Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Posted by Christy Caplan
Why Dogs Lick People

There are a number of reasons dogs lick you. This may give a dog a feeling of security and comfort! It also may be a sign of affection but the jury is out on that being the only reason you're getting morning licks. Our dog Walter likes to lick a bunch and I think it's a sign of stress but also on occasion it's a self-soothing behavior. According to research, it can be either of these behaviors or for another reason altogether.

Expert Alexandra Horowitz shares that there is evidence that licking is a sign of affection.

"Horowitz points out that, although it started as a food-seeking behavior, licking has now become a ritualized greeting for many dogs. Some wild species in the dog family will lick pack members just to welcome them home. So, those daily slobbers really might just be a sign that your dog is happy to see you."

Watch your dog though to make sure they're not obsessively licking themselves or objects as this could be due to a medical issue. If they're licking objects or themselves it could be due to pain, anxiety, allergies or even boredom.

Here are 6 reasons why dogs lick people but the biggest reason is they're gathering information.

1. They're curious

Our dogs explore everything with their mouths and tongues.

So do dogs lick because they're curious? Licking behavior will help dogs identify what happened on that blade of grass a few minutes before showing up! They also may be curious about where I've been! Or where my feet have been. We told you there was more than one reason!

2. Starving and we just ate 

My dogs are always starving so this reason is simple. Dogs will lick your face merely because you have scraps or scents of food there. 

3. Dogs want to communicate this way

In our house howling is the main form of communication but let me tell you that licking is the second most popular way of saying, 'I'm hungry, please feed me' if I'm on the couch and my face is accessible.

This is also a way for Shermie to tell me he has to pee! If he needs to go outside for a quick potty he'll come over and give me a lick on my toes or feet!

4. Walter wants my attention...always

If I'm on my laptop for way too long then I know immediately as Walter starts licking my feet. Our focus should be on them of course at all times.

We agree with Dogster!

"Your dog will eventually put two and two together. A dog who learns that licking draws positive attention will use it to his advantage!" 

5. Help heal our wounds

Gross! Nope! Research shows that those licks will help our wounds help up faster. All Things Dogs share some details!

"A researcher at the University of Amsterdam found that there are growth factors and histatins in saliva which contribute to wound closure. Histatins are antimicrobial and antifungal, therefore reducing the chance of infection.

You could therefore argue that when dogs lick wounds they are in fact an antiseptic treatment. They also remove any debris from wounds with their tongue, again reducing the chance of infection."

6. Affection!

Last but not least. Dogs are so happy to see you when you come home from work you receive kisses as the 'thank you' for coming home and feeding them.  iHeartDogs.com shares that one fact we all love.

"Your dog's mom licked her as a sign of affection when she was a puppy, and now she's doing it to you. Dogs also lick because it releases feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin. Those chemicals reinforce the warm and fuzzy feelings your dog gets when she's around you."

We love kisses from both our dogs!

You don't need to be a dog trainer to understand canine behaviors like licking. You can also teach your dog not to lick by redirecting their behavior. Some pet parents may not enjoy being licked but if it's an open wound it's not a bad idea!

If you want them to stop licking you try a kong stuffed with something they love and if you do think this is obsessive-compulsive behavior you need to see your vet.

We love a cuddle with some licking and have no problem with it at all. If I just put on lotion or went for a run and my feet are sweaty (salty skin) than Walter may want to lick me for obvious reasons and I'll make up a kong.

Dog lovers everywhere should be thankful their dogs communicate by licking as this slobbery behavior is a nice way for them to show affection!

Is your dog a licker? Please leave us comments and let us know if it helped!

WATCH NOW: Why Does Your Dog Lick You?

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Why Do Dogs Lick People?