Why do dogs lick?

Dogs, unlike people, cannot speak, but they have many ways to communicate and express themselves.

Barking, howling or whining are just some of the elements of a verbal communication system that we are familiar with, just as the movement of the tail or the position of the ears belong to their non-verbal communication system.

Licking is one more element of their means of communication, so in the following article we will show you the 5 main reasons why dogs lick their owners.

Five reasons why your dog licks you

These are the five main causes to understand why dogs lick:

Lick people to get to know them

Smell is the strongest sense in dogs, but they also learn a lot from what they perceive through taste: licking another dog’s mouth can indicate if there is food nearby, and this behavior can be done with you as a way of asking for food.

A person’s taste conveys a lot of information to dogs, such as their chemical composition (hormones and other chemicals in the skin), their state of health and their mood. That’s why in the canine greeting they lick each other and also do it with humans. If he tastes something tasty, the next thing he’ll be asking you for food.

Likes your taste

Sometimes the answer to why dogs lick is the most obvious: your dog licks you because he likes the taste or because he is cleaning you.

There are dogs that like the taste of certain creams. It also seems that there are dogs that tend to prefer salty flavors, so being the salty human sweat that your dog licks you after exercising, he loves it! On the other hand, other dogs think you don’t know how to groom yourself properly, so in a polite way they contribute to your grooming and with their licking will help you feel clean again.

The dog licks as an act of submission and respect.

Licking is also a sign of respect and submission for dogs. If your dog lies down and licks your feet, it is probably his way of showing you respect. Just as they lick other members of the pack or social group to show their acceptance of rank, if your dog licks you it means that to him you are the leader of the pack. As such it is your duty to guide him and teach him how to behave.

Licking out of anxiety

Licking can be a sign of anxiety. Licking, licking objects, or licking yourself is likely to provide relief for his anxiety. If you think he may have some kind of anxiety, consult your veterinario. You can also read este artículo where we explain how to deal with distrustful or insecure dogs, and even use a series of relajantes to help them with their problem.

He licks you because he loves you

Most licking is a sign of affection. Canine mothers lick their puppies to clean and stimulate them, so this is one of their most important social signals. As a token of affection, she may lick your hand when you come in the house or after petting her (your dog returns the friendly gesture).

Two-way communication to learn how to communicate with your dog is fundamental in the human-dog relationship.  Learn more about it in este artículo and in its second part, this otro artículo.

What to do if your dog licks you a lot?

As we have explained, dogs understand licking as an act of communication, so if you scold him for doing it, it will be very confusing for him. In that case, the best thing you can do is to divert his attention to other more fun activities.

Channel that energy by making him lick an object: for example, you can take a KONG type toy and smear it with some kind of cream or pâté that the dog can lick and likes, this way the dog will suck the toy until he is completely satisfied and calm.

Is it a concern that my dog won’t stop licking me?

If his behavior is very repetitive and he spends all day trying to lick you, he may have an obsessive-compulsive disorder that you should treat with a veterinarian or canine ethologist. You should be very careful when dealing with these behaviors and always consult a professional, as they can deviate into self-licking, which can lead to serious injuries or skin problems. Remember that, sometimes, by eliminating a behavior, we give way to a worse one and that is not what we intend.

These are the top 5 reasons why dogs lick their owners. Do you identify with your dog’s behaviors?

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