magnifying glass

Wellness

Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Because dogs are not able to communicate with their owners through speaking (aside from barking, of course), your dog will often rely on other forms of communication to express to you how they are feeling. One way that your dog might choose to achieve that is by licking you. 

When your dog is licking you, you might not think anything of it. After all, it’s common enough. However, if you really consider what your dog is trying to express when they cuddle up close to you and lick you, you might be surprised. 

If you have ever wondered why your dog is licking you, you might be interested to learn that there is not just one reason. In fact, several reasons can explain why your dog is choosing to lick you. You’ll have to decode what your dog’s licks mean yourself. 

Today, you’re going to get all your questions about your dog’s licks answered. To begin, you will learn more about what leads dogs to lick humans in the first place. After, you will get more information about how to tell if your dog is licking you in excess. Then, you will learn more about what excessive licking can mean and how you can encourage them to quit indulging in the habit quite so frequently. 

Has your dog's behavior changed?

Don't wonder. Get a vet's opinion — for free.

Dr. Laura Robinson, a Pawp veterinarian, sums it up best. “Dogs can lick for many reasons — stress, pain, nausea, or just to show affection. A consult with your vet is recommended to determine if there is an underlying problem,” she says.

Continue reading to learn more about what could be causing the licking. 

Why do dogs lick people?

To put it simply, there is not just one reason why dogs lick people. There are actually a variety of different reasons. Taking your dog’s body language into consideration can help you figure out what exactly is causing your dog to lick you. 

Interestingly, this can be as simple as a sign of affection or as complicated as your dog trying to decode how exactly you are feeling. Read on to learn more about how dogs choose to lick people. 

If you are trying to figure out what your dog is licking you for, it is important to consider the context. This can clue you in on valuable information that will help you decipher why your dog is engaging in this behavior

They’re showing they love you

If you ever guessed that the reason that your dog is licking you is to show how much they adore you, you might be right. One major reason why dogs choose to lick people is to display their affection for the person. 

Animal behaviorists all have their different opinions on what exactly licking means, but some think that when a dog licks their owner, this is a way that they can demonstrate this behavior.

It can also be viewed as a way that dogs look to bond. In other instances, they can lick to appease people. 

They want to know how we feel

In other cases, your dog is looking to bond with you, and that is why they are licking you. This could be your dog wanting to know how you feel. Dogs and humans have a unique bond, and your dog licking you is further proof of that. 

We have food on our hands

Sometimes, your dog will lick you because you have something that they want — like food. For instance, if your dog is licking your hands or face, it could be because your pet smells that you have food on you. 

This is one of the more straightforward reasons why your dog will lick you. If you recently ate, this is likely the cause of the licking. To make this cease, you should wash your hands before playing with your pet after eating and make sure you do not have any food on your face. 

They’re being submissive

In some cases, dogs will lick to show submission. Dogs, which are pack animals, will actually lick the mouths of more dominant dogs in their pack. Think of this as a demonstration of respect. 

Your pet considers you to be a member of their pack. Therefore, if they are licking you, this could be demonstrating the fact that they acknowledge you’re the one in control or the boss. 

Talk to a vet for free now

Stop Googling. Get a vet's opinion on it.

How do I know if my dog is licking me too much?

The best way to determine if your dog is licking you too much is to consider how you feel about their habits. If their behavior is invasive or excessive and impacts other things that you are trying to do, then they might be licking too much. 

For instance, if you are sitting on your couch and your dog begins to lick you excessively when you are attempting to read, this could potentially indicate that your dog is licking you too much.

Additionally, if you have any questions about your dog’s specific behaviors, you can always reach out to your vet. They can give you insight into the cause of your dog licking as well as how to get them to stop.

What does frequent licking mean?

If your dog is licking you frequently, you might be wondering what your dog is trying to tell you. Dogs rely on non-verbal forms of communication (aside from barking, growling, whinging, etc.) to convey emotions to their owner. Therefore, your dog’s licking could be their attempt to express something to you. 

Your dog is anxious

If your dog is experiencing anxiety, you might notice that they will begin to lick their lips. If you fear the cause of your dog’s licking is anxiety, you could take into consideration if they are demonstrating any other physical signs of anxiety

Your dog is hungry

In other cases, your dog could be licking because they are trying to convey that they are hungry. This will likely occur around mealtime. If you give your dog food and the licking does not halt, this could suggest a different cause. 

Your dog needs attention or care

Dogs express their affection through licking. In some cases, your dog licking will reveal that they are looking for care. This is especially true if the reason they are licking in the first place is due to stress. 

Your dog needs space

Alternatively, sometimes dogs will lick because they need space. This is the opposite reason from needing affection. That is why paying attention to the context that your dog is licking will help clue you in on what’s going on in their head. 

How can I encourage my dog to lick me less frequently?

If your dog’s licking is too frequent or excessive, you should reach out to your vet to get their opinion on what the next steps are in your individual situation. However, until you see your vet, there are some things that you can do to help reduce the amount that your dog is licking you.

Read on to learn more. 

Determine the type of lick

Your first step is to determine the type of lick that your dog is exhibiting. That’s where taking context into consideration will be important. Taking note of when your dog is licking will also prove important when you are talking to the vet. 

If you are unsure of the type of lick, begin to jot down notes about when the licking occurs. Is there something in common every time? Are they anxious because of the presence of another pet? Hungry because it’s almost dinner time? 

Address the underlying cause

Addressing the underlying cause of your dog’s licking is your best option because it could stop the problem directly at the source. Of course, this is difficult to achieve unless you know what is causing the licking to occur in the first place. If you are unsure, you can work with your vet to figure out the underlying cause and devise a plan to treat it. 

Teach them a command

Harnessing the power of a command is a great way to get your dog to fix their behavior so that it is more in line with what you would expect from them. This should ideally be something simple enough for your pet to remember.

Looking to talk to a vet for free?

Chat with an expert now — no appointment required.

Canine habits

If you have any questions about why your dog is licking you, it always is best to get a professional’s opinion. Pawp is available and eager to answer any questions you might have about your dog’s health or behavior.

The best part about Pawp is that the convenient telehealth appointments mean there’s never a wait or an appointment necessary. You can get the help you need for your dog whenever you need it and wherever you are — Pawp’s vets are available 24/7.

DOG LICKING SOURCES: 

Top Training Tips For Dogs | Texas A&M

It's a dog's life: K-State veterinarian says quirky behaviors by canines can be just for fun, innate or may require treatment | Kansas State University 

Cummings Veterinary Medicine | Tufts  

Preparation Can Help Dogs Cope with Their People Returning to Work | Duke

Share Via

Stay up to date on the latest from Pawp vets with informative pet content.

pawp logo

Quality pet care for a fraction of the cost.

  • Instagram: @pawp
  • Linkedin: @mypawp
  • Twitter: @mypawp
  • Pinterest: @pawp
  • Facebook: @mypawp
GET IN TOUCH
dog