Why Do Dogs Lick Your Hands? Should This Be Encouraged?

Dog kisses are treasured by dog lovers and pup parents around the world. It is a sign of a powerful bond between humans and their furry companions and is generally taken as an innocent gesture.

More often than not, dogs lick your hands or the hands of their human companions as a show of affection and acceptance as a member of the pack. It is a positive habit and should be encouraged in most cases.

In the sections below, we will unpack some of the reasons why dogs love to lick our hands as well as some of the risks associated with letting them do it.

What Does It Mean When Your Dog Licks Your Hands Constantly?

Image from Instagram:@myla_thefrenchbulldog

The main reason why dogs lick our hands constantly is to show that they feel comfortable around you. The licking could convey a number of messages related to this feeling of safety and acceptance.

Here are some of the things your dog is trying to tell you when they lick your hands.

“You’re Family, Let Me Groom You”

Dogs take care of their favorite human companions the same way they would take care of their own families.

This includes licking which is one reason why your dog may be licking your hands excessively.

“I Love You”

Dogs also lick their owners’ hands as a way to express their love and show affection. In addition to licking you, your dog may nuzzle up to you for cuddles or stare calmly at you. All these are very good signs that you have a strong bond with your pooch.

“Yum”

If you have food left over on your hands, your dog might lick them as a way to get a free treat. In these cases, your doggy will most likely focus their licking on the parts of your hands that have handled the food.

“I’m Submitting”

Licking hands is often a sign of submission among dogs. At the very least, it could be your dog letting you know that they see you as an equal. This is a very important sign particularly if you were training an aggressive dog with a dominant personality.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Hands When I Pet Them?

Image from Instagram:@stuarts.little.gram

If your dog licks your hands when you pet them, it is likely that this form of interaction has triggered something in them.

Here are some of the reasons why your dog will lick you when you touch them.

Greeting You Back

Petting is considered a greeting by your dog. One way they may choose to reciprocate is by licking the hand that you greeted them with. This is the perfect definition of doggy kisses and is widely encouraged to promote and improve the bonding you have with your dog.

Inspecting You

Your dog may also lick and sniff your hands to inspect you after you pet them. This usually happens if you have been away for a while and they are trying to figure out where you were and if you have cheated on them with another dog.

Your Interactions

Dogs are creatures of habit and very easily make connections between different interactions, like requesting playtime or treats.

If you reward your dog whenever it does something good with petting and giving treats simultaneously, your dog may assume that any petting will be followed by treats. They may therefore lick and nuzzle at your hands trying to find their favorite snacks.

Asking You To Stop

On rare occasions, your dog may lick you when you pet them as a way to get you to stop touching them. This may happen if your dog is in pain or some form of discomfort and doesn’t want to be handled.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Hands?

While dogs lick their human companion’s hands with mostly innocent intentions, it is not always a good idea to let them do so. It is particularly a bad idea if you have open wounds on your hands or are planning on handling food after your interaction.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why it is not always a good idea to let your dog lick your hands.

Allergies

Dog saliva is one of the main reservoirs for the proteins that cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Therefore, if you have even the mildest of dog allergies, letting a dog lick you could be all it takes to trigger a reaction.

Image from Instagram:@doggs.insta

Local Infections And Subsequent Sepsis

Dog saliva carries a lot of bacteria and other microbes. Some of the most common of these include strains of Salmonella, Brucella, and Capnocytophaga.

Capnocytophaga in particular is commonly implicated in serious local reactions to dog bites or licking of open wounds on the hands. If your dog licks your hands and this bacteria enters your skin or an open wound, here are some of the local signs you may experience.

  • Redness and swelling
  • Blistering around the wound
  • Pain with or without itchiness
  • Pus discharge

Serious infections with Capnocytophaga may result in life-threatening sepsis when the bacteria and their toxins enter the bloodstream. In this case, you may experience:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Confusion and altered consciousness

Parasite Transfer

Dog saliva is also often a carrier for intestinal worms. Some get there from the dog’s poop as they groom themselves while others have life cycles that result with the eggs or larvae in the dog’s saliva after being coughed up.

One of the most serious of these parasites is Toxocara canis. It enters your body when you eat food with unclean hands after letting your dog lick them. The worms cause a condition called toxocariasis with the larva settling painfully within your skeletal muscles, lungs, heart, or even eyes.

How Do You Get A Dog To Stop Licking Your Hands?

So much could go wrong if you let your dog lick your hands from allergies to infections. If you want to get your dog to stop licking your hands, the best strategy is to make your hand inaccessible and unattractive to your dogs.

Here are a few ways that you could get your dog to stop licking your hands.

Withdraw Your Hand

As long as you hold your hand out for your dog to lick it, the pooch will think that it is ok and that you are fine with it. Withdrawing your hand every time your dog starts to lick you will send the message that you don’t want to be licked.

Just make sure to do it gently so that you don’t freak your doggy out or worse, hurt their feelings.

Image from Instagram:@winstonbudda

Use Repelling Scents

You could also use repellents, such as alcohol, apple cider, aloe vera, or even citrus on your hands to put off your dog and discourage them from licking. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this forever.

All you need is to do it for a few days or weeks at most and the last thing your dog will want to taste is your hands.

Avoid Hand-Feeding Your Dog

Hand-feeding your dog treats or food off your plate indirectly encourages the dog to lick your hands. Therefore, if you want them to stop then you have to stop feeding them by hand.

Instead, place treats on the ground for the dogs to pick up and their food or snacks in their feeding bowl.

Find Other Ways To Show Your Dog Affection

Dogs are very creative when it comes to finding ways to show affection to their favorite humans. They may nuzzle up to you with their snouts, cuddle with you, give hugs, or even expose themselves for petting.

Ensure that you encourage all these alternative displays of affection by praising your dog and giving them attention and affection in return.

On the other hand, ignore your dog when they lick your hands. They will not want to use it as a show of affection anymore. It will be difficult to ignore your loving doggy but it is necessary if you wish for them to stop licking you.

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