Most dog owners have come to associate their dogs licking them as a sign of affection. What most people fail to realize is that affection, though common, is not the only message your dog is trying to pass when they lick you or other people they come into contact with.
To help you better understand your dog and their needs, here are 11 other reasons why dogs lick people. Some will definitely surprise you including dogs licking to show their submission or to groom you.
Others like affection and boredom may not come as too much of a surprise. Without further ado, here are all the reasons why dogs lick people and what to do in each case.
11. A Show Of Submission
Interestingly, some dogs lick people as a sign of submission or at the very least, a sign of goodwill. It shows that they trust you and that you should trust them to not hurt you. This is particularly common in dog breeds with a pack mentality.
In this case, the dog is more likely to lick a stranger after establishing that the new human is trustworthy and worth submitting to. The dog will also still pass this message to you every now and then even after the bond is solidified.
Dogs are not as finicky in their self-grooming as cats are. However, they still do it a lot to themselves and to their young pups. Your dog licking you may just be their way of taking care of you as they would their puppies.
This is in line with the theories about dogs viewing their human companions as their own family and even as their pups. If this is something you are not comfortable with, make sure to discourage it as early as possible or the dog will never stop doing it.
9. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Dogs also sometimes suffer from a form of OCD. No, your dog won’t suddenly be obsessed with organizing their toys or walking through the door a certain number of times. However, they may develop habits like excessively licking themselves or people close to them.
They do this as a way to work out nervous energy that could be triggered by anything from a traumatic experience to deviation from their normal schedule.
8. Psychological Distress
Your dog could also be licking you excessively as a result of psychological distress. Some of the most common issues in this case include anxiety, phobias, and even dog depression.
As with the OCD-induced licking, a dog licking you due to psychological distress is their way of trying to gain some form of relief. This is because the very act of licking and the sensations involved are typically very calming for the dog.
Your job here is to ensure your dog feels safe in which strategies like crate training or calming supplements could come in very handy.
7. Physical Distress
Another common reason why dogs lick people is to communicate their own physical distress. It could be that your dog is in pain or discomfort due to some illness.
In this case, they will not only lick you but also themselves. The licking will also be excessive compared to their normal shows of affection. You may also notice other signs of illness like whining, low energy levels, and changes in appetite.
A quick consultation with the vet should do the dog a lot of good.
6. Soothing You
Dogs are typically very intuitive dogs and can be deeply in touch with the moods and emotions of their owners. This is best appreciated with dog breeds that are either instinctively good at picking up on these emotions or trained to do so as with support dogs.
When the dog notices that you are in physical or psychological distress, they may gently nudge you and lightly lick you as a way to soothe you.
Sometimes all your dog wants from you when they lick you is some attention. This usually happens when you come home from work or errands or when you spend a lot of alone time without the dog despite being in the same house.
In addition to the licking, your dog will try to get your attention in many other ways like staring at you, nudging you, and generally restless behavior.
The best solution here is to give the good boy or girl some of your time and attention. Even a 20-minute game of fetch or short walk for a potty break will make them happier than you can imagine.
4. Investigating You
Dogs tend to be very curious and inquisitive. They may therefore lick you as a way to investigate you. If you are a stranger, they may do it as a way to try and figure out who you are and get used to your scent and general essence.
Even when dogs are familiar with you, they may still lick you as a way to investigate you especially if you have been away from them for a long time.
3. They Like The Taste
If you have been eating something tasty with your bare hands and your dog gets a hold of them then you can bet that the pooch will do whatever they can to get a taste. This is one of the main reasons why dogs love to lick the hands and faces of their human companions.
If you don’t mind, let your pooch go to town and make sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards especially if you weren’t done with your meal.
Dogs kisses, though sometimes gross, are the most genuine expression of a dog’s love and affection for you. You may get kisses for giving them treats, playing with them, letting the pooch cuddle with you, or simply for existing.
With this cause of dog licking behavior, you will also notice other signs of their affection for you like general excitability and a tail that just won’t quit wagging. All you can do here is just soak all the love in.
Sometimes there is no big reason why your dog is licking you. They are just bored and are doing it more out of habit than necessity.
Here, you will also notice your dog may zone out and stare off aimlessly into the distance. It is best to just leave them to enjoy this relaxed state. However, you could also choose to break the trance and engage your pooch in some playtime to get rid of the boredom.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Dog Lick Your Face? The main reason you shouldn’t let your dog lick your face is the fact that their saliva is usually full of germs that can cause you infections. Your face has a number of vulnerable surfaces like the eyes, the nasal mucosa, and the oral mucosa where these germs would easily penetrate to cause infections.
What Dogs Lick The Most? Dog licking is not so much about the dog breed as it is about the individual dog’s personality and circumstances. However, there are a few dog breeds that typically lick themselves and their human companions more than any other dog breed. These include dogs like:
What Diseases Can You Get From A Dog Licking You? The saliva from a dog’s mouth is usually heavy laden with germs that can very easily cause disease. The most common of these illnesses you could get from your dog licking you include:
- Capnocytophaga infections
- Dog tapeworm
- Rabies (if the dog bites you)