"Give me a kiss!"
You might have uttered this phrase to your dog and asked for them to give you a lick.
Or, you might have not so subtly asked your dog to stop licking you. Afterall, sometimes dogs really do go to town when they start licking you.
And there are times when it's cute and times when you'd rather they not engage in the behavior.
We know as a dog owner that you probably have different feelings about it depending on the situation. Still, above all, you've likely wondered at some point, "Why does my dog lick me?"
In this article, we'll answer the question as best as possible.
Read on for more!
Why Does My Dog Lick Me?
Before we go too much further in this article, let's get one thing clear: there is no one reason why dogs lick their owners or other people. Dogs do this for a myriad of reasons, and it may be different for each dog. As a dog owner, you'll have to interpret their behavior on your own a just a little bit.
With that said, let's get into some of the reasons why dogs lick you, and how you can interpret the signs of what they're trying to communicate with the behavior.
They're Really Giving You Kisses
Okay, so dogs can't kiss people the way people can, or the way you kiss them. But, licking their owner can be a sign of affection, and a way to tell you that they're comfortable with you and pleased with you.
Mothers lick their puppies when they are young, so it is somewhat instinctual for dogs to lick people they want to give affection to. Dogs often associate licking or being licked as something pleasurable and loving.
So, yes, it can sometimes mean that your dog is giving you an equivalent of a kiss.
They're Really Excited
Does your dog like going for walks (well, very few dogs don't!)? Does your dog like car rides? Do they like being with a certain person? Do they go wild when you come home after being away?
In all of these cases, and in others where dogs are in pleasurable situations, they may lick you to show excitement. You may have noticed that when you come home after a long day of work that your dog not only dances and jumps on you but plants one on your face.
This is simply to signify that they're very happy about the situation at hand. It may also tie into affection, so they may be both excited and telling you thank you or that they love you.
Let's face it: all dogs get bored sometimes. Just like humans, if they don't have something to do or interact with, they may feel like doing something, but aren't sure how to initiate it.
Licking you may be a form of telling you that they want to play. Or, they may lick you while you're playing, as a way to both show excitement or that they just love you.
Sometimes, it's also just a way to alleviate boredom. If there's nothing else to do, licking their human might be a way to make things more exciting.
You've Got on Something Tasty
Some people report that their dogs are really keen to lick them after they get out of the shower or after putting on their favorite lotion. After these activities, you may smell good to your doggo, and as such, they'll want to taste it to see if it tastes as good as it smells.
This may also happen if you've dropped food on yourself, you've been swimming, washed your hands with nice smelling soap, or dipped your body in anything that gives off a fragrance.
Dogs love to explore new tastes and scents, so when it's on you, that's no exception. Plus, dogs are stereotypically always hungry, and if you smell like you can fulfill a craving, they'll definitely be licking it.
You've Just Eaten With Your Hands
This one is a no-brainer, but if you've just eaten with your hands, or used your hands to cook, your dog is going to be chomping at the bit to lick you. They'll want to lick every last morsel off of you, which will include every last bit of dough, chicken sauce or anything else on your hands.
If you've just eaten something that's not good for dogs, like chocolate, for example, you'll definitely want to wash your hands really well before you play with your best friend.
Your Skin Tastes Salty
Sometimes, dogs have a craving for salt, just like people do. So, if their human tastes salty, they'll lick them as much as possible. This may occur after you've swam in the ocean or after you've exercised and have salt all over you from your sweat.
If you have a condition that makes your body extra salty, such as cystic fibrosis, your dog may be prone to licking even more. Or, if that person is a guest in the home, they may be prone to licking them.
They Want Your Attention
Dogs can't say their human's name and get their attention. Instead, they have to work within their capacity to get you to understand what they want from you.
Depending on your dog, they may have a variety of ways they try to get your attention. Some may nudge, some may bark, some may whine, some may paw at you and some may do all of the above. But, they may also lick you to show you that they want your attention, and they want it now.
They may also do this if they're concerned about you. For instance, some humans say dogs can understand their emotions and may show concern when they cry or look unwell. If you're crying or looking sick, your dog may respond by licking you or trying to get your attention. This may be to see if you're all right or to try and get your attention so that you don't focus on whatever the problem at hand is.
Dogs are definitely more complex than we give them credit for, and their relationship with humans is a dynamic, ancient and unique one. They're more attuned to your emotions than you think, which many dog lovers would agree with on anecdotal evidence alone.
If a dog is scared or nervous, they may lick their lips frequently. This displays a submissive behavior and shows that they're ready to acquiesce to the other party.
They may also lick you if they're nervous or scared because it can give them some semblance of comfort. As we discussed before, mother dogs lick their puppies, so it can be associated with a gesture of comfort and of warmth.
Pay attention to your dog's body language when they are licking you. If they're doing so in an otherwise stressful environment, such as visiting the vet or when fireworks are going off, they're likely very scared.
You should then take steps to comfort and reassure them.
Licking as Part of a Dog's Personality
Believe it or not, some dogs are more likely to lick than others. If you have more than one dog, you may have noticed this already. Dogs who are submissive are often more likely to lick than dogs who are more dominant.
For some anxious dogs or dogs with a more nervous disposition, licking you may be a way to show you that they submit to you. It may also mean that thy respect your authority and that they are comfortable with you being dominant.
If a dog is licking someone they don't know very well and they're displaying other signs of anxiety, this may mean they're trying to appease the person. They're trying to tell them that they are not a threat and instead, that they respect their dominance.
Dogs and Licking: Dogs Will Be Dogs
At the end of the day, dogs lick. They lick things out of anxiety, out of boredom, out of excitement and to taste things. It is a completely normal behavior, and nothing you need to address as a dog owner.
It only becomes a problem if you feel it has become a problem. In that case, you may wish to consult a local dog trainer who can help you learn techniques to reduce the frequency of your dog licking you.
Hopefully, this article has answered the question of, "Why does my dog lick me?"
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