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Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Many dog owners interpret their dogs licking them as a sign of affection, similar to the way that humans kiss each other. But is it really a sign of love?

It’s worth noting that licking can have several different meanings.

Remember that dogs lick instinctively. It is a natural behavior for them.

As puppies, their mother would groom them and comfort them by licking, and puppies lick one another to release endorphins, which helps calm them. This can carry over into adulthood.

When your dog greets you with wags of its tail and some licking here and there, it is most likely a sign of genuine affection.

However, if your dog is licking you more constantly or obsessively, there may be a reason to pause and consider the reason for all the licking. 

So, why does your dog lick you, and what concerns might stem from constant or obsessive licking?

Here are many reasons dogs lick and when you might want to call your veterinarian and have a health examination done.

Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Your Dog is Grooming Herself

The Bond Vet Online Vet help strongly expresses that many dog owners are not aware that dog tongues contain antibacterial properties, and often come to vets seeking solutions for licking habits.

It is to be understood that dogs and other furry pets understand how to use their tongues to clean themselves and their fur. 

Dogs lick to clean off their paws after they go to the bathroom outdoors and to clean scratches or other minor wounds that they may get. 

However, their tongues contain both good and bad bacteria, so don’t confuse that their tongues are strictly for cleaning.

Your Dog is Showing You Affection

Yes, licking is also sometimes a sign of love from your pup. It is a way to greet you when you come home, to show you that they are happy to see you. 

In addition, it is sometimes revered as a submissive action and demonstration of respect for you to lick you.

Other times, your dog may sense your feelings of dismay or sadness and lick you to show empathy and compassion.

They may nuzzle and cuddle with you when you are crying because of your noises since it alerts them that something is wrong.

Your Dog is Exploring

Dogs like to use their sense of taste to explore their surroundings.

They use both scent and taste together as a way of touching.

For example, you may notice that your dog is curious about a piece of food or a treat you offer and may only lick it before taking it into its mouth to eat.

Your Dog Thinks You Taste Good

Another reason for dogs who lick is that sometimes you may wear an ocean-scented body, come out of the shower, or come home from the gym.

Dogs like the salt from sweat, think that your lotion tastes good, or want to lick the water from your skin. 

Notice when your dog licks you and what you may have just put on your skin or fingers.

You may have some remnants of food left on your hands or other parts of you that your dog is licking to get the taste from because they can smell it, and it tastes good.

Your Dog Wants Attention

Even though your dog may sometimes be giving you attention, it may be the one who wants the attention from you. 

Licking lets you know that they want to play with you or are possibly hungry and looking for food or water.

If you speak sweetly to your dog, it helps reinforce their behavior, and they may continue to lick you.

Black Dachshund licking man's face

If Your Dog Licks Constantly or Obsessively

While the reasons mentioned above are all harmless licking reasons, there are some cases where the licking can become a more severe problem.

For example, if your dog is licking themselves, objects, or even you obsessively, this could be a sign of an underlying health issue. 

Some health problems that can cause dogs to lick often include:

  • Anxiety or severe stress could also include your dog having separation anxiety if you are away often.
  • Injury or pain – your dog may have an open wound and may continue to lick if it is not healing correctly, or it could be licking a sore joint or muscle due to chronic pain such as arthritis.
  • Allergies or a skin condition – your dog might be itchy from an infection or allergy, and while scratching and biting may also be expected, so is excessive licking. As a result, you may notice the skin become very red or hair loss.
  • Boredom – dogs can become restless or bored and start to lick as a sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
  • Digestive issues – usually an indication of a gastrointestinal problem like this, you will see your dog licking surfaces or objects, not itself.

Contact your veterinarian when you notice any of these licking behaviors occurring and sense it is more than just their natural instinct.

Your vet may also refer you to an animal behavior specialist who can assist you with treating the licking problem.

When You Don’t Want Your Dog to Lick You

If any underlying health issues have been ruled out, and you just want your dog to stop licking so much, try some of the following tips to help keep your dog from licking.

Reinforce Good Behavior

It is no surprise that dogs respond well to praise, pets and treats and will continue to act the way you want when being rewarded.

Give your dog attention when it is well behaved, calmly beside you, and allowing you to pet it, but not lick you. 

Positive reinforcement is a great way to train, especially with puppies.

However, it would be wise not to use a spray bottle of water or yell at your dog when it is licking to get it to cease.

It may result in having the opposite effect and increase your dog’s licking.

Ignore the Licking

If your dog gets more attention when it licks you, it will continue to lick.

If you don’t like your dog licking, you can try to train it not to by standing up and leaving every time that it licks you.

It demonstrates to your dog that you don’t like the behavior, and eventually, it should stop.

Redirection

Distraction or redirection is an excellent method to stop your dog from licking.

If you notice your dog starting to lick, offer it something else to do, such as a dog toy or puzzle, that will allow it to use its tongue to find a treat or chase a toy.

If you continue to redirect your dog each time it begins licking, you will convey that you don’t want the dog to lick by using positive reinforcement.

Trick training is another form of redirection, in which you have the dog do something else and reward it with a treat so that it carries on the behavior.

You are, in turn, training your dog, so you can use it as a way to teach it to sit, shake, lay down, and so on. 

Exercise and Burn Off Energy

If your dog needs stimulation because it is licking out of boredom, you can provide it with more exercise.

For example, give it an extra walk or set aside more playtime outdoors where the dog can run and burn off any excess energy.

Exercise will help reduce stress and anxiety and provide your pup with more entertainment as a way to engage with you that doesn’t involve any licking. 

Whatever method you decide upon to stop your dog from licking, stay consistent in your efforts.

Dogs that receive mixed signals or messages about their behavior can quickly become confused and unsure of what you wish for them to do.

Therefore, you need to be clear and set boundaries repetitively and consistently so that your dog will catch on quickly.

chihuahua licking owner's hand

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is it Okay For My Dog to Lick My Face?

Most dog owners view having a dog as part of the family and don’t mind allowing their dog to “kiss” them with licks to the face. However, whether or not you let your dog lick your face is entirely a personal decision.

However, it is worth noting that dogs’ mouths are full of natural bacteria, and there is a tiny possibility that their saliva could contain parasites.

So while the chances of you getting sick from being licked in the face by your dog are small, you’ve still witnessed your dog eating and licking things you may question. 

So, what else is your dog licking and eating that you don’t know about?

You may consider washing and cleaning your face and hands after letting your dog lick your face so that you stay clean and uncontaminated.

Why Does My Dog Lick Me the Most?

Dogs will give the person they love more affection, so it’s no surprise that your dog will provide you with more licks than other people.

It may also be because you taste better to them, so consider looking at if you’re wearing something that they like the scent and taste of, or if you work out frequently, they enjoy the taste of your skin.

If you are your dog’s primary care owner or are giving your dog more attention than anyone else in the family, you provide them with the attention they crave so they will return the affection. 

Why Does My Dog Lick Me Every Morning?

There are many reasons dogs lick in the morning.

Just like us, when they are waking up, they like to clear their mouths and lick as a means of helping them to become alert and salivate from a dry mouth. 

Other reasons for licking in the morning could be that they are just greeting you after a good night’s rest or happy to see you after waking up.

It could also be that the oils and sweat that are released taste good to them when you sleep.

Why Does My Dog Lick so Much?

Licking is a natural behavior for dogs, so you shouldn’t become overly concerned with your dog’s licking unless you sense there is a problem.

For example, dogs may like to lick you a lot after you’ve eaten or lick you when you are petting them to let you know that they appreciate the attention.

However, if you notice that your dog is often licking in the same spot on its fur or that it seems to be licking obsessively in one area, it could cause concern.

Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you have any qualms about your dog’s licking behavior.

It is always better to be on the safe side.

Dog licking a little girl

Does My Dog Lick Me as a Way of Kissing?

There is no sure way to know if your dog’s licking is always a sign of affection.

While that could be one of the reasons, others involve the same behavior of licking.

It’s challenging to know the specific reason why a dog licks, considering our dogs can’t speak to us and tell us why.

Pay Attention To Your Dog’s Licks

There are numerous interpretations of what your dog’s licks could mean.

It is a possible sign of affection, to taste, out of boredom, or to calm them down due to anxiety, allergies, or pain.

Ensure that you pay attention if you notice your dog is licking more often, and contact your veterinarian promptly when their licking seems excessive to rule out any health issues.

Your dog loves you unconditionally, and one method of showing its affection is to lick you.

If you don’t like the licking, take some steps to stop the behavior and use positive reinforcement.

You will strengthen your bond and help your dog learn to be loyal and behave like a faithful companion.

Terri Quick

Sunday 16th of October 2022

Thank you for sharing this

Molli Taylor

Sunday 16th of October 2022

my dogs lick all the time, so this is great to know!

Antoinette M

Saturday 15th of October 2022

Very interesting. Thanks!

heather

Saturday 15th of October 2022

This was super informative and I learned a lot.

Debbie P

Friday 14th of October 2022

Lots of great information. And a couple that I didn't think of!

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