“Why is my dog licking me?” When domestic dogs are licking their owners, the behaviour is often regarded as the canine equivalent to giving smooches.
However, is that really true? Are dog licks really kisses? Nope, there’s actually more than one reason behind this adorable but curious behaviour. Some are heart-warming, whilst others are a cause for concern.
1. Dog licking is a way of showing affection or a means to bond.
This is one of the most common answers to the question, “Why is my dog licking me?” For dogs, licking is a part of social grooming that signifies affection and dog-to-dog bonding.
Licking also produces a good effect on dogs as it stimulates the release of their pleasurable endorphins or happy hormones.
In the wild, dogs lick their pack members to welcome them home. Puppies, in many cases, lick their mothers as a sign of affection. So when your dog licks you, this could mean he’s communicating that he adores you.
2. Dog licking is a hint that your pup wants you to throw up your food.
“Why is my dog licking me in the face?,” some dog owners ask. When pooches lick your face, they might be asking you to regurgitate what you ate. Although it sounds a bit unsavoury, this dog behaviour has its purpose.
According to experts, it is a common behaviour of wild canines to gradually transition puppies from suckling milk to eating solid food. Puppies lick the face and muzzle of their mother after she hunts. This is to prompt regurgitation of partially digested food.
3. Dog licking can also mean that you taste good.
Dogs have a powerful sense of smell. Your dog must have smelled tiny food particles on your skin, as well as salty sweat. They are all tasty to your dog—plus your unique scent that your dog loves—which is why he can’t help but lick you.
It’s similar to when dogs lick their food bowls or crumbs on the floor. So the next time your dog licks you, think back if you have just had something tasty or just had a run.
4. Dog licking establishes you as the alpha dog in the house.
Dogs typically lick other dogs’ muzzles—especially the alpha of the pack—to signify their submission. This is the same interpretation for when your dog licks your face.
As mentioned earlier, in the wild, puppies have been known to lick their mother’s mouth. This dog behaviour signifies their submission to their mother.
5. Dog licking is your pooch silently saying “Feed me, I’m hungry!”
Often, your dog licking you may merely mean that he’s telling you that his food bowl is empty. Although some dogs will resort to barking non-stop and lead you to their bowls, licking may also communicate the same need for you to provide him with nourishment.
6. Dog licking a way to engage your attention.
Dogs love to lick their people, especially if they are rewarded with food, petting, or verbal responses. Your dog will consider your actions as approval of his licking.
Why is my dog licking me in the morning?
Your dog may be greeting you a good day when he licks you in the morning. Apart from that, it might also be his way of communicating that he can’t wait for you to serve his breakfast.
Why do dogs lick your feet and hands?
What does it mean when a dog licks your hand constantly? These dog behaviours may be simply done out of showing affection or wanting your attention. It is not uncommon for a dog to lick its sleeping owner’s feet and wake them up for food.
How Do I Teach My Dog to Stop Licking Me?
Licking may seem like a cute gesture of affection at first. But once it becomes excessive, it can be very discomforting for dog owners. Here’s is what you can do to keep your pooch from licking you.
Consult the vet first.
Excessive licking 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.
If his obsessive licking is due to a brain disorder, you may need to seek help from an expert dog behaviourist.
Burn out your dog’s energy.
Some dogs resort to excessive licking because they are bored and have too much energy. Exercise is proven to be effective in minimising excessive licking, especially with dogs that have neurological issues.
Take your dog out for a walk, initiate a training session, or start an enjoyable activity to exhaust him.
Keep your dog busy and distracted.
Redirect your pooch’s attention to fun games. If he is about to start licking you, give him a chew toy or play fetch. It is a good way to reinforce the desired behaviour in a positive and enjoyable way for your dog.
Do not give him attention.
When dogs receive encouragement from their owners for doing certain behaviours, they are more likely to do it again. So tell your dog “no” and ignore him when he starts licking you. Reward him with attention when he stops carrying out the undesirable behaviour.
Is it OK for your dog to lick you?
Yes, it is okay for your dog to lick you. After all, it is a harmless gesture. Just make sure not to encourage him too much to prevent it from turning into a bad behaviour.
Also, keep in mind that dog slobber can transmit harmful bacteria and parasites. Thus, avoid letting your dog lick your mouth and nose. Do not forget to wash your hands and face afterward.
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 your dog to be calmer in showing his affection, just like training dogs to stop chewing everything when the gnawing gets out of hand.