Why Do Dogs Lick You?


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why do dogs lick you

Is your dog’s “mlemmer” constantly all over your face, hands, arms and feet?

Yep, I feel you.

My Mini Poodle Baloo is a licking machine!

I honestly don’t know what’s the exact reason for his almost obsessive licking. However, I’ve done a great deal of research trying to find out.

So, in this article I’d like to share my findings hoping that you’ll get a little more clarity why your dog loves to lick you so much.

If you’re in a rush, here’s the summary: The most common reasons why your dog is licking you is to show his love and affection. That’s simply their way of saying “I love you”. Some other common reasons are because they like the way you smell, submission or because they’re seeking attention. In some rare cases it can also be a compulsive disorder.

For me personally, I’ve just decided that it’s probably his way of showing his affection for me. Although, it might also just be a Poodle thing:

Why Do Dogs Lick You?

Some think it’s sweet, others think it’s gross.

Your dog spends a few minutes (sometimes more) every day licking you. But why does he do it?

In this article, we’ll talk about the reasons why your dog is licking you, and how to get him to stop if it bothers you.

If your dog shows other funny behaviors you don’t understand, maybe these article will provide answers:

Affection

When your dog was a puppy, his mother showed him love by licking him. It’s a way for mama dogs to keep their puppies clean, and show them affection. As your puppy grows up, he remembers this behavior, and will continue licking to show love.

Licking releases endorphins, which gives your dog feelings of pleasure, and relieves stress.

If your dog is licking you, it’s most likely a sign that he loves you!

The most common reason why your dog is licking you is to show his love and affection
The most common reason why your dog is licking you is to show his love and affection

You Smell Yummy

Maybe you’ve been somewhere with some tasty smells recently. Or maybe you’ve been out exercising, and your skin smells sweaty and salty.

Your dog will be attracted to these smells, and might start licking you because you just smell so good!

If your dog is licking you because he likes how you smell, take it as a compliment! The smellier you get, the more he loves you… 😉

Submission

Licking the more dominant members of a pack is a common behavior in dogs.

This shows the dominant dog that the submissive dog respects his authority. If your dog is licking your face especially, that’s a sign he’s showing you his submission.

Dogs licking other dogs' faces is a sign of submission and respect
Dogs licking other dogs’ faces is a sign of submission and respect

Seeking Attention

A lot of dogs learn that licking is a good way to get your attention.

This is especially true if you do give him attention when he starts licking you. Even if you’re telling him to stop licking, that still means you’re noticing and interacting with your dog because of it.

Cleaning Wounds

Another very common dog behavior is to lick wounds if they or another member of the pack is injured.

There is some evidence which suggests that saliva might offer protection against bacteria. The AKC says that dog saliva might even be slightly bactericidal against e. coli and strep throat in dogs.

If you have a cut or scrape, your dog might start licking it to try and help you.

Licking can slow the healing of injuries, and not allow the wound to close up properly. So, if your dog is licking because you have a wound, it’s probably best to try and get him to stop.

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Puppy Instinct

Wolves in the wild will go out to hunt, eat the food, and then return to their puppies and feed them by regurgitating what they ate.

The pups will lick their mother’s mouth to initiate the regurgitation and to clean up all the leftovers. This is an instinct they’ll retain for the rest of their lives, and might lick you for this reason!

Compulsion

If your dog is licking you and it seems excessive, it might be a sign that he has canine OCD. In this video you can see what OCD might look like:

This can be a difficult mental disorder to deal with, so if he shows other signs of canine OCD like shadow and light chasing, pacing, or spinning, you should bring him to your vet.

Speaking of vet: have you ever thought about getting pet insurance for your dog? No? Then check out my article on the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?“. Or go straight to PetAssure for a cheap alternative to get 25% off each vet visit!

Why Do Dogs Lick You? – Specific Questions

Now, I’m sure that doesn’t answer your question completely.

This is why I now want to go over some more specific questions that help you fully understand your dog’s behavior.

Are Dog Licks Really Kisses?

Lots of people refer to their dogs licking them as kissing them. But is your dog really kissing you? The answer is a little complicated.

Dogs lick for many reasons, as we’ve discussed already. If your dog is licking you out of affection, then it might make sense to refer to it as a kiss.

But licking is an instinctive behavior, and they lick for different reasons than those we humans kiss for. 

If your dog licks you because you smell good, he’s trying to get your attention, or because he’s showing signs of submission, then maybe “kissing” isn’t the best term to use.

Why do dogs lick you?
Some dog licks are indeed a sign of love, such as a kiss. But some also have other reasons

What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks Your Face?

Your dog licking your face might be annoying, but there is a reason they’re doing it.

Dogs licking your face can mean a few things. It’s usually instinctive behavior. Your dog licks your face as a sign of submission. He might also lick your face because he’s remembering his ancestors who licked the food from around their mothers’ mouths as puppies.

It can also be a good way for your dog to get your attention. What better way to get you to notice him than to get right in your face?

Why Does My Dog Lick Me in the Morning?

There are a couple of reasons why your dog licks you in the morning. It could be a way to get your attention—you spent all night sleeping, and ignoring him! It’s also a way for your dog to greet you and tell you “good morning.”

But another, maybe less considered reason he’s licking you in the morning is because you taste good. During the night, you sweat and secrete oils that smell delicious to your dog. So in the morning, he jumps up on your bed and starts licking you. It’s not just a “hello,” it’s a “wow, you taste yummy!”

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Should You Let Your Dog Lick You?

The answer to this question really depends on the reason why your dog is licking you.

Like we said before, licking is an instinctive behavior, and a way your dog communicates with you. There’s nothing inherently wrong with your dog licking you, as long as it’s purely a way he’s communicating.

But if your dog is licking you for less desirable reasons, it’s best to get him to stop. Licking can be a sign of canine OCD, or just attention seeking. If your dog is trying to lick an injury you have, that can slow down the healing process.

Licking can also be a behavior that you find annoying if it’s excessive.

So, if your dog licks you to tell you he loves you, that’s perfectly fine. But if he’s licking as a sign of negative behavior, then it’s best not to allow it.

How to Stop a Dog from Licking You All the Time

So, now you’re probably wondering: how do I stop that licking machine of a dog that I have?

Well, if your dog’s licking is bothering you, here are a few ways how you can get him to stop.

Reward Non-Licking Behavior

Positive reinforcement is a very powerful tool when it comes to training a dog. This is also what the course Braintraining4dogs is based on, which I highly recommend for any kind of behavioral issues. Make sure to check out my full review of this course to see if this could help you too.

Field Dogs 300 x 600

This means ignoring the behavior you want to stop—in this case, licking. It might seem counterintuitive, but giving your dog attention when he licks, even if it’s negative attention, could still encourage the behavior if attention is all he’s looking for.

But that’s not the only part of positive reinforcement. You have to reinforce the behavior you do want.

The best way to do this is to wait for a few seconds if he stops licking you, and then treat him and tell him “good dog.” This will teach your dog that you prefer when he’s not licking you.

It will require some patience and consistency, but over time your dog will learn to stop licking you.

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Ignore Him When He’s Licking You

If your dog is licking you excessively, don’t acknowledge him when he’s doing it. Instead, turn around or walk away.

Just like rewarding positive behavior, ignoring your dog and walking away from him when he’s licking will teach your dog that licking isn’t the way to get you to notice him.

Train Him to Lick You on Command

It seems weird, but teaching your dog to lick on command can get him to stop licking excessively.

The first thing to do is put something tasty like peanut butter on your hand or cheek, wherever you’d like your dog to lick you. Use a verbal cue like “kiss,” and then get your dog to lick where you’ve put the peanut butter. Keep repeating this until your dog understand the command “kiss.”

Now that he knows the command “kiss,” you can teach him a “stop” command. Tell your dog “stop,” or “enough,” and wait until he’s stopped licking you. Now you can tell him “good dog” and reward him.

By teaching your dog to lick on command, and then teaching him to stop, you now have control over your dog’s licking. When he starts licking you excessively, you can tell him “enough,” or “stop,” and he’ll know that it’s time to quit it.

Provide Lots of Opportunities for Him to Lick and Chew

If your dog is licking excessively, it could just be he needs something else to do with his mouth. Consider giving him plenty of toys or chewy treats for him to lick and chew.

One good way of doing this is filling a Kong toy or a ball like this one that you can fill with treats or peanut butter. Once you’ve filled it up, put it in the freezer until it’s frozen solid. Then you can give him the toy, and because it’s frozen, it’ll take a lot of licking for your dog to finish the treat.

This will give him the opportunity to lick something without bothering you.

In case you feel like some more mental stimulation would generally help your dog, make sure to check out these 21 fun things to do with your dog and this article about how to mentally stimulate your dog.

Conclusion

Most of the time, licking is just a way for your dog to show you affection, or say “hello.” It can also be an instinctive behavior that your dog has carried with him since birth.

But other times, licking can be a sign of a bigger problem. In these cases, it’s important to get your dog to stop licking.

Whether it’s through positive reinforcement, or just giving him opportunities to lick and chew elsewhere, there are plenty of ways to help your dog stop.

P.s.: If your dog is generally a very active kind, make sure to download my free guide for a calm dog. This is where I show you everything that finally helped me calm my hyper Mini Poodle Baloo down!

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