Dogs lick their owners and friends for a variety of reasons and learning why may help you be a better friend and owner to your canine companion. Does your pup’s behavior match some of these common reasons behind dog licking?
Since licking releases endorphins that help with relaxation, licking could be one of your dog’s coping mechanisms for stressful situations. You might notice that your dog is extra licky when they’re around a new animal, or in an unfamiliar place. All of these behaviors are perfectly normal when they occur occasionally in an otherwise healthy dog, but impulsive licking is something to watch out for. If your dog is licking the same spot on the couch over and over, or damaging their fur or skin by overzealous licking, it could mean that their anxiety level is too high. Call your vet to discuss stress relief options to help your nervous pup learn to relax.
He Needs Something
“Yeah, yeah, I love you too but I’m trying to tell you something!” Dogs often use licking as a way of communicating, so the more persistent it gets, the more frustrated they might be. Look around and see if something is out of place. Did his favorite toy get stuck under the couch? Did you forget to refill the water bowl? Is it time to play tug of war? He would spell it out for you if he had opposable thumbs, but since he’s stuck with four legs and a tongue this may be his only way of saying “MOM!!! DAD!!! I NEED YOU!”
You Taste Good
Dogs use their tongues to explore their surroundings, and that includes you. Is your sweat salty? Does your lotion smell like candy? Have you eaten food lately? Chances are good that your dog smells all of these things on you and wants to get more info. What kind of burger was it? Did you use ketchup? Is there any left for me? To borrow a line from the famous recording artist and dog lover, Fiona Apple, it could be “the food on your lips with which it’s in love.”
He’s Being Submissive
Licking is one way that dogs show their submission to their pack leader— you. Submissive dogs are especially prone to licking in the muzzle area, while the dominant animals accept the licks without returning them. Licking could be your dog’s way of saying “I need you to protect me and I’m down to be your #2.” You might start to notice that your dog also licks as a signal of submission around other dogs as well. Perfectly normal for the meeker mutts among us.
You Seem To Enjoy It
And maybe she’s right! Every time you giggle and return their affections you’re telling your dog “Keep licking me! This is fun!” And since they’re not so great at English, even “knock it off!” sounds like “Gimme more licks please!” Only your dog knows what’s truly in your heart. Who are we to judge?
Something’s Not Right
More often than not, licking is perfectly normal. But sometimes, it can be a sign that something is wrong. When the licking gets a little too weird, it’s time to play closer attention. If you notice that your dog has suddenly started licking a certain part of their body (or their canine siblings body) over and over again if could signify a medical problem. If you think your little friend’s licking is out of the ordinary or over the top, it’s a good idea to call your vet and describe the situation over the phone.
You Need Some Cheering Up
If you’re down in the dumps, crying, or just a little off emotionally, your dog can absolutely feel it. Licking is sometimes their way of checking in on you, and trying to snap you out of it. Whether it’s for their sake or yours, you have to admit that it works every time.