A dog’s lick is often thought of as a sign of affection. “He’s kissing you!”, children giggle to each as the slobber sprays forth. But why do our dogs lick us? It can be a sign of affection – but they can do it for lots of other reasons, too. There are many theories for why dogs like to lick humans. Your dog’s reasons for licking you will probably vary depending on the situation.
Is it really Affection?
Dogs will lick humans as a sign of affection, so if your dog licks you in the morning, they may just be happy to see that you are awake! If you’re wondering why your dog licks you when you cry, it’s likely your dog can sense that you are upset and is trying to comfort you.
Dogs do not have hands, so they will often explore the world around them with their tongues. Your dog may lick you to work out what you have been up to, and to try and discover more about any new smells.
Dogs also enjoy salt, so if you have been exercising hard, they may enjoy the salty taste from your sweat!
Some dogs will lick us, themselves, or other objects, far more than normal. This can be a sign of an underlying issue. If you think your dog licks excessively, then you should make an appointment to discuss this with your veterinarian.
Why does my dog lick me when I pet her?
Your dog may be showing you affection in return for your petting. She cannot pet you back, after all, so she must show affection in other ways!
Licking can also be a way to get your attention. Your dog may lick you in order to encourage you to pet her, and once she’s got your attention, she will continue to do it, as if to say, “Don’t stop petting me!”.
How do I stop my dog licking me?
When your dog starts licking you, gently move your hand out of reach or cover it. Try and ignore them otherwise when you do this – do not speak to them or pet them, and try not to make eye contact.
If your dog licks you when you return home, ask them to sit. Wait until they are sitting nicely, and then you can fuss them generously. If they start licking again, stop fussing and ask them to sit. They should quickly learn that they need to sit to get fussed.
- Licking is normal in most dogs but can occasionally be a sign of a health problem. If your dog licks you all the time, or licks themselves a lot, then you should have a check-up with your veterinarian.
- Make sure to wash your hands regularly. Dogs make lick at interesting smells such as food, so regular washing will reduce this. Dog slobber also contains some nasty bacteria, which can cause skin infections or sickness in humans, so clean yourself after your dog licks you.
- Do not get angry with your dog when they lick you – this will not train them to stop and may make things worse. Ask them to do something else, or gently ignore them, to try and re-direct them to doing something else.
Licking is a natural doggy behaviour, which is done for lots of different reasons, but is often affectionate. However, some dogs will lick us too much, and we may need to gently re-train them to stop. Excessive licking can also be a sign of health problems, so if you are concerned about your dog, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.