Why Do Dogs Lick You? (7 Reasons Why)

a cute JRT dog licking a child's face
JRT showing affection

Most dog owners like to think that their pets are licking them to show affection. The truth is, there is more than one reason for their licking behaviour. Let’s find out why do dogs lick us!

Dogs have an instinct to lick. It is one of the many behaviours that they acquire from birth and can be used for many different purposes. Like, you taste good, grooming, medical reasons, compulsion, communication, affection, or your dog is investigating you.

7 Reasons Why

  1. You taste good
  2. Grooming
  3. Medical reasons
  4. Compulsion
  5. Communication
  6. Affection
  7. Investigation

Let’s explore licking from all angles and give you some insight into what each possible reason means when your dog licks you. 

#1 You Taste Good

Have you noted the behaviour of your dog while he is eating? Most dogs lick their feeding bowls and clean the floor off if you spill something while cooking or serving. The reason for this licking is simple. Your pet loves the taste of the dishes you cook and want to savour them. 

The same thing might be the motivation for a dog to lick their humans. Believe it or not, most of us have tiny food particles sticking to our skin that dogs can taste. Also, when we sweat, we secrete salt, which deposits on our skin. Your dog may start licking you to taste the salt on your skin. That is also why your dog loves to lick your hands, especially just after you have eaten something. 

While it is very much possible that your dog is licking you out of affection, the chances are they are licking you just because your skin tastes so good.

#2 Grooming

Grooming is yet another reason why dogs love to lick us. Dog’s also clean themselves by licking their fur and skin. One of the most common grooming processes that a dog follows is licking its paws to remove dirt and any other elements that it may have walked in. Your dog can lick you for the same reason as well. Our dogs have a much better sense of smell than us and may trace something smelly on your skin. Their natural reaction is to lick it off your skin to make you clean.

A close up of a brown dog grooming his paws
Dogs groom themselves with their tongues

#3 Medical Reasons 

Licking the wounds is one of the ordinary and automatic behaviours that dogs show. If they suffer from even the most minor scrapes, they will keep on licking it to reduce the irritation or pain that the wound causes. 

The same thing is true for your scrapes as well. A dog can smell the open would on your body, and when they do, they will automatically want to clean it.

A close up of a dogs nose
A dogs nose has three hundred million more olfactory receptors than humans

Healing Properties

The saliva of a dog comes with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. These properties fight some of the bacteria commonly found in wounds or scratches. Also, when a dog licks its wound, the process helps them remove any excess dead tissues and is able to keep the wound clean. By licking your wound, your pet only wants to speed up your healing process. 

Warning

While this particular licking behaviour has some benefits, too much licking can be harmful to your dog. Dogs who continuously keep on licking their wounds may accidentally reopen the wound, turning it into a bacterial hotspot. If you notice your dog performing this behaviour, do not hesitate to contact the vet about it. 

The same thing should be done if your dog licks your open would. While the saliva of your dog comes with some healing properties, their mouth can carry some bacteria that are harmful to you. So, the benefits that your dog offers by licking your wound get outweighed by the risks you may face. There is no need to punish your dog for licking your wound as they only want to help you. However, do not encourage such behaviour in your dog.

#4 Compulsion

Have you ever noticed whether your dog is showing any compulsive licking behaviour? If you see that your dog is licking any object or a person excessively, the chances are your dog is facing some dilemma. Excessive licking may mean that your dog is scared, nervous, bored, or in pain. By licking objects or humans excessively, your dog may be trying to calm down. 

Licking is, no doubt, one of the most healthy stress relievers for dogs. However, obsessive licking can reinforce the anxiety in them and make the problem even worse.

So, if you find that your dog is showcasing excessive licking behaviour, you should contact your vet. If necessary, get in touch with a local animal behaviourist to identify and solve the anxiety-related issues of your dog. 

#5 Communication

It does not matter whether you understand it or not licking is one of the primary ways a dog communicates. It is the leading way through which canine mothers communicate with their kids right after they are born. So, by licking their humans, they are sending messages all day long.

One of the primary reasons your dog licks you is to tell you that they are hungry and want their food. Sometimes, they lick you to showcase that they are submissive and loyal to you. Sometimes the lick means that the dog wants to be friends with you. 

Of course, when your dog tries to communicate with you, you must respond. So, the next time your dog starts licking you, try to find out if something is amiss. Maybe the dog door is closed, or there is no water in its bowl. There is a high chance that your dog needs something urgently when they start licking you excessively all of a sudden. 

#6 Affection 

Most Common Reason

Affection might be one of the main reasons why domesticated dogs lick their human friends. Just like the puppies express their love to their mothers and vice versa by licking them. Remember that this is an expression of love and affection from your dog.

Tender home scene with woman owner and her beagle dog
Affection – Most Common Reason

#7 Investigation

Most dogs are curious by nature, and they often use their tongues to investigate their surroundings. The interesting fact is that among dogs, the sense of smell and taste is very much connected. That’s why you can sometimes see dogs licking dirt to find out everything about their environment. Just observe your dog when you take him out for a walk. Most dogs keep on tasting and smelling everything while they walk. So, when they lick you, they collect information about where you were and what you have been doing in the past couple of hours. 

Help To Stop A Dog From Licking You

While the licks mainly show that your dog is very fond of you, there may be a point when the licks can become just too much for you. Suppose you want your dog to stop licking you. Try to stop paying any attention to them. Leave your dog and go to another room. If you showcase this behaviour repeatedly, at some point, your dog will understand that the licking makes you leave. Once they know that, they will stop licking you as they do not want you to go.

If your dog is showcasing excessive licking behaviour, you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are numerous reasons why your dog might lick you. The licking behaviour changes with each dog as well. While some dogs love to lick their humans, others do not show affection with their tongues. You need to ask yourself whether your dog is giving you more kisses than you prefer. And remember, you can always train your dog to help them understand when their licking is welcome or not.

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