Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Have you ever wondered why dogs lick their owners? In this article, we’ll discuss nine most common reasons why dogs lick people, how to stop it if it’s annoying you, and what to do if your dog is licking excessively.  Why do dogs lick people?  Find out which of these nine reasons explain why your dog is licking you!

Why Do Dogs Lick Humans?

1.  Communication.  Dogs lick each other in the wild, but dogs licking humans is usually a greeting – especially if you’ve been gone all day or if you’ve been on vacation – usually resulting in your being covered with licks upon your return. Dogs will also lick to show love and affection, aka dog kisses!

2.  For attention.  Most people will respond to a dog licking them in a positive way.  Children, for example, will often giggle when a dog licks them, and an adult might respond with some sort of acknowledgement like a pat on the head or speaking kindly to the dog.  So dogs quickly see licking as a way to get love and attention.

3.  To show submission.  Dogs are pack animals.  In a typical dog pack, there is one alpha dog and the others are followers.  If you’ve done dog training correctly, your dog sees you as the pack leader (see this article, The Best Way to Train Your Dog – Be the Pack Leader Your Dog Wants You to Be).  They’ll often lick to show submission to you as the pack leader.

4.  They’re hungry.  You know how birds will go find food, then feed their babies from their own mouths?  A puppy’s mother will do the same once the puppy is no longer nursing but not quite eating solid food yet.  So puppies learn that licking (particularly your mouth) could provide food.

5.  Checking things out.  Dogs will use their tongue to explore things in their environment.  This could be a new person, another animal, or just to check out something new.

6.  Licking wounds.  Dogs will not only like their own wounds, but lick the wounds of people as well.  It’s long been thought by some that a dog licking a wound promotes healing.  Others believe a dog’s mouth contains bacteria, therefore you shouldn’t let your dog lick a wound. You can decide for yourself, but I personally lean toward the latter.

7.  To show approval.  Dogs will sometimes lick you to let you know they like whatever you’re doing.  That might be sitting on the couch with them, snuggling with them in bed, or giving them a scratch behind the ear.

8.  Because you taste good!  Your dog may be licking your hands, face and clothes looking for remnants of food.  Our skin can sometimes taste salty – that, or whatever you taste like (lol) can be appealing to your dog.

9.  Anxiety.  Dogs will sometimes lick due to anxiety.  A good indicator of this is if your dog is licking (you, himself, or objects) excessively.

why do dogs lick peopleWhat if Your Dog is Licking Excessively?

Dogs may lick excessively if they’re suffering from anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder brought on by stress and anxiety.  If your dog is licking excessively, you should definitely give your vet a call.  There may be a medical issue involved, plus your vet can likely help your dog with anxiety by suggesting behavior modification techniques or perhaps prescribing medication that will help your dog overcome anxiety.  In the meantime, read my article (includes video), How to Calm Dogs with Anxiety – Why They’re Anxious and How to Solve It.  Or, request a free tutorial about how to solve dog anxiety from Professional Dog Trainer, Doggy Dan.

Why Do Dogs Lick People?

How to Stop Dog Licking

If you don’t like being licked by your dog, or if he’s doing it so much that it’s become annoying, try refusing to give him what he wants.  If your dog is licking you to get attention, for example, he’ll eventually stop if the licking doesn’t get him the result he wants.  Also, reward your dog with praise and affection whenever he’s not licking.  This will help him to stop relying on licking to get your attention.

Why Do Dogs Lick People?Need Help with Dog Training?

Dealing with dog behavior issues can be challenging and frustrating for dog owners.  I highly recommend a dog training website called, The Online Dog Trainer, run by Professional Dog Trainer and Behavioral Specialist, Doggy Dan.  The site contains more than 300 videos of Doggy Dan working with dogs on every behavior issue you could think of.  Doggy Dan offers a three-day trial of the website for $1.  

Why Do Dogs Lick People?

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