“Hello, I would love to get my wet sloppy tongue all over your face.” If dogs could talk, I guess that is how the conversation on licking you would go. But unfortunately, they don’t speak. And that conversation never happens; they just start smooching!  All over your face, sometimes your mouth, your legs or even your hands.    If you are a new pet parent, then dog licks may be a whole new world for you, and you might be wondering what on earth is this all about!

Well, there is no blanket answer to that question.

Perhaps because dogs, just like us, are unique in their own ways – each dog has its own set of behaviours. It’s great to understand your dog’s behaviour as that is the first step in the toolbag to modify behaviour if you need to.

Here are some of the reasons your dog might like licking you

To show you affection

Dogs are naturally affectionate animals. And as a pet parent, especially if you are the top dog and the one that feeds the dog, all this love will be directed towards you. That’s why after leaving your dog at home all day for work, she can’t wait to get up close and personal the minute you walk through the door.   All those dog licks are simply because she missed you and is a sign of love. And as she licks you, endorphins which are happiness hormones are released from her brain thus calming her and reassuring her that you love her too. Sometimes your dog could just randomly shower you with licks – that may be because he sensed you are sad or feeling low and just wants to cheer you up.

To Know You By Your Unique Taste

Dogs commonly identify us based on our distinctive odour. Similarly, our skin taste is also distinct. When we sweat, our skin’s pores release salts. The tastes of these salts are unique to everyone. Therefore, when your dog licks you or anyone else, it will register the unique taste of the skin, commit it to its memory and always identify the individual correctly from a dog lick. Your buddy may just be trying to get to know you better.

To get your attention

Oh yes, your dog can tell when you are not all about them. They don’t always like it. Just like children who will do anything to get their parent’s attention, so do dogs. And licking you is the easiest way.   Whether it is by licking your hand while making sounds or going full into your face with wet kisses, they will get the job done. Now, you know why you are referred to as a pet “parent”. Your dog is just like a child.

 To communicate with you.

Barking and wagging of the tail are the viewed as the most dominant ways in which dogs communicate. This is true, however, licking should be added to the list. Sometimes the reason your dog is licking you may be because they are trying to tell you something. Maybe she wants to play a game of fetch. Or he would like some food. Just pay attention, and you will be able to tell what it is your dog is trying to tell you.

You taste good!

Yes, it can be that simple. Your dog likes your taste, and he can’t stop himself from running his tongue all over you whenever he can. Dogs genuinely love the salty, sweaty taste of our skins. So, sometimes the reason for the dog lick is because your dog just wants to taste you.

Is Licking Bad?

Every time you get a dog lick, it could be for any of the above reasons. But in many cases it is a learned behaviour.  Dog’s get attention when they lick, so from their perspective, the more licking hte better! It’s pretty normal and healthy for dogs to lick individuals that they feel comfortable around. But just because dogs love licking us, it doesn’t mean we have to love it too. If you don’t enjoy the dog licks or find them excessive, here a few tips to curb the behaviour:

  • Every time your dog licks you, walk into another room.
  • If your dog licks you when you are petting it, stop the petting.
  • When your dog licks you for attention, ignore him – otherwise you are reinforcing the behaviour

Dogs are intelligent animals; they know how to interpret our actions and make meaning from them. So your buddy will get the message loud and clear and quit with the excessive licking.   As much as licking is a very natural and normal habit for dogs, it could be a cause for concern sometimes. If you notice that your dog’s licking has become excessive, or the licking intensifies, say, when you are about to take them for a walk, then you may want to pay more attention and probably consult your vet, or a  professional trainer / behaviourist. This may be a sign of underlying issues that the dog may not be able to express.

Take it easy with your best friend. Let him have his fun with you. A good wet smooch never hurt anybody.

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.