WATCH NOW: Why Does Your Dog Lick You?
You don’t mind wiping slobber off your cheeks—most of the time—but have you ever wondered why dogs lick people? For some dogs, it’s a quick flip of the tongue upon meeting, and others lick people like it’s their job—and they’re really good at it.
But whether your dog is a mild licker or a smooching enthusiast, they always have a reason behind their actions. Licking is another form of canine communication—like barking or tail wagging. They’re trying to tell you something, but that message isn’t always what you think it is.
Here are five possible reasons why your dog likes to lick you.
Yep, they’re called doggy kisses for a reason. To show affection is one of the top reasons why dogs lick their people. Touching their tongue to your skin releases feel-good hormones, and they can’t help but feel all fuzzy inside.
It’s like when you hug and kiss someone you love; the intimate interaction signals a chemical response to go along with the emotional one you’re already feeling. So go ahead and feel good about yourself. If your dog’s licking you, it may be their way of saying, “I love you.”
Besides smell, taste is a dog’s next best sense. They go through life identifying things with both their noses and their tongues. You might not want to admit it, but at the end of the day, your skin is coated in sweat, oil, and any number of foreign substances.
Remember that donut you scarfed down on the way home from work? Yea, your dog knows because he can taste it on your fingers. You’re salty and delicious, and your food-obsessed dog likes to help himself to a taste of owner a la carte. But besides satisfying his inner glutton, dogs also use taste for identification. Each person tastes different to a dog, and they use their tongues to mark each person in their memory.
Licking is also a natural instinct that relates back to your dog’s wild ancestors. In the hierarchy of the pack, dogs lick their leaders as a sign of submission. It’s their way of showing respect. They’re basically saying, “Hey, I know you’re the boss, and you have my complete obedience.”
Today’s domesticated dogs do it with their canine companions as well as their human owners. Being the leader of your dog’s pack is an important part of canine training, so consider those submission kisses a good thing.
When your dog starts licking you, what do you do? Do you smile and say in your best baby voice, “I love you too, sweetums!” Do you pat them on the head? Do you give them some of your sandwich? Do you tell them to go away and stop licking you already?
It doesn’t matter what you do, because your dog sees all of those situations as positive reinforcement. They wanted your attention, and they got it. They don’t necessarily care if you’re happy or upset with them. As long as you’re looking at them and interacting, they win.
Your attention may be number one on the list of things your dog wants, but it’s not their only objective. Sometimes they want food. Okay, a lot of the time they want food. If you’re enjoying your juicy burger with a side of fries, your dog might come up and lick your thigh to say, “Hey, you gonna eat all that?” Or maybe they need to go to the bathroom and want you to get off the couch to open the door. And in best-case scenarios, they simply want to cheer you up.
Dogs are emotionally sentient animals, and they can usually tell when you’re feeling down. Their licks may mean they want you to feel better.
Understanding the exact reasoning behind your dog’s slobbery smooches isn’t always obvious. Pay attention to their body language and your own response to get a better idea of what’s going on. But most of all, your job is to enjoy the moment. Regardless of the exact reason, doggy kisses are a sign you and your pet have a great relationship, so enjoy the moment and soak up that slobber.
Does your dog lick you? Let us know in the comments below.
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