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You’ve probably never thought much about your dog’s licking behavior. It’s just something that happens regularly and it could easily be ignored most of the time.
But, what does it mean when a dog licks you? Many people believe, and rightly so, that a dog’s lick is a sign of affection. But there can be more than that, as you will shortly see.
Dogs may lick humans as a way of getting attention or showing submission among many other reasons. In some cases, a lick from a dog can be seen as an act of displaying dominance or being explorative.
In this post, we’ll explore the different reasons why dogs might lick their human family, and what it means when they do so.
We’ll also cover some tips on how to handle it when your dog seems to be overdoing the behavior.
Why Dogs Lick Their Owners
Dogs lick their owners for a lot of reasons, but it can be hard to know exactly what each one means. One lick might be a sign of affection, while another could be an act of dominance or submission.
First of all, it’s important to appreciate that dogs are descendants of wolves, which are pack animals.
These animals would lick each other to show their love, authority, and sometimes just to relieve anxiety. Pack animals would also lick each other in the wild when they want to bond or form new friends.
”We now form part of our dogs’ pack and they have carried down this licking behavior to us” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM.
Licking is a way for dogs to show their affection for their human family. It shows that the dog trusts them, likes them, and wants to be around them.
In addition, it’s a way for the dog to express its excitement about the relationship and show their eagerness to spend more time together.
There are also a few other reasons why dogs might extend their tongue to you:
- It’s a way of getting attention
- They may be grooming you
- They are submissive
- Relieving boredom and stress
- They love the salty taste of the skin
- When they are experiencing pain and discomfort
- They may be trying to disperse their scent
- They may be ill or have an infection
Watch this illustrative video from Bark that shows why dogs lick people:
If you’re unsure why your dog is licking you, it’s always best to consult with your vet. They can help you rule out any health concerns and provide guidance on how to best respond to your dog’s behavior.
What to Do if a Dog Licks You
If a dog is licking you out of love, then you should enjoy the moment. Occasional licking from your dog is normal and should not cause any alarm.
Just let them welcome you at home and express their affection to you in the best way they know.
But sometimes, a dog licking you can be a sign that they need something urgently. Dogs may lick your face in an effort to find something to eat. A behavior they learned while licking their mothers since puppyhood.
If a dog is licking your face or hand, they may be trying to tell you that they are hungry or thirsty. If you notice this, then you should give your dog their food following their clear-cut schedule.
Pet parents would sometimes train their dogs to lick them too much without knowing it. If your furry friend is slobbering you and you respond with a smile. That is a positive reinforcement for them.
They will continually associate this habit with pleasing you. And, without much time, they can’t stop hoovering their tongue over your body.
You should however try and help your dog tone down excessive licking behavior. This might be dangerous to them because it may lead to injuries and infections when they lick everything.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks Your Feet?
Dogs may lick your feet simply because they enjoy the taste. Human feet can be sweaty and get filled with loads of biological information that dogs may find attractive. These include pheromones and salty drizzles of sweat.
In some cases, a dog licking your feet may be an indication that he’s trying to groom you. This is often seen when you just enter the house and your doggo wants you to be clean as they are.
They could also lick your feet immediately after you get from the shower. Dogs may be attracted by the smell of your soap, shampoo, shower gel, or any other toiletry you might be using.
These leave a scent on your skin that attracts your dog to explore more. You can notice this behavior if your dog only licks you once you come out from the bathroom.
You may want to change your toiletries if you want to tone down such licking.
There’s no harm when your dog occasionally licks your feet, but you should watch out when the habit becomes too much. This could be an indicator of a behavioral problem that needs to be fixed.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks Your Hand?
If every time your dog runs to lick you, they focus on your hands, then there is something that’s attracting them to do so.
For one, your hand might have some traces of food and your dog can sniff it so fast. Dogs have a very strong sense of smell. Your hand could also be sweaty and your dog just wants to lick off the salt.
Dogs might also lick your hand as a sign of being submissive. They do this to recognize you as their pack leader and they show readiness to pick up any instruction from you.
However, some dogs may lick your hands as a way to get attention from their owners. And they may be uncomfortable when you do not respond accordingly.
Some dogs can be jealous of other dogs and they may start licking your hand to explore if you interacted with other pups. If this is the case, they will do this immediately after you arrive back home, or when you have a newly adopted dog.
If your hands are dirty, ensure that your dog doesn’t lick them in that condition. Make sure to clean your hands to prevent your dog from getting exposed to germs and bacteria.
A dog’s mouth can also carry bacteria and viruses, so it’s best to clean your hands with soap and water after your dog licks them.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks Your Ear?
You may have wondered what it means when your dog licks your ear. Is he trying to tell you something?
Your dog could lick your ears when you are grooming them. Mutual grooming is an innate canine habit that they inherited from their ancestors.
Your furry friend is happy that you are stroking their coat with a sleek brush and they are reciprocating the grooming by licking your ears.
Dogs will also lick your ears when they feel so comfortable with your presence. This is a sign of love that shows your dog is confident with you.
You can know that your pup is contended by looking at their face while licking your ears. They would be relaxed without any tense muscles on their brows. They are feeling completely safe with you.
Your dog may also lick your ear to show their submission and respect to you as a leading member in the family.
In the wild, low-ranking wolves would always lick the ears of their high-ranking members to assert their authority. If this is the case, you will often see your dog tucking their tail and exposing their bellies with folded limbs.
Dogs make great rescue animals because of their sense of exploration. They do this by both sniffing and tasting their environment.
Your furry friend could start licking your ears just as a way of finding out more information about you. They’re trying to glean information that may indicate to them where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to.
One thing is for sure, though. When a dog licks your ear, it’s definitely an intimate gesture, and you can be sure that they’re thinking about you.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks You a Lot?
Dogs are social beings and they exercise their communications through their innate canine behaviors. These behaviors have been passed down to generations from their times in the wild.
There is nothing wrong when you see your dog occasionally licking you. But it should be a concern when the behavior seems to get out of hand.
It is important that you know what your pup is trying to communicate when they lick you. Are they being affectionate, or there’s more to it?
If your dog licks you excessively, then this might be a sign of a behavior problem that needs to be addressed. This could be a sign that your dog is nervous, stressed, anxious, or just plain bored.
Dogs with this problem would also lick themselves, other pets, and any other object in a self-stimulatory manner. They may also exhibit destructive chewing behavior when their teeth land on a soft object.
Don’t miss out on the fully explained list of all possible reasons your dog might be licking you so much and what you can do about it.
If you notice that your pup is licking excessively, you need to visit your vet and get them examined. This will help to rule out any medical condition that they might be suffering from.
Once your dog is found not to have any medical condition, then you can start working on their behavioral licking problem.
So how can you tell the difference? It all comes down to context. If your dog is licking you while you’re petting him, it’s probably a sign of affection.
But if he’s licking you when you’re doing your work and not paying attention to them, it might be a sign that he needs something.
Excessive licking, biting, and drooling are signs of illness or discomfort. If the dog also licks their feet or nose, these can be other signs that something is wrong.
Also, if your dog is licking you excessively or biting, they may be trying to soothe their itchy tongue. If you suspect that your dog’s tongue has been hurt, you should inspect them immediately.
Do not punish your dog for licking you so much, instead, you can use positive reinforcement training methods to tone down the habit.
You can start by redirecting your dog to other activities that are closely related to licking. Give them a toy as this will help them to curiously engage their sensory stimulation.
Reward your dog with a treat when they switch their licking to the object you gave them. Make sure to repeat this process every time you want to redirect your dog’s licking behavior.
You could also use trick training to redirect your dog’s licking behavior. Start by teaching your dog to ‘sit and stay‘. This will help to cut down the excessive licking by just having your dog sit when they start licking you.
Why Do Dogs Lick You When You Pet Them
You might be wondering why your dog is licking you when you pet them. There are a few reasons for this habit.
Submission: Dogs will show submission by licking your face when you’re petting them or holding them gently on the couch.
This is a form of showing respect because it demonstrates that they understand your dominance over them and are appreciating your time petting them.
It’s important not to misinterpret this behavior as being aggressive or disrespectful towards yourself or others; instead, think about it as showing gratitude. The pup is simply saying ‘thank you’ for the gentle massage.
Affection: Dogs can’t speak, but they do show affection in other ways. They may be trying to show you that they love you and appreciate the petting through a lick.
Getting attention: A dog may lick you as you pet them as a way of getting your attention. By this, they are trying to call for your concentration on what you’re doing. If they’re not getting enough petting, they may resort to licking as a way of getting your focus.
And finally, some dogs may lick or even bite you while petting them in the wrong spots. If this is the reason, you will notice the anxious face on your dog and their body will become stiff. Your dog might even growl, bark, or run away if you continue petting them wrongly.
Learn where your dog like to be petted here.
What does it mean when a dog licks you? In general, a dog licking you is usually a sign of affection. The pup is trying to grab your attention and they’re using their tongue to show you how much they value you.
Dogs are our best friends and companions, so it’s important to know what they’re trying to communicate when they lick us.
If your dog is licking you excessively, it’s always best to ask an expert. A veterinarian or animal behaviorist can help you decode your dog’s behavior and figure out what it means when they lick a lot.
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a pet expert with more than 20 years of experience working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.
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