Why Does My Dog Lick Me? Understanding Your Pup’s Behavior

Why Does My Dog Lick Me? Understanding Your Pup’s Behavior


There are a million ways for us to show our love for our dogs. And to show back their affection, we get kisses from them in the form of licking. The question is, are dog licks really their sign of love for us? Or is it something else? Let's take a closer look at why your dog licks you and what we can do if it’s becoming excessive.

Why Dogs Lick People

If only our beloved pooches could talk, they'd be the first to tell us why they lick us. Since that is an impossibility, we turn to the experts to find out the probable reasons they do this:

They want to show affection

Most of us think dogs lick us to show affection, and for good reasons. We see them smiling and wagging their tails while doing it. Their moms licked them as puppies, so by instinct, they associate it with love and comfort. This is something they also want to impart to their humans.

In addition, dog licks release endorphins in the dog and the person being licked. This creates a positive and more relaxed experience for both. However, affection is only one among many other reasons why dogs lick us.

They want to communicate their needs

Another probable reason dogs lick is because they want something from you. Puppies lick their mothers to ask them for food. They do this to other adult dogs from the pack to show submission and ask for approval. It's like them asking you to tell them what to do, and they'll follow.

Puppies take this behavior into adulthood, and you, being their parent, become the object of their slobbering. There's a high chance they lick you because they're looking for guidance or sustenance.

They are acting on their instincts

Wolves (our dogs' forefathers) return to their puppies after a hunt. The pups will then lick their mother's muzzle for her to regurgitate their meal. Some believe this behavior was passed down to our dogs' DNA, which causes them to do the same to us.

What we see as a token of affection may actually be a plea to them for us to throw up our lunch and feed them.

They want to get your attention

When we come back home from outside, our dogs tend to be so happy to see us they want a good slobbering on our faces to convey their joy. This is reinforced when we reward them with a pat, kiss, or a laugh. Licking is their way of telling us they miss us and want to be loved and petted. 

Furthermore, you can also see dogs licking other dogs' faces to get their attention. This is typically done with a lot of joy and excitement. So, yes, dogs lick to get attention.

They think you taste good

Dogs lick you because, to them, you taste good. Your skin is salty, which can be an intriguing taste for them even if there's a yucky factor for us. Also, they may find comfort in tasting you. 

This enhances their sense of smell, which is far greater than their sense of taste. This may be the reason they prefer to lick certain body parts, such as our hands, feet, faces, and ears.

They are under stress

Dog licking may be linked to obsessive behaviors coming from stress, anxiety, or boredom. Like us, our furry friends also experience these and it manifests in repetitive licking of us, their toys and other objects, or themselves. You may see them licking you when they hear fireworks or during a thunderstorm. 

Dogs lick to comfort themselves, the canine equivalent of letting out a sigh of relief or taking a deep breath. Also, dogs' tongues contain antibacterial properties that help clean their fur. 

When Dog Licks Become a Problem

While we see our furbabies regularly slobbering our faces off, there can be times when dog licking can be a sign of a problem. Here's when you should watch out for dog licking:

When it becomes more frequent: If your pup licks you, objects, surfaces, or themselves too much that it causes fur loss, irritation, or raw skin, it may be a sign of an underlying cause. If they lick only on a specific area, it might be because of an allergy, injury, or a localized problem.

When you see changes in their behavior: If your dog's licking comes with unusual behaviors such as pacing, scratching, or whining, it may be because it's anxious, bored, or has an obsessive-compulsive behavior. If their licking isn't something they did excessively before, it may be time to consult your vet.

How to Stop Your Dog From Licking You 



If your vet has ruled out medical problems as the reason for your dog's licking, it may be a behavioral problem. Here's what you can do:

Ignore them when they lick you: If your dog licks you to get attention, ignoring them will show them that it won't work. Turn your head away or stop touching or looking at them.

Praise and reward them for good behavior: Give your dogs attention, praise, or rewards for being a good doggo. Do this when they're calmly sitting beside you. Using positive reinforcements is so much better than using deterrents, which can only worsen the situation.

Distract them with toys, puzzles, or any activity they enjoy: When your furbaby starts to lick, give them something to take their mind off licking. Offer a chew toy that will occupy them and keep them busy.

Exercise them: If your dog licks due to boredom, anxiety, or other similar reasons, take a walk or a jog to help them manage their stress. This will help reduce the urge for them to lick you.
Be consistent: Don't confuse your dogs by letting them lick you sometimes and not at other times. Set boundaries and stick with them so your dog will learn that licking isn't how you want them to show affection. Replace these with hugs and cuddles so they'll know what to do.

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