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Why Do Dogs Lick You So Much?

Why Do Dogs Lick You So Much?

Dogs are lickers! Dogs always lick things whether it be you, the furniture, their toys! If you own a dog then you know dogs lick. 

They love to lick your face and hands. Those slobbery licking kisses when you come home are something you would have experienced if you own a dog and it is quite possibly the reason you are reading this article. 

If you don’t own a dog and are thinking about getting one then it is a normal behavior for a dog to lick. 

Some people are okay with their dog licking them and some people aren’t. I admit it took me a while to fully embrace the dog licks, especially on my face, but now I am used to it and for the most part it doesn’t bother me. 

It only bothers me when they try to lick my mouth as I can’t help but think about where their tongues have been. 

Why Do Dogs Lick?

Dogs can’t communicate like we can so they use their mouth and tongue to communicate to us and to other dogs. It’s their instinct to lick. 

Licking starts when they are young. Their mother licks them as puppies. She licks them to keep them clean, to help them go to the toilet, and to show affection. This can be a little disgusting but puppies will lick their mother when hungry. They will lick her mouth and she will regurgitate food for them to eat.

My dogs lick my face, arms, hands, legs, and almost anywhere they can lay their tongues on. I find it rather endearing and comforting. We are a big pack and when they lick me I know that I am considered as part of that pack. 

In fact, the dogs licking me shows they most likely consider me to be their mother. When your dog thinks of you as their mother or caregiver they will lick you. This is a good sign because it means your dog feels safe with you.

When a dog licks you we really don’t know exactly what a dog is thinking. It could be trying to gather information, keep you clean, get food from you, or even for attention. but we can look at the reasons why we believe it happens and the situations in which it might occur. 

1. Your Dog Is Showing You Affection

There is no hard scientific evidence to suggest that dogs lick for affection. There are those who would say ‘No’ and then there are those that would say ‘Yes’. 

I have mixed feelings on this as I spend 24 hours a day with dogs and in my heart, I know that some of my dogs are definitely licking me to show their affection and love. 

I can be gone from home for 5 minutes or 5 hours and when I return my dogs always lick me. They lick my hand in affection and as a greeting. 

When I am sad my dogs will lick me. I know it is their affectionate way of helping me to feel better. Others say it is their way of showing empathy. Either way, it is your dog’s way of showing they care.

2. Your Dog Loves The Way You Taste

When I was young and my dog would lick me my father always used to say it was because my dog liked the salt from my skin. At the time I thought that was a bit strange, but now I realize that he was correct… 

Many of my dogs lick me when I am sweaty. In fact, when I am sweaty, that is the time when my dogs want to lick me the most. If I have been exercising or working hard they try to lick my legs, my arms, my neck, anywhere that is sweaty. Sweat contains salt and dogs love the taste of salt.

Sweat and odor are ways that help our dog recognize us. Licking our skin enables our dogs to know and identify who we are. 

3. Your Dog Wants Your Attention

Dogs will lick you for attention. When your dog licks you and you show it attention this reinforces their need to lick. Have you ever woken up to your dog licking your face? If you have it is because your dog wants you to wake up and give it attention.

When you stroke your dog and it licks you back this is your dog giving you attention. Your dog is telling you they like being stroked and they want more. 

They lick you because they feel happy that you are giving them attention and if they can get lots of attention by licking you back then why wouldn’t they do it. Getting stroked and feeling good is the best happy place for your dog and who can blame them for that.

4. Your Dog Is Anxious or Stressed

Dogs can lick when they feel anxious or stressed. They will start to lick you to find comfort. Licking you can be their way of telling you they need to be close to you. They want to feel safe. 

Licking is also a way of helping your dog relax and distract it from its anxiety and stress. Whilst they are focused on licking they are letting go of whatever traumatic experience is in their mind. 

Alternatively, your dog may know that you are feeling anxious or stressed and so your dog will lick you as it is their way of trying to give you comfort.

5. Your Dog Is Hungry

Dogs that live in packs or are wild are known to lick each other when they are hungry. Instinct to survive and the smell of food attracts them to lick each other, especially around the mouth. 

If you have ever had or seen a group of puppies then you may have seen them licking each other’s faces. It looks cute, right? Perhaps you thought they were just the most precious little puppies cleaning each other. 

The most likely reason is they are trying to lick off any food left on their faces. This is a behavior inherent in their genes and passed down from dogs that live in the wild.

Whenever I am preparing food for my dogs I have one dog in particular that stands under the table and licks my legs. 

It could be her way of saying thank you for preparing and giving me food, however, I think it is because she is hungry and can’t wait to eat. The licking stops as soon as her food bowl is in front of her and generally, it is the only time she licks me.

Licking And Hygiene – Is It Bad For You?

Dogs do carry bacteria in their saliva and mouths. It can be off putting knowing this and perhaps you think it better your dog doesn’t lick you. If you don’t mind your dog licking you then you have nothing to worry about as licking you really isn’t considered as harmful.

Now, it is recommended that you don’t let your dog lick any open wounds. Having a wound could be harmful as the bacteria from your dog can enter your bloodstream and then that can make you sick. 

Many people worry about getting sick from their dog licking them, yet there is more likelihood that your dog will get sick from licking you than the other way around. Make-up, moisturizers, perfumes, and anything else used on our skin can be toxic and very harmful to dogs.

I rarely use these types of products simply because I have so many dogs and it is just not worth the risk. The times I do use these products are times when I would never let my dog lick me.

You Don’t Like Your Dog Licking You – What Can You Do?

Licking is a natural part of your dog’s DNA, whatever you do don’t punish your dog for licking. It is one of their communicative tools and they need to lick to groom themselves and stay clean. 

Trying to stop your dog licking is like trying to stop us from touching people or from giving comfort through touch. It is even like us never stroking or giving reassuring pats to our dog. It isn’t normal to stop these natural behaviors and you shouldn’t expect your dog to do the same.

Licking isn’t for everyone and it makes some people feel uncomfortable. If you don’t like or want your dog licking you then here are some ways to help you avoid it.

Move Away From Your Dog

This is one of the best and easiest ways to stop your dog from licking you. When my dogs lick me and it gets too much I simply get up and walk away. If I don’t walk away then I will move whatever body part they are licking away from them. 

I never speak and I don’t give them eye contact. I find it best to remain calm and unemotional when it comes to behaviors that I don’t like, don’t want, or are not good for myself and the dogs. 

Take A Shower

If you have been exercising or have been sweating then taking a shower and getting clean will help to reduce your dog’s need to want to lick you. Having no salt or acids emanating from your body will mean your dog won’t be interested.

Redirect Your Dog’s Attention

Redirecting your dog’s attention when they lick you has been known to stop the licking. It also helps with training them not to lick. 

Dogs like activities that engage you and themselves so something as simple as throwing a ball and playing catch with your dog can be helpful. This can also be helpful in teaching your dog commands which aids in training. 

Enrichment toys such as lick mats are very useful as it teaches your dog to lick the mat and not you. When you persist and remain consistent this reinforces positive behavior and lessens your dog’s desire to lick.

Should I Be Worried About My Dog Licking?

Licking is normal behavior for dogs, but when it becomes excessive then it needs to be addressed. If your dog is licking excessively it could be suffering from a compulsive disorder usually brought on by stress and anxiety. 

If they start licking you, themselves, the furniture, the floor, etc more than normal then a visit to the vet is recommended. Many dogs can suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and this can lead to major mental and physical problems. 

Conclusion

Dogs lick because of instinct. Licking is normal and mostly causes no harm to you or your dog. If you are someone that doesn’t mind your dog licking you then continue to enjoy and cherish those slobbery licks, and if you aren’t then don’t despair as moving away or redirecting your dog’s attention will stop them from licking you. 

Remember never punish your dog for licking and to always maintain a positive environment that will enrich your dog’s life and reduce the amount of unwanted licking that may occur.

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