When checking my email this morning, I came across a very interesting message. It was from a fellow dog mom asking why her newly adopted Chihuahua licks her so much. I actually hear this question a lot. While some pet parents encourage the behavior (I’m guilty), others get grossed out by it. Regardless of your stance, most people want to know, “Why does my dog lick me?” Well, there are a few reasons:
Licking is one of many ways your dogs say, “I love you!” In the animal kingdom, grooming (AKA licking each other) is a sign of affection. So it’s no wonder they transfer this habit onto us, the humans they love.
According to researchers, when your dog licks you, feel-good hormones are released. It actually stimulates a hormone called oxytocin, which is produced in the brain and associated with bonding/ emotional attachment.
2) They Like The Taste Our Skin
To put it simply, we taste good! As strange as it may sound, our sweaty/ salty tasting skin is extremely intriguing to our four legged friends.
3) To Get Your Attention
Licking is often a sign your dog wants something from you. He/she may be hungry and asking for food, need to tinkle and asking to go outside, or just wants to play! My poodle, Gigi, wakes me up every morning at 7:20 on the dot with a little licking session. In that moment, she is telling me to WAKE UP because she needs to pee!
4) Submissive Behavior
In the animal kingdom, dogs often lick other dog’s muzzles as a way of showing submission. According to the AKC:
“Wild puppies lick their mother’s mouth as a signal for her to regurgitate the meat she’s hunted and as a way of demonstrating subornation.”
As the pack leader and someone your dog looks up to, he/she may be licking your face to show submission.
5) We Encourage It
A lot of pet parents encourage the licking behavior without even realizing it. If you laugh, kiss back, start talking “baby talk,” or offer a treat afterward, then you are encouraging the behavior. If you want your dog to stop licking you, don’t yell or punish him. Rather, ignore your pooch and walk away. Eventually, your fur baby will learn that licking causes you to leave (which is the opposite of what they want).
Other Reasons Dog’s Lick
You may also notice your dog constantly licking himself and/or things around the house. Here are a few reasons why:
You may notice your dog lick his body/private parts as a way of cleaning himself. If you notice excessive anal licking, though, it may be a sign that your dog’s anal glands are swollen and need to be drained. I recommend bringing your dog to the vet for a quick draining.
Your dog’s saliva contain enzymes that kill bacteria and help keep an open wound clean. However, excessive licking can actually reopen healing wounds, so keep a close eye on your pooch if he’s been cut or scraped and licking that area.
If you notice that your dog is licking the same object over and over then it may be a sign of nervousness. Licking can serve as a stress reliever for your pup since it releases feel-good hormones (like I mentioned above). However, you’ll want to break this habit since obsessive licking simply reinforces anxiety and can potentially make the problem worse. If you think your dog is licking for this reason, speak to your vet.
Poor Oral Health
If your dog is constantly licking things (or just the air, for that matter) then he/she may be suffering from oral discomfort. Check your dog’s teeth to see if they are coated with plaque and tarter. If so, it’s time to pay your vet a visit and see how you can improve your pup’s oral health. In the meantime, check out our article that highlights four tips to keep your dog’s teeth clean!