For us humans, licking typically happens whilst enjoying food. However, when a dog licks you, it is much more than just a way to taste. There’s more than one reason behind those licks you receive.
So, what is the meaning behind those licks your canine buddy gives you?
1. It’s a sign of affection, or a means to bond.
For dogs, licking is part of social grooming that signifies affection and pack bonds. Licking also stimulates the release of happy hormones in dogs. This means that when your dog licks you, he’s communicating his love to you.
However, when the licking becomes excessive, ignore it. You can stand up and go to another room when that happens. If you consistently do this every time he attempts to lick you, he will associate the act with your reaction and will stop licking. He’d rather enjoy your company than lick you out of reach.
2. It establishes you as the alpha dog in the house.
Dogs typically lick the muzzles of other dogs—especially the alpha of the pack—to signify their submission. This is the same interpretation for when your dog licks your face.
In the wild, puppies have been known to lick at their mother’s mouth in a bid to have her regurgitate the food she consumed from a hunt. This act signifies their submission to their mother.
Being recognised as your pet’s leader is important; in fact, it is critical when you house-train the puppy. That’s because your pup will become dominant, stubborn, and unruly if he doesn’t.
3. It excites your dog’s taste buds.
Your skin may have tiny food particles on, as well as salty sweat. These things are tasty to your dog—plus the fact that he likes the scent of you—which is why he can’t help licking you. It’s similar to when dogs lick their food bowls or crumbs on the floor.
4. It means, “Feed me, I’m hungry!”
Often, your dog licking you may merely mean that he’s telling you that the food bowl is empty and that he’s hungry. Although some dogs will resort to barking non-stop and leading you to their bowls, licking may also communicate the same need for you to provide him with nourishment as his provider and protector.
If it’s still licking you after a full meal, then try to look around if your dog needs something else.
5. It’s a way to engage your attention.
This is especially the case if you reward your dog’s licks with food, petting, or verbal responses. Your dog will consider your actions approving of his licking.
However, once the licking becomes very excessive, it might be a sign of issues like obsessive compulsiveness or a neurological problem. You may want to have your pet checked by a veterinarian to rule out such issues.
Take note of the motivations behind your dog’s licking so you can respond to his attention appropriately. If he licks you excessively but does not seem to have health issues, teach him to be calmer in showing his affection, just as you train your dogs to stop chewing everything when the gnawing gets out of hand.