It is normal for a dog to start licking you every time you start showing affection towards it. For instance, you have just finished exercising and feeding the dog, then you start petting it and the dog starts licking you. At first, the licking may be minimal and you are just okay with it, but with time it intensifies and the dog will start licking all over your face. Some people may be content with this, but why do dogs lick?

Why Do Dogs Lick?

Normally, there are many reasons as to why dogs lick themselves and members of their pack. Understanding why your dog licks can help you in curbing this behaviour. So why do dogs lick? The following are some of the reasons:

They like the taste of your skin

The presumption in many people’s minds is that their dogs lick them to show affection. While this may be true, dogs may also lick you because they like the taste of your skin. This may be caused by traces of food on your skin or just the taste of salt and scents on your skin. In other cases, a new scent on your skin can also compel the dog to sniff and lick you. This will give the dog a lot of information regarding where you have been.


To attract attention

In other cases, dogs will lick people to attract attention. There are many ways through which a dog can attract your attention, including a tap using its paw, a nose nudge and barking. But if the dog has noticed that you do not pay attention to these attempts, it may result into licking. To seek attention, a dog will lick your arm, hand or your face. If your dog starts licking you, you should try to establish whether he is trying to tell you something. For instance, the dog may be trying to tell you that he needs a potty break, the water bowl is empty or that he wants to play because he is bored.


To relief stress

Licking in dogs releases endorphins, which play a role in relaxation. As such, a dog may lick itself, nearby objects or humans to stay calm. The majority of dogs find licking soothing and relaxing. Additionally, when nervous, a dog will smack its lips or lick to calm its nerves and show other dogs around that it is not a threat to them.


When hungry

The question in the minds of many dog owners is "why do dogs lick?" There are many reasons as to why dogs lick, but your dog may be licking you simply because it is hungry. It has been ascertained that wild dogs tend to lick the face of their pack leader to beg for food. Additionally, puppies will lick their mother’s lips when hungry. This stimulates a regurgitation reflex and the puppies will feed on the food vomited by their mother. Therefore, if your dog starts licking you around its feeding time, it may be telling you that it is hungry.


To show affection

Sometimes, dogs may lick your face to show affection. They learn this when they are young. Licking among littermates, in addition to maternal licking helps in strengthening family bonds among the dogs. Therefore, the dog may be licking you to show its affection for you and to strengthen the family bond it has with you.


To investigate

Why do dogs lick? Answering this question is the starting point towards curbing your dog’s licking behavior. A dog may lick you just to ascertain your feelings. They use special receptors in their mouth and nose to interpret and process, scented molecules that exist in human sweat. This information will help the dog determine whether you are stressed or happy.


To clean up

Just like the cats, dogs lick to clean themselves. This is because dogs are also concerned about their hygiene. However, if your dog constantly licks itself, it might be an indicator that its glands need to be expressed.


To aid in wound recovery

There are enzymes in a dog’s saliva that get rid of bacteria. As such, licking wounds on their skin helps in cleaning and killing the bacteria on the wounds. Additionally, licking helps the dog get rid of the dead tissues of the wound. However, you should be concerned if your dog is overdoing it, because that may reopen the wounds and harm itself.


Impulsive licking

If you notice that the dog is licking the same place or object over and over again, you may need to contact a vet. You should be equally concerned if the dog licks the same object whenever it is nervous or scared. This is mainly because obsessive licking can easily reinforce anxiety or worsen the condition.


To explore

Why do dogs lick you? If this is your dilemma, you have nothing to worry about because dogs may lick just to acquaint themselves with their environment. To explore their world, dogs lick new people and things in their surroundings. Additionally, if the dog detects something new on you, however small, it will lick you because it is curious. This is also why a dog you have met for the first time will lick your hand if you offer for the dog to sniff.

When Is My Dog Licking Too Much?

It is difficult to ascertain when your dog is excessively licking. However, when the dog is constantly licking itself, its lips, surrounding objects or even the arms and face of the owner, it may be described as excessive licking. If this is not because of an underlying medical condition, it may not be a threat to the dog. However, if this constant licking leads to ingestion of fibers and hair, it can lead to intestinal blockage.

If your dog licks excessively the same part of body parts, it is advisable to contact a vet because the case could be a medical complication. The dog may be licking itself to ease irritation of the skin caused by inhalant allergies. Additionally, the dog’s skin may be itching because of a bacterial or fungal infection. Other medical conditions that may lead to excessive licking include bone fractures, cancer, chronic gastrointestinal distress as well as pain due to a thorn.


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  • AngelSep.19 17:55
    My Yorkies has ALWAYS licked my feet and only my feel no one else's ... I really think it's weird , I used to think it was the lotion from pedicures but even if I just get out of tub and there's nothing on them ..... ????
  • howard conoverApr.29 09:52
    My frmale lassa mix is 5, never spayed not puppies. Since she was about 1 y/o she has licked my pillows, just my pillows and if I don't intervene she WILL lick until the pillow is soaked. Any reason for that? She is not a nervous dog and is super friendly, well mannered and well behaved. Maybe needing or just likes the salt from my head on the pillow?
  • Stacy Apr.18 17:19
    My border collie kept sniffing my eye balls. Weird yes I know. She did this everyday for about 2 months. Well I ended up having a CT scan done due to intestinal issues and the Dr found RCC. I believe my dog knew months earlier that I had cancer before anyone else. My point being I truly believe dogs have a special kind of "7"th sense. ??
  • LaurelApr.11 15:01
    Dogs lick their pups to encourage the pup to pee and poop, and then the mother eats that... She does so in order to hide the smell of the puppies from predators while she hunts... It is an instinctual response to stimulation of the chest and belly. I would assume then, that when a dog licks a human otherwise, it might be a mothering form of domination. And, when you see a balanced dog/master situation you won't see the dog lapping all over the master. My BC will gingerly lick my face is I ask her for kisses, the same with my Westie... But, they would not lick my uninvited. When I scratch their chest or rub their bellies they will start to lick my wrist, like it were a puppy.
  • IsabellaSep.4 02:13
    I happen to think that dogs also may lick you when they sense you are haveing a emotional problem,feeling,ect. It is likely that dogs do such.
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