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Coming home after a long day at work and being greeted by our furbaby with kisses and licks, coming home can be one of the most rewarding feelings a pet parent can experience.
Most pet parents interpret the licks from their dogs as a sign of affection, similar to kisses, but is this really a way for dogs to show it? And what can we do if it gets too overwhelming?
Licking and nibbling are instinctive dog behavior, and like any habit, it can vary from different dogs. Some love doing it while others rarely do it, but licking their pet parents can occur for various reasons.
In this article, we will be listing down the reasons for your question, “Why does my dog lick me so much?” and give you some tips on reducing the licking if it gets a little out of control.
10 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Their Pet Parents
Since dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, they use various ways to let us know what they are feeling or trying to say: from barking to leaning, wagging their tail, and of course, licking.
Whether it’s happening regularly or just from time to time, it’s interesting to understand your furbaby’s behavior better. Check on our list of reasons below and see if any of these are true for you and your dog.
1. To show affection
It is an instinct for mother dogs to lick their newborn puppies to clean them. This behavior will help in stimulating the blood flow of the puppy. As time goes by, puppies lick each other and their parents to encourage bonding and familiarity.
When a dog licks you, they are initiating bonding and marking you as their family member. They are showing affection that will soon improve your bond with them.
2. We taste good
Dogs often use their nose and mouth to become aware of their surroundings, and because of this, they will start to lick and sniff everything they find enticing to familiarize themselves with it.
Dogs love to lick the natural salts in our skin as it tastes good. When a dog licks your face, there’s a possibility that they have smelled the food residue you have eaten, and they cannot resist licking it.
3. To communicate
Young wolves in the wild often lick their mother’s face to tell them that they are hungry. Since domesticated dogs have acquired this trait, they will often lick their pet parent’s face to tell us that they are hungry.
Dogs also lick their pet parent’s faces to show submission and tell them that they are ready to play.
4. To seek attention
Whenever our dogs lick us, we are most likely to pay attention and pet them to stop the licking. It is their way to say that they need something, such as playtime, food, or water.
5. To show submission
Our dogs see us as their pack leader since we feed them, play with them, and groom them.
For very similar reasons as a communication method, licking others’ mouths is used to interact with other dogs and people to let them know they’re superior to them, and they mean no harm.
6. Something is wrong with their health.
If your dog seems to be licking the same area repeatedly, or exposing their tongue it may be something serious. Reasons could be due to anxiety, sensitive or wounded skin, or an allergic reaction.
If you witness your dog licking a specific area more frequently, it is best to reach out to your vet and properly diagnose. With earlier detection, immediate treatment and care can be given.
7. It’s fun!
When dogs are bored, they often lick themselves to provide enjoyment to themselves. Endorphins or happiness hormones are released whenever they lick themselves, making them joyful and eases off boredom.
8. To groom
It is a well-known fact that cats lick themselves to clean their coat, but this is also true for dogs. Mother dogs would lick their puppies while still weaning to encourage growth, remove any dirt, and form bonding.
Since dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, they can smell any dirt or food residue from your face and clean it off by licking it.
9. To investigate
Dogs are curious animals, and they love exploring their environment by using their senses. Their sense of taste and smell are always in sync and works in tandem to further get more information from their surroundings, including their pet parents.
10. Obsessive-compulsive behavior
Dogs can also suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder caused by prolonged stress and anxiety characterized by excessive licking.
Licking objects, surfaces, and humans can be therapeutic to dogs with OCD; however, this is still not enough to resolve this issue.
Contact your veterinarian about this concern to get recommendations on how OCD can be eliminated. It is most likely that she will refer you to an animal behaviorist and prescribe any medication to relieve general anxiety.
How To Interpret Your Dog’s Licks?
Reading your furbaby’s body language can tell you a lot about what they wanted to say. Here is a guideline to better understand your dog’s lick.
- Long, relaxed licks together with a soft body mean they are showing you affection.
- A wiggling body and a slurpy kiss mean they’re comfortable to be around you.
- If your dog licks you gently and close to the mouth or nose, this might mean that he is trying to gather more information about you.
- If licks are quick, short bursts, and continuous, this could be their way of communicating with you. It can mean they missed you and are happy to see you or time for their dinner or playtime.
Now that we know the various reasons dogs lick our faces, we will better understand what they are trying to say and respond to it.
We have an article that explains what it means when a dog licks you in some parts of your body. You may want to check that out to further learn why your dog can’t get their tongue off your body.
Do Some Dogs Lick More Than Others?
Although all dogs have a greater sense of smell among other animals, some breeds even have more receptors, making them more sensitive to smells and tastes. The more powerful their senses are, the more they are likely to lick you.
Dogs with the most scent receptors are the following: Dachshunds with 125 million scent receptors, Fox Terriers with around 147 million, Beagles with 225 million, German Shepherds with 225 million, and Bloodhounds with an astonishing 300 million scent receptors.
Regardless of how many scent receptors your dog has, it is vital that you know their personality and how they show their affection to you. Some are very clingy and like to proclaim their love for their owner more frequently, while others are more subtle in showing affection.
How To Stop Your Dog From Licking You?
Sometimes we just want peace of mind and some time for ourselves, but our dogs get in our way by licking our face while resting. These are simple tips to stop excessive licking.
1. Change your toiletries
We have tackled that some dogs will lick us because we taste good. If you are using body lotion like cocoa butter, your dog gets enticed with that since it smells like an edible treat.
Sweet-smelling perfumes and moisturizers could also be an invitation for them to “taste” your skin.
However, as per Fragrance Advice, human perfumes could potentially lead to physical symptoms such as nausea, respiratory irritation, wheezing, loss of appetite, and fatigue, if licked by the dog.
Try replacing your sweet-scented toiletries with citrus scents such as lemon, grapefruit, or orange, as they are often not inviting to dogs.
2. Wash your hands thoroughly
Our hands pick up a lot of smell, particularly after eating, preparing food, or sweating. These are the kind of scent dogs like smelling and sniffing.
To avoid this, wash your hands well using citrus-scented hand soap to repel them from sniffing and licking your hand.
3. Wear socks
It may sound off-putting, but sweaty feet can be enticing for your furbaby. Wash your feet when they get sweaty or wear socks to prevent your dog from licking between your toes.
4. Distract them
If your dog starts licking you, move away from them, and direct their attention to something else, such as a toy or a treat. Walk around the room or throw a toy for them to fetch to divert their attention.
5. Ignore them
Your dog could be licking you because they want your attention, so an obvious solution for this is simply to ignore them until they stop.
If they do not stop after 10 seconds, just move away from them without saying anything.
Excessive or Compulsive Licking
Excessive or compulsive licking is the over-the-top licking on a particular area of your furbaby’s body until the skin or hair is negatively affected.
Additional signs may be obsessive scratching or chewing at the area. Excessive licking can lead to the formation of hotspots, or red, raw spots where the skin and fur can go missing.
Excessive licking can also mean licking objects rather than your pet licking himself. Dogs may lick objects such as the same spot on the floor, couches, bedding, and toys over and over again until the object loses its fabric or a bald spot is formed. This behavior may also extend to the repeated licking of people and other pets.
What are the Causes of Excessive or Compulsive Licking?
There are several reasons for excessive licking, so determining the problem may be challenging at first. For dogs that are excessively licking, chewing, or scratching themselves only, the cause may be easier to find. There are five leading causes of why your dog may obsessively lick.
These include allergies, dry skin, boredom, hormonal imbalance, and parasites.
Allergies may depend on where your furbaby got it from. It can be environmental (external allergies) or food-based (internal allergies).
Environmental allergens usually cause itchiness and rashes to areas where your dog comes into contact with the allergen, such as the legs or belly, or with full-body itching, redness, or rash.
On the other hand, food-based allergies may have redness and itching. Furthermore, they may also affect your furbaby’s digestive system, which includes symptoms such as bloating, excessive gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.
2. Dry skin
Dry skin may be caused by nutrient deficiencies in the diet, bathing too frequently, sudden weather changes, or allergies. If a dog’s skin is dry, they are inclined to moisten the area by excessively licking it.
Boredom licking usually results in compulsive behaviors such as excessive licking in the same spot. It is their way to divert their attention from not doing anything and may also cause licking of objects other than themselves.
4. Hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalance may be due to a metabolic disease such as Cushing’s disease, pain related to allergies, and thyroid issues. A veterinary intervention must be done to get this resolved immediately.
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and lice may cause extreme itchiness along the entire body, and licking and scratching may relieve itchiness.
How to Stop Your Dog From Excessively Licking Themselves?
Excessive licking of the skin and fur can damage it. Additionally, too much licking can cause lick granuloma, also known as lick dermatitis, a skin disorder characterized by raw, inflamed skin that may result in raised and thickened tissue.
To prevent your dog from getting this health condition, follow these tips:
1. Visit your vet
Always get your dog regularly checked for allergies, skin sensitivities, fungi, and parasites. This will prevent any underlying causes of itchiness and get treated earlier.
2. Check the area
If you notice your furbaby licking excessively, have a good look at the area as there could be an irritation. Knowing the possible reason for the itchiness will help you with what to do next.
3. Put on an Elizabethan Collar
Also called a cone of shame, this will help your furbaby stop licking by putting a barrier between the dog’s mouth and body.
4. Bandage the area
If your dog is starting to irritate their skin by licking, you can put a bandage around the area to prevent them from getting to it.
It’s essential to note that some dogs will just chew at their bandage as it can be bothersome or just swap to licking the other leg.
5. Use a bitter spray or cream
Coating your dog’s affected area with a bitter spray or cream can help discourage them from licking and chewing the area. Never use chili or pepper in deterring your furbaby from licking the area, as this can also irritate their eyes.
Paw licking could be a result of boredom or unreleased energy being directed into licking. Make sure your dog gets a good walk now and then. Keep in mind that a tired dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog has a happy pet parent.
Get your dog’s attention away from licking by throwing a toy for them to fetch or encourage them to get up and follow you to the garden.
8. Visit a dog behaviorist
Your dog could be suffering from OCD, and no matter what you do, you might not be able to correct the behavior by just yourself. Seek help from a professional when dealing with your dog’s licking due to OCD or anxiety.
As a pet parent, you’ll have to accept that you’re going to get sloppy kisses from your dog’s lick now and then. You also have to admit that dogs will lick themselves from time to time.
It is crucial to be attentive to ensure that the licking doesn’t become an obsession. It should never take up so much of your dog’s time and focus that it causes consequences to themselves or others.
Through this article, we hope that we have answered your question “Why does my dog lick me so much?” Have you had any experience with a dog that won’t stop licking you? What did you do to stop them? Comment down below!
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of 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.