Why Do Dogs Lick You?

In this article, we’re going to explore a fascinating behavior of your beloved canine companion – why dogs lick you. You’ll get to understand what’s going through your pet’s mind when they give you those slobbery kisses. It’s a captivating look into the world of dog behavior. Stay with us as we decode what the lick means in dog language.

Why Do Dogs Lick You

Understanding Dog Behavior

Before diving into why dogs lick, let’s lay the groundwork by understanding the basics of canine behavior. Dogs are pack animals. They enjoy company and are not used to being alone. Being part of the pack means that they also have a certain hierarchy and roles within their pack. While dogs may seem foreign to us, they actually communicate quite effectively through their body posture, facial expression, and, yes, licking!

Basics of Canine Behavior

Understanding a dog’s behavior requires knowledge of their intuition and natural instincts. Dogs have evolved as pack animals and they possess a range of instincts that were critical for their survival in the wild. This includes feeding, defending territory, reproducing and social interaction.

Dogs and their Instincts

In the canine world, dogs interact with their environment primarily through their sense of smell, followed by their vision and then their hearing. Observing these senses at work can provide us with significant insights into what drives our dogs’ behavior.

Understanding Dog Body Language

A wagging tail, a playful bow, a fearful tuck of the tail, an aggressive growl – these are all examples of dog body language. By reading their body language, we can learn to understand their needs, their fears, and their contentment.

Decoding Dog Licks

So, do you ever wonder why your dog showers you with so many licks, even when you’re not covered in delicious barbecue sauce? Let’s start to decode this action.

Are Dog Licks Really Kisses?

You may think your dog is giving you a kiss. Such face licking is often a long-lasting behavior from puppyhood, where puppies lick their mother’s face. The behavior could also stem from the wolf pack instinct, where lower-ranking pack members would lick the alpha dog’s face.

Licking as a Submissive Behavior

Beyond just potential affection, licking is a submissive act as well. By licking, a dog can send a signal to another dog that they are not a threat, or to you, signalling lower status.

Licking to Bond and Communicate

It’s their way of expressing their affection and inviting you to bond with them. Pay attention to when and how your dog licks you or others.

When Dogs Lick People

Dogs choose to lick humans for a variety of reasons and these can vary depending on their mood and the situation.

Typical Scenarios When Dogs Lick

Dogs usually lick to show affection, as a form of communication and to get attention. A dog might also lick to clean a person’s skin or clothes, out of investigation or even because they like the taste.

Differences in Dog Licking Behaviors

All dogs will lick, but some breeds are more prone to excessive licking than others. Pay close attention to not only how often your dog licks, but also when and where they tend to lick.

Interpreting licks from Different Dog Breeds

The licking habit of a dog can often have a lot to do with their breed. Some breeds naturally enjoy licking more than others.

Dog Licking as a Sign of affection

To our dogs, licking is a naturally instinctive action that is comforting, soothing and rewarding.

How Dogs Show Love

Licking releases pleasurable endorphins which gives dogs a feeling of comfort. It’s another form of communication expressing love and affection.

Dogs Licking their Owners

When a dog licks their human’s faces relentlessly, there is even more to it. This could be an attempt to reinforce social bonds.

Licking as a Sign of Trust and Comfort

Licking is a sensory tool for dogs, just as touch is for humans. Licking you can mean various things, but most often, it’s a sign of affection and comfort.

Why Do Dogs Lick You

Dog Licking and their Health

While often normal, there are health aspects associated with licking.

Licking to Cool Down

Dogs will frequently lick their nose to keep it damp. This helps them to cool down on hot days.

Licking to Clean Wounds

Also, licking can be a way for dogs to clean themselves. Just like cats, dogs lick wounds, cuts, or skin irritation to aid in healing.

Over-licking and Anxiety

Over-licking can also be a sign of anxiety, boredom, or even stress. Monitor your dog’s licking habits closely.

Human Health Risks Associated with Dog Licks

Whilst dog licks can be cute, they can also carry health risks.

Potential Dangers of Dog Mouths

Dog mouths are host to a large number of bacteria. Prolonged, excess licking can lead to infection, especially if your dog licks a wound or unbroken skin.

Infections Transmitted Through Licks

Diseases like rabies, salmonella, and giardia can also be transmitted through dog licks, so it’s always important to ensure your dog is vaccinated and de-wormed regularly.

Preventing Health Problems from Dog Licks

Although the risk is low, try to discourage licking especially around your mouth, non-intact skin or wounds.

How to Train Dogs to Stop Licking

If you feel your dog is an excessive licker, this behavior can be modified.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Reward your dog with praises, treats, or toys only when their lick-free behavior is displayed. This reinforces that the lack of licking gets them what they want – your approval!

Redirecting the Licking Behavior

Encourage him to participate in behaviors that are not compatible with licking such as carrying a toy.

Establishing Boundaries with Dog

Always discourage unacceptable licking, but reinforce the licking that is acceptable to you as an owner.

Dealing with Excessive Dog Licking

Identifying Signs of Compulsive Licking

If your dog is frequently licking themselves or the furniture, they may have a compulsive disorder. If you notice this behavior, consult your vet immediately.

Understanding Reasons for Excessive Licking

The medical reasons might be allergies, parasites, or infections. Sometimes, it can be due to anxiety, or it’s their way of dealing with boredom or stress.

Treatment for Compulsive Licking

Try to find the root cause behind excessive licking and work on eliminating these causes. Sometimes, your vet may recommend medications or behavioral therapies.

Dog Licking and Human-Dog Relationship

Licking is an essential part of the human-dog relationship. It can aid in forming a close bond with your pet.

Interpreting Dog Licks as a Pet Owner

Seeing your canine companion should not only be as pet and owner, but something closer like family. The more we understand our pets, the better we can provide for them.

Dog Licking Influencing Bonding

If interacting with your dog involves a lot of licking, it probably means you’re doing a good job at meeting your dog’s needs!

Maintaining Healthy Human-Dog Interactions

While we can’t and probably shouldn’t stop our dogs from licking us, it’s essential to keep some hygiene rules in mind and ensure our dogs are healthy.


Embracing Dog Licks

Licking is a way for dogs to express their love and loyalty to us. It’s a way of communicating, bonding, and showing respect. While we might not exactly love the slobber, we should love what it signifies.

Importance of Understanding Dog Language

Understanding why our dogs lick can help us better understand our canine friends and their emotions.

Maintaining Balance in Dog Behavior

We should aim to strike a balance between letting our dogs express themselves naturally and maintaining appropriate boundaries. So the next time your pooch licks you, remember, it’s his way of saying, “I love you. You are my family, my pack, and you’re stuck with me!”.

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