimes too.

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I've never heard of ear licking being a dominant behavior but stress can cause humping. Josie used to hump when she would become overly excited and couldn't run/burn it off. JJ doesn't know how to play correctly and will try to hump Josie when they play chase and he "catches" her. (She always scoots out from under him, faces him and the chase is on again.)

 

ETA: JJ doesn't have a dominant bone in his body. If Jake looks at him a certain way, JJ will hang his head and walk away. When Josie wants to go outside and I ignore her, she'll start licking JJ's face, teeth, eyes, etc to get him to growl and bark. It's not unusual to hear "Josie, get out of JJ's face!" around here. :rolleyes:

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Mounting is a displacement behavior in most dogs (outside of mating context, of course). They use it as an escape valve for nervous energy, when they don't quite know what to do in a situation. Licking is an appeasement behavior, or a calming signal. When dogs kiss you or another dog, they are often saying "hey, please calm down, I don't want any conflict or craziness right now."

 

If you want to read about why dominance is an outdated hypothesis at best, check this out: http://www.dogwelfarecampaign.org/why-not-dominance.php You don't need a PhD in Ethology to understand it, but it includes references to primary literature if you'd like to read more.

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If "licking the ears" is a calming behavior...why is it usually followed by a fight with the dogs in question?

 

and in other observations why does ear licking in intact males precede mounting and then aggression??

 

How do explain why most mounting behaviors I see are followed by agression/my one dog got puncutre wounds in her face after a dog tried to mount her and she spung around...

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If "licking the ears" is a calming behavior...why is it usually followed by a fight with the dogs in question?

 

and in other observations why does ear licking in intact males precede mounting and then aggression??

 

How do explain why most mounting behaviors I see are followed by agression/my one dog got puncutre wounds in her face after a dog tried to mount her and she spung around...

 

The mounting is an escalation, followed by a further escalation (the fighting). Someone is nervous, tries to calm the situation down, it doesn't work (or it does work, but the dog doing the licking doesn't perceive it to have worked), the dog doing the licking starts mounting because he doesn't know what to do with himself, other dog gets ticked off...and then you have a scuffle. The motivation (anxiety with the situation/fear) is the same for all the behaviors: licking, mounting, aggressing. Would have to see the scenario unfold to know for sure, but that is actually a pretty classic presentation.

 

Only exception might be if the mounting is going on in an obviously sexual context (i.e., male mounting female who is in heat but not standing heat, and she aggresses...although puncture wounds would be a bit severe of a reaction).

 

EDIT: Just to clarify: just because licking is a calming signal doesn't mean that the dog receiving the signal understands it, or has the opportunity to respond appropriately (by moving away or disengaging). And it doesn't mean that even if the receiving dog responds appropriately that the licking dog will be mollified. It's all about perception (on the dogs' parts).

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Both neutered male dog start going back and forth between licking eachothers ears and..."other" parts...then one puts there head on the others back which leads to more tensions which eventually leads to fighting.....the ear licking starts it all off....so this chain of behaviors singals to me more "dominant" behvaior or the two are "jockeying" for position or whatever? They have been living together in the same household for a few months and were adopted as rescues about a month apart...

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Both neutered male dog start going back and forth between licking eachothers ears and..."other" parts...then one puts there head on the others back which leads to more tensions which eventually leads to fighting.....the ear licking starts it all off....so this chain of behaviors singals to me more "dominant" behvaior or the two are "jockeying" for position or whatever? They have been living together in the same household for a few months and were adopted as rescues about a month apart...

 

Based on what you write, this sounds more like an issue between these particular dogs than a general meaning of ear licking or mounting. Mounting can be stress displacement, and it can also be play - I've seen many dogs mounting away having a good old time (when both dogs enjoy that sort of play) who play and part the best of friends.

 

Dominance is one theory (which has been debunked by many) to explain the tension between them. It could also be that both have a need for space and are attempting to communicate that in this way. Or the two dogs simply don't like each other. It may be also, that one, or both, of them is not adept at reading what the other dog is communicating, so the situation is escalating.

 

One big positive here is that the situation is starting off with the ear licking - a very clear sign that the human in the picture should be able to read easily and know to separate them before it goes any further. Whatever the motivation behind it, it's great communication to the owner to help both of them by diffusing the situation.

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What she said smile.gif/> Could be resources, could be the the arousal level in the environment, could be that they just don't like each other (which could be complicated by the fact that one, or both, may not be very adept at social communication or are anxious fellows in general). It would not be a bad idea for their owner seek professional help, especially if the dogs are fighting frequently, are injuring each other (or other people or animals in the vicinity), or are young animals. This problem may not do so, but has the potential to become much worse (i.e., the dogs can't see each other without attempting to injure each other severely).

 

Only question I have is this: I don't think I've ever seen dogs mount and not do so as a displacement activity, or as a ritual that started as a displacement activity. Often the play session resolves amicably (i.e., the displacement activity was effective to dissipate nervous energy), but it usually happens when play get rougher/someone gets just a little stressed about the situation. Don't suppose you have any videos that you think are "just play"? Maybe I need to broaden my world view biggrin.gif/>

 

EDIT: And also, as Root Beer said, the licking sounds like a really clear signal for the humans present to safely resolve the situation by redirecting both dogs.

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I have seen mounting as what could be displacement behavior in neutered males..or spayed females...I've seen dogs getting seemingly over stimulated during rough play and try to mount...

 

I've seen fights break out and damage done with mounting behaviors also, mostly in "intact" animals...if you're able to read body language there intent is definatly NOT play...My young bc was mounted and then attacked by an older intact male...and as I mentioned my female sustained injury after being mounted by a male and then bit...

 

A breeder/trainer friend of mine brought forward the fact that ear licking/mounting in intact animals can lead to and can end in agression..and that the dogs "intent" is different...didn't throw out the cliche "dominant" term but they are usually jockeying for position/etc..

 

She also noted if a dog is neutered later in life he can still present some of these behaviors?

 

I recommnended to this person with the two dogs that she seperate them when she sees the ear licking start but that would pretty much contradict the fact that the ear licking is a "calming" grooming ritual...both dogs look quite intense when it's going on and the fact that it escalates and turns into fighting I would be inclined to think that it does NOT have any sort of calming effect....the fact that ear licking has been observed in intact males before mounting and eventual agression would make me think it's more of a "dominance" thing...or the other dogs are being pushy or competing..

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. . . and the fact that it escalates and turns into fighting I would be inclined to think that it does NOT have any sort of calming effect....

 

That fact alone does not mean that ear licking may not be a calming signal.

 

Dogs throw calming signals at humans all the time, and the signals are often misunderstood and do not result in a calming effect (which may be a removal of a perceived conflict or stressor more than "calming" the person down). One of the most common that I see is when a stressed dog turns his head away from the handler to try to diffuse the stress, and the handler responds by putting more pressure on the dog to try to get him to "pay attention". The signal was misunderstood, but it remains a calming signal.

 

Some dogs also fail to read the signals, but the signals remain calming signals all the same.

 

The effect that the signal has in a given instance does not always indicate the reason why the dog threw the signal to begin with.

 

Granted, I have not heard of ear licking as a calming signal per se. Lip licking (the dog's own and the other dog's), yes, but ear licking, no.

 

It may be, though.

 

Also, to confuse the matter further, a particular calming signal is not always a calming signal. Example - yawning is a calming signal. But dogs also yawn when they are tired or bored. A bow is a calming signal, but a bow can also be an invitation to play or a stretch.

 

So, if ear licking is a calming signal, it certainly can also be grooming or motivated by the fact that the dog like the taste of the inside of another dog's ear.

 

In this case, the separation of the two dogs when the ear licking begins actually does fit into the calming signal model. By separating the dogs, the conflict is diffused. Depending on the actual relationship between the two dogs and the exact source of the conflict between them, they may well learn to read the signal over time and learn to separate themselves when the ear licking begins.

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Root Beer, what are you basing your knowledge on?

 

Own personaly experience and opinions?

 

I'm just curious....

 

I've recognized head turning/yawning/ etc during training sessions...noting it is a sign of stress but we work thorugh it....

 

The way I described the situation with the ear licking, and the events that escelate do not appear to be the dogs attempting to decrease stress....there "intent" seems quite intense and they are interacting in a manner that escelates that tension....

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After reading this thread, I'm not sure what the question is? Are you asking if the ear licking is a sign of dominance (or intent to dominate)? Or are you looking for an explanation for the owner of these dogs? It sounds as if you've given her the best advice possible: when you see the ear licking start, separate them.

 

If the owner is looking for a deeper explanation of the behavior or the dynamic between these two dogs, then perhaps a behaviorist observing them would be the answer. If she's just looking for ways to control the subsequent attacks, then separating them at the first sign (the ear licking) makes sense. If she's looking for ways to get these two to get along, again I think an experienced behaviorist would be the best choice. If the strife is really bothering her, then perhaps considering rehoming one of the dogs would be the best choice.

 

J.

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Root Beer, what are you basing your knowledge on?

 

Own personaly experience and opinions?

 

I'm just curious....

 

Mainly the work of Turid Rugaas.

 

In addition, her work is very heavily incorporated into the Control Unleashed program, and other well known behavior modification programs, such as BAT.

 

So no, this is not my personal experience or opinion, although I certainly have found that personal experience and observation has definitely validated what I have learned through the work of Ms. Rugaas, et al.

 

There are some excellent resources available if you would like to learn more about the Calming Signals. There is much, much more to them than it would seem on the surface. They aren't just about "calming down". If you would like some recommendations, I would be happy to name some sources for you.

 

The way I described the situation with the ear licking, and the events that escelate do not appear to be the dogs attempting to decrease stress....there "intent" seems quite intense and they are interacting in a manner that escelates that tension....

 

It may not appear that way, but that may, in fact, be the case.

 

In cases where the signals are not read, communication between the dogs can most certainly escalate, and tensions can rise, and conflict can result.

 

Let me be clear, I am not saying that the two dogs are throwing calming signals in this case. I haven't seen the dogs and would not know. There are many possible reasons why the actual ear licking may be happening. That it is a calming signal is one of many possibilities.

 

But it is possible that some calming signals are being used by the dogs in spite of the fact that an escalation in conflict is actually resulting? Yes, it is possible.

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