Why do dogs lick you? Here are all the reasons

What’s behind this common behaviour

Photo of author

By Alex

Why dogs lick

Licking is a very common behavior for dogs. They lick themselves, they lick other dogs, and they also lick their owners. But what do they want to communicate? Affection, attention-seeking, stress, discomfort, etc. The meanings of this common gesture are many and varied. That is why it is important to know them all.
So let’s see together why dogs lick.

Why dogs lick: a combination of reasons

In dogs, licking is a way of communication. There are various situations in which dogs lick their owner (or other humans) or their fellow humans.

Let’s see together what the various meanings are. Generally, dogs lick when:

  • they want to play
  • they are hungry
  • they wish to receive cuddles and attention
  • they express love and affection
  • they love the “human taste” which is rather salty to them
  • they want to relax: this action, in fact, releases endorphins, the good mood hormone

In addition to these “voluntary” motivations, some think that dogs also lick out of instinct. The wolves, for example, after eating, regurgitate meat from hunting. Puppies, which are too small to go hunting on their own, lick the meat around their mother’s mouth.

Why dogs lick their owner

Licking is a very common behavior in dogs. It is a way of making physical contact with others, whether humans or other types of animals. When dogs lick their owners, it is to show them love and affection. The occasions are many and of the most varied. For example, when the owner is relaxed on the sofa, his dog may lick his/her hand or feet, or give “a kiss” on the cheek. However, the dog may lick his/her master even while they are playing together. Often, then, when the master is not well – physically and emotionally – his dog will lick as a caring gesture.

Why dogs lick persistently

In addition to licking their owner, dogs also lick themselves. Generally, they do this to clean themselves and scratch themselves, but if they start licking themselves repeatedly and insistently, then it is a sign of some ailment and it is therefore advisable to consult your veterinarian to get to the root causes.

Often, when the dog licks insistently and compulsively it is only out of boredom or stress, for example, because he is not getting enough stimulation.

If there is pain or severe itching, the dog tends to lick itself on that particular part of the body. It also does this when bothered by fleas and/or ticks.

If, on the other hand, the dog tends to always lick a particular object or corner of the floor of the house, it is because he may smell food or drinks that were spilled there some time ago. A good cleaning of the area should make the dog stop licking.

Why dogs lick their faces

If they are at an appropriate height, it often happens that dogs lick us on the face, maybe right on the mouth. We tend to think that our dog loves us and that’s why it gives us plenty of kisses. In reality, however, things are not quite like that. The dog makes this gesture for various reasons.

  • The mouth is the part of the body with the most olfactory signals
  • Through our mouth, dogs can understand a lot about our physical state and mood
  • The dog wants to show humility and respect, especially if there are other signals such as low tails and wagging tails
  • Demonstration of safety and comfort.
why dogs lick
Why do dogs mostly lick our faces?

It is dangerous when dogs lick you on our face?

If the person is in good health, with an efficient immune system and has no open wounds on the face or in the mouth, the dog’s tongue is generally not a danger.

It is true, however, that through licking, dogs can transmit bacteria. In this specific case, there is a bacterium in the dog’s saliva that, in very rare cases, can cause in humans from weak immune defenses an infection.

In general, therefore, this is a rather safe behavior, although not entirely risk-free.

Why dogs lick their owner’s feet

Every dog owners will notice that, of all their body parts, dogs particularly like the most smelling part, that is feet: it is precisely because they release a flavor they like, as they are often covered with sweat salt.

Our feet also bear lot of information. Dogs, as we all know, have a much more developed sense of smell than we do. From the smell of our feet, they can gather so much information about us. By licking our feet, dogs can tell where we have been and even what we have eaten.

Finally, very trivially, feet are convenient to reach because they are always within their reach.

Why dogs lick themselves

Dogs lick themselves regularly to groom and keep themselves clean. In particular, they do this to keep their fur clean, especially around the paws, in the abdomen area and around the genitals. However, if the dog starts to lick excessively only in a particular spot, it is a good idea to check for any injury, such as a cut, scratch or splinter stuck in the skin.

Excessive licking can also be a sign of painful conditions, allergies or the presence of fleas and/or ticks.

Why dogs lick their paws

This gesture is quite common and has various meanings. Let’s see them all. The dog licks its paws:

  • to clean itself, especially when it comes home after a stroll
  • has a paw wound
  • has a skin allergy that causes it to itch
  • stress: especially when this behavior becomes insistent and very repetitive, almost obsessive so much so that he gets sores

Since, as we have seen, licking is a multifaceted behavior, if we suspect a situation of discomfort, whether physical or psychological, it is good to investigate the matter further by taking our dog to the veterinarian.

Why dogs lick other dogs

Dogs also tend to lick each other. It is a way they have of communicating with each other, to be read along with other bodily signals such as the posture they take. Generally, dogs, among themselves, lick each other on the muzzle.

When a male dog licks a female dog, there is one more potential reason: your male dog could be grooming your female dog. Between two males, on the other hand, the dog who licks does so to send a soothing message as it recognizes the other as above in the canine hierarchy.

How to get dogs to stop licking people

Not everyone likes to be licked by dogs. Many (especially if the dog is not their own) dislike this kind of physical contact. In order to get dogs to stop the licking habit, it is necessary to educate them accordingly. When it does it on us, we must show indifference. We must not scold the dog, nor must we laugh, smile or caress it. In fact, these latter reactions are interpreted by the dog as a way of incentivizing it to repeat that gesture because, in its eyes, it is pleasing to his master.

So, in order to make the dog stop licking, as often as he does it, one must:

  • ignore it
  • say nothing
  • avoid eye contact by turning head to another side
  • don’t touch it
  • stay neutral
  • move away
  • distract the dog by offering a diversion, such as a chewable toy

If the dog tends to lick your feet, it is because it is attracted to your smell. Then try washing yourself more often so that it is no longer attracted to your extremities.

More on this topic

Here is some other useful information about dogs:

Dog breeds you might like

Find more useful guides and information about these dogs: