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Why Do Dogs Lick You? Understanding The Reasons Behind Your Dog’s Affectionate Ways

Whether you have your own pooch or have been around a dog for even the briefest of moments, you’ve undoubtedly wondered why do dogs lick you? Keep reading, for we have the answers you seek!

Why Do Dogs Lick You

Licking humans is a common behavior for a dog, and for the most part, it is usually nothing to worry about. Today, we’re going to go over why dogs may lick you if it is safe for them to do so, and how you can get your dog to kick its licking habit.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks You?

Most dogs lick, and there are a few reasons why your beloved pooch may be licking you specifically. These reasons include affection, attention-seeking, instinct, and a possible obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Affection

Affectionate Dog Lick

If your dog is licking you, then there is a fairly good chance that it’s his way of showing he loves you. This reason is why many owners call dog licks “kisses.”

Licking is a natural behavior for dogs, and people aren’t the only ones they lick. In addition, dogs sometimes show affection to other dogs through licking, and it’s a behavior they learned from puppyhood.

You see, mother dogs lick their puppies to groom them and show them affection. As they don’t have hands and words like us, they show affection and bond with their new litter of pups through licking.

When it comes to humans, many dogs will try and lick your face, but they will also aim for any skin that is on show. If you’re sitting in a chair, this will be your feet more often than not.

If you’ve been around numerous dogs, you may have also noticed that some dogs lick people more than others. But don’t worry, just because your dog doesn’t lick as much as the next doesn’t mean they aren’t affectionate. It’s all about what they learned as a puppy, and if their mother wasn’t into excessive licking, they most likely won’t be either.

Attention Seeking

Puppies Lick for Attention

The next reason your dog may be licking you is for attention. If you previously petted your dog after they licked you, or even if you just laughed or smiled, your dog will remember and turn to licking for attention when they are bored or lonely.

Not only positive attention can encourage licking, however. Negative attention can also stimulate a dog’s licking because even negative attention means they aren’t being ignored.

Instinct

This one is up for debate, but some people, including the American Kennel Club and Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, believe that the licking behavior has been passed down in a dog’s DNA and is just a way of them wanting you to throw your food up for them.

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and when these wild dogs have pups, they will hunt and regurgitate the meat for their pups to eat. Once regurgitated, the puppies lick around their mother’s mouth to get every last ounce of food.

Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

Obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs is extremely rare but not impossible. This disorder is often brought on by anxiety or prolonged stress.

Dogs that constantly lick, whether on humans, objects, or themselves, can indicate a severe problem that needs to be addressed. If constant licking occurs, it may be time to take your dog to the vet and have professionals look it over.

You Taste Good

You may have dropped some food down you without realizing it, or your dog may love the taste of human sweat on your slightly salty skin. Either way, a dog licking you could just come down to that you taste good.

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

When a Dog Licks Your Face

As we mentioned before, people believe that the instinct to lick was passed down through a dog’s DNA. However, when dogs interact with one another, they too focus the majority of their licks on the other dog’s face.

Now, we know that dog owners aren’t going to regurgitate their food for their dogs. But dogs don’t. So, if a dog licks your face, it could be their way of trying to get food, even if it is just some leftover sauce from your last meal.

Is It Harmful For Dogs to Lick Humans?

Dogs licking humans is relatively harmless, but their mouths do contain a lot of bacteria. Dog saliva is what makes dog bites so dangerous, but unless you have an open wound, a dog licking you should be no cause for concern.

Dogs Have a Lot of Natural Bacteria in their Mouths

When Is Licking a Problem?

If you’re thinking your dog licking you is a sign of dominance, then you need not worry. A dog lick can actually be a sign of submission. More often than not, submissive dogs are the ones licking the more dominant members of the pack.

But, although your dog licking isn’t going to disrupt the hierarchy in your household, licking can still become a problem for a few different reasons.

The first could be that some people don’t like being licked. Especially if they have germ phobias or if your dog is on the more slobbery end of the slobber scale. Yes, basset hounds, we’re talking about you.

Another reason your dog licking could be a problem is if there is a new baby in the house. Ideally, you want to get the licking problem under control before the baby gets here, but it’s always better to be late than never.

And of course, the biggest problem is when your dog is licking due to anxiety, pain, or boredom. If you’ve noticed your dog licking more than usual, you should always seek help from professionals.

How Do You Teach Your Dog To Stop Licking?

Many Dog Owners See it as a Sign of Affection

Not everyone enjoys the sensation of a dog lick. And even if you don’t mind the feeling, having a dog constantly licking you can get annoying.

Deny It Attention

Getting your dog to cease licking you or other people comes down to denying it the attention it is seeking. If your dog licks, don’t touch it or look at it. Turn your head away completely. You could even get up and walk out of the room if turning your head alone doesn’t work.

Training

Training is another way to kick that annoying licking habit to the curb. As with all dog training tactics, reward it when your dog stops licking. This could be with attention or treats, whatever works best for your particular dog. Over time your dog will learn that licking isn’t the way to get your undivided attention.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind the occasional kiss, you can train your dog to kiss on demand. Attach the word “kiss” to the action and reward your dog when he completes the task. If the licking gets out of control, deny him any attention and start again. Consistent training, especially in young dogs, will lead you to all the kisses you desire – on-demand, of course.

Distract Them

Distractions stops this Affection Dogs Love to Show

Luckily, dogs are easily distracted so if the licking persists, turn their attention onto something else. This could be their favorite toy, a food puzzle, or even a stick. Anything that isn’t you.

Exercise

Exercise is a great way to reduce your dog’s stress and burn up any energy that might be directed towards licking you. A 30-minute walk a day should be sufficient unless your dog is full of energy. If you have a big dog or one in great physical shape, you may need to extend that walk to an hour.

Stay as Clean as Possible

As disgusting as it is, some dogs really enjoy the salty taste of human skin, especially if you’ve just finished your workout for the day.

To get your dog’s licking under control, shower as soon as possible post-workout. Hopefully, keeping clean and washing all that sweat away should deter your dog from licking.

Final Thoughts on Why Dogs Lick You

You should look at a dog lick you in a positive way. After all, they just want to show you their undying affection in the only way they know how. Of course, if the licking is becoming too much, seek veterinary advice. But, for the most part, enjoy the kisses your canine companion gives you. One day you’ll be begging for them back.

As we finish up this article, let us know in the comment section down below what breed of dog you have. Is your dog an excessive licker, or are they on the more mellow end of the scale? We look forward to finding out!