It's not like you rubbed bacon on your hands, but some dogs are just so insistent you have to wonder what they are thinking. So why do dogs lick you? Explanations range from normal behavior to emotional needs. Here are the top five reasons why a dog licks someone.
Because She Loves You
For the most part, it’s a sign of affection. From the day they were born, their mother licked them to clean and stimulate them.1 Licking is connected to their earliest social bonds, so it’s a significant part of their social signals. People aren’t exaggerating when they call it puppy kisses – a dog who licks you is showing you love. It’s why your dog licks your hand happily when you walk in the door, and why many dogs will lick you after you’ve been petting them. They’re returning the friendly gesture.
To Get To Know You
Another reason why dogs lick you is to learn about you. Smell may be their strongest sense, but they learn a lot from what they taste as well. That’s why they lick other dogs in greeting, and why they lick people.2 In the wild, wolves lick other wolves’ mouths to determine if they’ve eaten and if a food source is nearby. Taste tells them a lot more than just how to fill their belly, however, especially in domesticated dogs.
What they taste when they lick you tells them about your chemical composition, which can clue them in to other things about you. Human hormones and chemicals vary based on everything from our health to our mood, so they may be able to tell a lot about our state of being by licking us.
Read More: Dog Behaviors That Come From Wolves
As An Act Of Submission
Licking is also a sign of respect and submission for dogs. They’ll lick higher-up pack members to show acceptance of that member’s higher rank.3 If your dog lays down and licks your feet, that’s likely their way of showing respect for your authority.
Occasionally, licking is a sign of anxiety.4 Dogs enjoy licking, so they will sometimes lick as a way of comforting themselves.
It usually shows itself as licking themselves or licking objects, but they may lick you for relief as well. In the most severe cases, this anxiety manifests itself as a complusion, possibly even leading to a condition known as lick granuloma. If you suspect your dog has anxiety, consult your vet for confirmation and details on how to handle it.
Product Recommendation: If your dog is licking a wound or scab on his paw, try the Paw Protectors For Dogs.
You Taste Good
Sometimes the obvious answer is the right answer. Sometimes dogs lick you because they like the taste. My family has a dog who loves the taste of lotion – she would eat it from a bowl if she could – so she’ll lick lotion off people’s hands and feet as long as they let her. Dogs also tend to like salty, savory flavors.5 Human sweat is loaded with sodium, so if you’ve ever noticed your dog licking your feet after a workout, it’s because of the flavor.
Why do dogs lick? It's usually a friendly sign. Occasionally, it may be the sign of a problem like anxiety, but it's typically nothing to worry about. Enjoy the puppy kisses.
What To Do With A Dog Who Licks A Lot
Do you have a dog that licks a lot? If that's a problem for you, you can channel that licking energy.
One of my favorite ways is by using a Kong stuffed with peanut butter. We carry the toughest Kong on the market, the Kong Blue. Stuff it with peanut butter and your dog will spend hours trying to lick every last bit out of the center of it. Order today and get free shipping with the promotional code - licklick.
Next, learn more about how your dog's tongue works - Do Dogs Have Taste Buds?
If you liked this, check out:
Dog Body Language Decoded - Your dogs have a surprising amount to say.
Why Does My Dog Chew His Paws? - This can be a sign of some troubling issues, like allergies or anxiety.
Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Louis (2nd photo) and Michelle Tribe (3rd photo)