Every dog is unique, but there’s one thing for sure all dog owners can count on. When you arrive home from work, you’ll be greeted by a big, slobbering lick from man’s best friend.
However, have you ever stopped and wondered: why does my dog lick me so much in the first place? Is it only to show affection, or is there more to it?
It turns out there are several interesting reasons why your canine feels the urge to plant continuous big wet dog kisses on you.
Whether you find it gross or not, after reading this article you’ll have a full understanding about why your dog licks you and better know your pup.
Reason 1. Licking is a Natural Instinct
First, it’s important to realize that licking is something inherent in dogs from birth. According to veterinarian surgeon Dr. Maria Grazia Calore, a mother dog licks her new pups as soon as their born to stimulate breathing. She continues to lick them to show care and clean them.
The pups also reciprocate the gesture to their mother when they want to be fed. By licking their mother’s lips, it stimulates an automatic reflex to regurgitate her meal by giving them something easy to eat and digest.
Not only that, but dogs lick each other as a social gesture throughout their lives. Upon meeting a higher ranking dog in a pack, the lower ranking dog will lick the muzzle of the higher rank one to show respect and submit.1
Dogs that are well bonded with each other will lick and groom each other to show affection and friendship.
Thus, it’s important to recognize that licking is a part of who the dog is and something that comes almost instinctually.
Reason 2. Dogs Want Cared For
Because licking their mother is an instinct to be fed, when your dog licks, they may be communicating that it wants to be taken care of.
Remember, dogs can’t speak, so licking is one of their primary ways of communicating. By licking, your dog could be saying “Hey, I’m hungry, feed me.”
Also, your dog may start licking you because it wants more attention and love.
Licking triggers those early memories of the pup’s mother taking care of him when he was vulnerable.
Reason 3. Dogs Lick to Show Affection
Just as dogs want you to show them love, they want to show love and affection back as explained by Dana Ebbecke who works for the ASPCA. Humans and other animals the dog likes, knows, and trusts, can expect to be greeted by big, wet, dog kisses upon greeting them.
By licking you, dogs can also be checking out your mood through pheromones emitted through sweat. So, if you’re in a bad mood, your dog can sense that through licking and help you feel better.
Reason 4. It Relaxes Them
Have you ever bit your nails, twirled your hair, or tapped your fingers if you felt nervous to relieve stress. Well, dogs do the same thing only with licking.
According to Dr. Calore, research has shown pleasurable endorphins are released when a dog licks which leads to a feeling of comfort.
Think of your dog relaxing and distressing when they start slobbering all over you.
Reason 5. To Show Submission
Remember how more subordinate members of a dog pack will lick the alpha males to maintain peace and harmony?
Well, dogs will do this to you as well to communicate that you’re the boss. Don’t be upset if your dog slobbers all over you, it’s a sign of respect!
Reason 6. You Just Taste Good
Perhaps the easiest reason to explain why dogs lick is that you taste good to them. Our sweat glands release water and salt, something that’s tasty to dogs.
Also, it’s possible you may have something (food, sunscreen, lotion, or another scented element) on your skin that your dog smells and naturally wants to taste.
What About Too Much Licking?
Dog licking is a fact of life, but can too much licking be a sign of something bad?
Too much licking can be a sign of anxiety whenever the dog is scared or nervous. Because licking has been shown to be an anxiety reliever, obsessive licking may signal that the dog is having trouble coping with something.
It’s possible for the dog to engage in obsessive-compulsive-like licking according to Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB. Dogs can feel compelled to over-groom, which could lead to loss of fur, sores and even infection if not treated.
Excessive licking usually is the result of allergies. For example, if the dog is frequently licking their feet, it may be trying to resolve an itch caused by allergies. Allergens like dust and pollens can get caught in the dog’s fur which leads to the excessive licking.
If your dog is licking in strange places it does not usually touch such as the floor, this can be a sign of nausea.
If you think your dog is excessively licking and acting abnormal, it’s always best to contact a trusted veterinarian and talk to them about it.
Over to You
What do you think of your dogs licking? Are there any behaviors of your dog you don’t like?