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Why Does Your Dog Lick You?

Posted by Evan Weber on

When was the last time your dog greeted you with a million licks? This morning? Last night? A few minutes ago? Is he just saying hello, or giving you his version of a kiss on the cheek? Although he may never tell us, it helps to understand the psychology of the lick.

Dogs lick often and for many reasons. A mother may lick her puppies to clean them or to stimulate elimination. Once her puppies reach about six weeks old, they often lick their mom's face and lips when they want her to regurgitate food for them much like their wild ancestors did when the ancient wild dog mother carried food in her stomach rather than dragging it back to the den in her mouth. As puppies grow older, they lick to groom both themselves and their littermates. Licking also becomes a way of welcoming others back into the group and increasing the ties between them. An adult dog will lick as a sign of submissiveness to the dominant pack member. He will lower his body to make himself smaller, and look up to show subordinate behavior. The dog receiving the face licks shows its dominance by standing tall to accept the gesture, without licking back. It is not much of a puzzle, really. The bottom line is that most of the time, dogs will lick their humans as a sign of affection. He is trying to tell you that you are everything to him, and oh by the way, you taste good, too!

Licking is really a multi-faceted tool that plays many roles in canine behavior. When a mother licks her pups and her pups lick each other during grooming and other social interactions, we can see behavior that ends up serving as the basis for all other licking decisions a dog makes - Mom licked me now I lick you. Licking also plays a role in the solicitation of resources, much like when her pups lick mother as a precursor to feeding or when lower-ranking pack members lick their superiors when hoping an invitation to dine on communal prey. The next time your dog licks your face, he may simply be letting you know that he's glad to see you, or that he is hungry and is asking for a snack. While you will probably not regurgitate some food at that signal, you can give him a treat he will enjoy, like VIAND’s Cheese Beer Bones. A holistic natural dog food like Cheese Beer Bones are less grainy and with a moderate malt flavor. Cheese Beer Bones are made with Golden Promise, a multi-use base malt that has a clean, somewhat sweet taste dogs love.

And, did you know that licking is actually a sensory tool, according to some researchers? By licking or tasting, your dog is reaching out and touching something in a type of slobbery exploration. Researchers say that they use their tongue to explore their surroundings. By licking everything in sight, a dog is in essence touching the objects much like a person might pick up and put things down when trying to get used to a new location. 

Many times a dog may lick simply because it is comforting. Licking releases pleasurable endorphin in the brain, giving the feeling of pleasure and comfort, or relieving stress.  The saliva of a dog also has the capability to destroy bacteria. If your dog is licking himself often, check out whether he has a wound. He will want to get rid of the dead skin tissues from his injury with his licking treatment. If he does it excessively, he may end up worsening the wound. Do take him to the veterinarian to help end this issue. Your dog does a wonderful job of diagnosing and treating himself. By excessively licking himself, your dog is telling you something. He instinctively knows how to treat himself.

However, if your dog repeatedly goes after the same spot, he may have an allergy, bug bites (check for fleas) or be trying to stimulate the energy in a particular set of organs. In the spring, for example, a dog nibbling on the inside of their hock joints, on their toes on the inside of their feet, or at their nails on those toes may be an indication that there is an issue with the liver. In the spring, the energy of the body is in the liver and gallbladder. Nip any springtime liver issues in the bud with Puppy Trio, which will ensure proper digestion and absorption and assist in successful growth and development while building a proper immune system.

Can your dog’s enthusiastic licks also represent a sign of affection?  A dog's behavior can be encouraged with positive reinforcement. So if he dog licks your face, either out of instinct, anxiety, or just because your face tastes salty, and that action is greeted with positive attention, such as hugs and your own kisses, he'll want to repeat the behavior.


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