Why Does My Dog Lick Me?
After a long working day, there’s nothing more heart-warming than a welcome home from your pooch. And when it comes to the more affectionate dog, this can often include a soppy wet kiss. If you have a dog that is a bit of a licker, you may actually like all the sloppy attention, or it may have become a bit of a problem you would them to stop. We take a look at the reasons that may drive your pooch to become a licker to answer the question – ‘why does my dog lick me so much?’
Why do Dogs Lick People?
Whether it’s a frantic and particularly slobbery greeting as you walk through the door, or more measured licking as you sit down with your pet on the couch, when your dog licks you, they are actually trying to tell you something. And so, to understand why your dog loves to lick you, all you need to do is ‘listen’. Just like wagging or barking, when your pup goes in for a licking session, they are trying to communicate in their own saliva-filled way. Here are the main reasons why your hound is licking you:
- Affection: This is one of the most obvious reasons why dogs love to lick people and it is often the easiest interpretation for us humans as the thought that your pupper loves you makes you feel good too! But those doggy ‘kisses’ are not just the act of an affection-crazed pet. When a dog licks you, they also release feel-good endorphins which can help to make them feel calm and safe and it is thought to be a throw-back to when they were puppies with their mother. So, when your dog wants to lick you, they are often just wanting to share some of that puppy love!
- You taste nice: Another simple but perhaps not so savory reason for your dog’s licking is that your skin is tasty! Human sweat can leave a slightly salty taste on your skin which can really appeal to the canine’s taste buds. Their tongue is one of their main sensory tools and while they don’t have taste sensations in the same way as humans, they are drawn to salty or acidic flavors. They could be simply using their tongue to test out your skin and enjoy its salty taste – so if your licky dog seems to be devouring you, then you have become a temporary but tasty treat!
- You’ve a compassionate pooch: You may already think your pooch is a sensitive soul and seems to instinctively know how you are feeling. And there is a train of thought that says this is actually true and that your dog can pick up on when you are sad, stressed or upset. And this can result in your pet nuzzling and licking you instinctively as their way of helping to comfort and empathize with you. Now that’s cute.
- Attention-seeking: Your dog may also be using their licking habit as a way to get your attention. Pooches are smart creatures and know how to get their own way, especially when it comes to getting their human’s undivided attention. As a result, their licking may coincide with their meal and playtimes or when they are bored as they are a good way to get you to react. And if you do react in the appropriate way – throw them a toy or feed them a treat, for example – then that smart canine cookie is going to lick you even more in the hope they will get another reward.
- Canine instinct: Licking could well be the result of pure instinct and goes back to your pet’s ancestors and their fight to survive. From puppies licking their mother’s face to express hunger (it is thought the licking was also to stimulate the mother into regurgitating food and learning how to mutually groom to being form of pack communication and expressing submission, licking is in your pooch’s canine blood.
Is Licking a Health Risk?
Being licked by your dog is generally not a health risk, as long as you have intact skin and wash your hands (or the licked location) afterwards. However, if your dog licks broken skin or an open wound then there is a risk of infection as your dog’s mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. If you are happy for your dog to lick you, then the key is to keep it brief, and never let them lick your mouth.
When is Dog Licking a Problem?
In most cases, dog licking is harmless and can actually be seen as a sign of affection and bonding between you and your pet. However, if their licking becomes excessive or you are struggling to get them to stop, then there could be more problematic reasons behind their slobbery habit.
Excessive licking could indicate behavioral problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or be a sign that your doggo has anxiety or is under stress. Licking could also be a simple sign your pup is bored or needs more stimulation in their life. If you suspect there is a behavioral or medical reason behind your pet’s unrelenting licking, do get them checked out by your vet as a precaution.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Licking Me?
If your dog’s licking is becoming too much or it’s simply not your thing, then there are steps you can take to nip the slobber in the bud. Once you know the most likely reason or reasons behind your dog’s licking, you can take some positive action:
Recognize if you may be reinforcing the behavior by inadvertently rewarding them – giving them attention for example. Adjusting your own behavior in response to the licking can make a big difference as your pet is simply not getting the reaction they were wanting.
Change your scent! Your body odor may well be attracting all that licking in the first place so changing the scent of your shower gel or soap may just be enough to deter them.
Use the art of redirection! If you don’t like their licking or you have had enough, distract them with a more positive activity, such as throwing a ball, or walking into another room. Try not to distract them with a treat though, as they may then associate this reward with the licking behavior and keep coming in for more!
Positive reinforcement is especially useful if you think their licking is attention-related. Give them plenty of praise when they move their attention to the toy you have just thrown or the command you have given them. This will reposition the attention they are seeking another activity and keep your pup happy and your dog saliva-free.