Dogs and their human guardians have similar reasons behind their actions (like showing affection and communication), but dog behavior isn’t always clear-cut. To better understand why dogs lick you, read three reasons below.
1. Stress Reduction
Dog licking or giving kisses is instinctual and starts all the way back to birth. From the first time their mother grooms them, she teaches them how to breathe. Licking is a self-soothing mechanism for dogs and releases endorphins.
Because your dog instinctually relaxes themselves by licking, they will even try to calm you with kisses when you’re anxious or bothered. How sweet to know your dog wants to console you when you are upset!
Although there is some debate as to whether your dog licking you is a sign of affection, it is safe to say that licking is a welcoming and affectionate behavior. According to expert Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, there are wild canines that welcome returning pack members by licking their faces.
When a dog licks you, it may also be a sign of submissive behavior. By licking other members of the pack (yes, you’re a part of their pack!), they foster balance and agreement.
Some dogs use more boisterous methods like barking or whining as signals, but if your dog is excessively licking you they may be trying to get your attention. It may be dinner time or they may need to go out.
3. Grooming and Healing
Of course dogs groom themselves by licking, but they may also be grooming you! Since you are a member of their pack, they will sometimes participate in social-grooming. In the wild, canines socially groom one another to promote pack harmony and bonding.
If you ever catch your dog trying to lick one of your wounds, they’re acting on instinct! Dogs lick their own wounds to help heal and studies show their saliva has healing proteins.
Your dog is trying to aid your wound-healing, but there’s still a large risk of infection from their mouth bacteria and you shouldn’t allow them to lick your scabs. If your dog has any accessible wounds, keep an eye on them. Excessive licking can reopen wounds, lead to infection, and make wounds take longer to heal.
When Licking Becomes a Problem
It’s important to know when licking can become detrimental. The most common area for your pup to lick is its paws, but excessive licking can be a sign of stress, obsessive compulsive disorder, or an underlying health problem.
If your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, has anxiety, or is aging and possibly suffering from arthritis, you should call your vet to discuss solutions to alleviate your dog’s discomfort.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking You
You may enjoy all the affection when your dog licks you, but the gesture may be too intense for small children or house guests. The best way to get your dog to stop licking you is to ignore the behavior. You may have to remove yourself from the room to encourage your dog to stop.
Redirect their behavior into commands or tricks to curb their behavior with positive reinforcement. Reward your pup for their good behaviors and save 20% when you order a Peanut Butter Bundle! Whether you stuff one of their favorite toys with our CBD Peanut Butter or reward them with any of our peanut butter treats, your dog will be sure to love their training sessions!
Licks and Kisses Are Instinctual
When your dog licks you, they’re acting on instinct, whether it’s to show affection, soothe you, get your attention, or heal your wounds. Dogs lick you because it’s in their nature and one of the only ways they know how to communicate with humans.
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Comparative proteomic study of dog and human saliva. PLOS. Accessed July 28, 2021.