Behavior

Why Do Dogs Lick You? It’s More Than A Canine Kiss

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Last Updated: May 24, 2023 | 3 min read | Leave a Comment

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dog licking a girl laying on her back outside

Does your best furry friend shower you with her slobbery tongue all the time? If so, you may wonder, why does my dog lick me so much? It simply means your pup adores you, right? Not always. Although we tend to perceive licking as the human equivalent of kissing, showing affection isn’t the only reason dogs lick us.

Why Do Dogs Lick You?

What does it mean when your dog licks you? A normal instinctive canine behavior, licking is a dog’s way of bonding, showing affection, getting your attention, and grooming. The act of licking also releases hormones called endorphins in a dog’s body. Endorphins create a pleasurable feeling, so licking is often a way dogs soothe themselves from stress or calm down for a nap.

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

Animal behavioral research into wolves and wild dogs has shown that puppies who are transitioning from suckling lick their mother’s mouth to prompt her to regurgitate partially digested food for them. Therefore, one theory is that face licking is an instinctual social behavior in domesticated dogs that’s evolved over centuries.

And, of course, a good old face-licking could mean that your dog is excited to see you when you get home. She’s looking for attention or just showing you how much she loves you.

Why Do Dogs Lick You When You Pet Them?

Our four-legged friends love petting time, and the generally accepted reason they lick you back is to reciprocate your affection. Licking is also a family bonding experience for canines. After all, mommy dogs often lick their puppies to comfort and groom them. So your furry friend may also be licking you to bond with you as her family member.

Do Dogs Lick You Because Of A Lack Of Salt?

You may have heard the old wive’s tale that dogs lick humans because their bodies are salt-deficient. But there’s no evidence that this theory is accurate. A more plausible explanation is that dogs simply like the way our skin tastes. Have you ever come home on a sweltering day or from a run, and your dog has a slobber fest on your legs? It’s more likely that your pup just loves the salty taste of your sweat.

Is Dog Licking A Sign Of Dominance?

No. Dogs aren’t trying to assert their dominance over you by licking your face or another part of your body. Actually, many think it’s the polar opposite — a sign of submission. Animal behaviorists have observed that adult dogs lick other dogs as a sign of social deference or submission to the dominant canine. And since dogs (at least well-trained ones) know that you’re the head of the family pack, they may lick you to appease you.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Me? When Licking Is A Problem

“My dog won’t stop licking me all of a sudden.” If this sounds like your current situation, it’s a potentially concerning behavior. Excessive licking can be a sign of an underlying health or emotional problem with your pup. Obsessively licking you, objects, or themselves could mean that your dog is experiencing stress and anxiety, boredom, or pain because licking is a coping mechanism to self-soothe.

Also, dogs who excessively lick themselves can be a sign of skin allergies or another health problem. Sporadic licking is perfectly normal behavior for dogs, but if you think your pup’s licking has gone way overboard, you should consult your veterinarian. Your vet can rule out any physical problems that could be causing compulsive licking.

If you think your pup’s excessive licking is a result of anxiety or boredom, you can try to redirect her with a fun activity to help break the compulsive habit. Take your dog out for a walk or engage in a game of fetch to interrupt the obsessive behavior. If you’re busy, you can also give her an interactive dog toy to entertain herself. If these methods don’t seem to help, you may want to consult a pet behavioral therapist.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Mouth? (Video)

Sure, some face-licking from your pup is adorable. But this owner takes it to the extreme. I don’t know about you, but I have some boundaries with my dog! In all seriousness, experts say it’s not a good idea to let your pup lick your mouth. That’s because dogs’ mouths are hosts to bacteria, viruses, and yeast, some of which can make us ill. And never let your pup lick any open wounds on your skin for the same reason.

Why Do Dogs Lick Themselves?

People aren’t the only things on the receiving end of a canine’s tongue. For example, my dog Tiny licks furniture all the time. From our perspective, it’s such a strange behavior. But all of their licking means something. See our comprehensive guide on dog licking to understand what’s going on with your pup. We also explain why dogs lick their wounds and paws with tips on how to curb this potentially self-harmful behavior.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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