Why do dogs lick you?

Why do dogs lick you?

You come home from a busy day at work and get welcomed by your best friend at the door and receive a big, welcome home lick. Life is good. But why do dogs lick you? Is it them showing affection? Getting over excited? Or is it a bad habit that you should not encourage? We’ve all seen the movies with a small boy and his best friend playing in the garden and then being licked on the face by their special pooch. It seems to always be a friendly and excited moment. One to be cherished.


Where did adult dogs learn to lick?

Licking is a natural instinct in animals. Mothers lick their new borns to stimulate them as soon as they are born and to bond with them. They then continue to lick them to keep them clean and to encourage them to go to the toilet. Puppies will lick each other to show affection and to communicate with each other. Licking and grooming seems inbuilt in animals especially dogs and is done from birth through the rest of their lives


But why do dogs lick you?

We’ve all been licked on the hand or face by a dog we know or one we’ve met for the first time. If we think about how we often greet a dog, we offer out our hand for them to smell or lick before we get the go ahead from them to give them a stroke. So is it therefore a basic form of doggy meet and greet? It is certainly is that for the dog. Whilst we use a hand shake or a high five with people to greet them, dogs use their tongues to greet and bond with other dogs and humans. It’s a very clever, natural assessment of how you are feeling and if you need some comfort or your mood lifting. Or perhaps they in turn need a little attention and the lick is a sign that they need to feel some love. A dog will learn your taste so licking your hand or licking your face might be the most common places they lick you. This licking behaviour is a sign you taste nice to them and they know you. Much like how their mothers licked them and knew their smell and taste. It brings a sense of comfort to them.


Why is a dogs tongue so special?

A dogs tongue is its most sensitive body part and used every second of the day for different reasons, some of which may be a surprise to you. A dogs tongue is used for its basic pooch needs like drinking, eating and keeping cool. But your dog can also use it to say they love you. Other than barking a dog will show a certain behaviour to communicate to its owner. Probably one of the most primeval things an animal can do to each other is to lick. Not only is its tongue sensitive but they can use this to soothe themselves if they are stressed or anxious, again another sign of communication to you.


Why does licking things have a calming effect on dogs?

It’s those clever things called endorphins. A dogs tongue not only has the ability to taste bitter, salty, sweet or sour things but it is also directly controlled by nerves from its brain. Endorphins and dopamines are released when they lick you. It makes the dog feel happy and content, less anxious and in turn calmer.


How can a dog show you they love you?

With licks of course! The doggy version of a kiss. It’s a clarification and a communication for them of their bond with you. This is the way they like showing affection and love. It’s a built in instinct like the comfort they felt when their mothers licked them and now it’s how they show love and concern to you. A dog will feel safe and bonded each time you receive a smooch. It’s a way they can show comfort and to tell you they not only love you but they care for you and are there for you.


Should I let my dog lick me?

It's a dogs natural reaction to lick you as mentioned. It seals that bond they have with you and makes for a happier dog and owner relationship. It’s important to be hygienic and not let a dog directly lick your mouth and to wash your hands after being licked.


Is licking a bad habit for dogs?

Licking in excess, of themselves or people can be a concerning behaviour that will need to be assessed by a vet. It could mean that your dog is stressed or anxious and trying to make themselves calm. Over licking of themselves can lead to fur loss, skin abrasions and a sore tongue. It could also indicate if they are in pain or have a sore wound they need help with. It is also a way for them to get attention, perhaps they have been missing their walks or just need a bit of fuss made of them. If a dog is craving more attention and is trying to let you know, then dog walking and being made a fuss of is a top priority.



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