Why Does My Dog Lick Me?
Does your dog love to give you a good kiss when you come home each day? Does he try to lick your face? Does your fur baby also enjoy licking your hands, ears and maybe feet? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place! Especially if you’re wondering exactly why your dog likes to lick you!
Why Does a Dog Like to Lick?
There are several reasons our pups like to like us. Actually, dogs and licking go hand in hand and the reasons behind their licking can vary. Licking is a natural canine behavior that starts with puppies and their mothers. Mother dogs lick their puppies to clean them, help stimulate their potty reflexes, as a sign of affection and more. Puppies lick their mothers, too, before feeding—this sometimes stimulates the mother to regurgitate food that’s easy for the puppy to eat. This may leave your stomach surging, but these are all normal canine behaviors.
Licking is also a way dogs socialize with their pack. For instance, pack members who rank lower than those above them may lick as a way to show subordination and possibly seeking permission to eat prey caught by the pack.
Your dog may love to lick you, too. Here are some reasons why:
- Seeking attention & communication: your fur baby may be licking you to get attention—maybe to let you know he’s ready for a favorite treat, a walk, or just to say hi! Perhaps he’d like you to fill his water bowl or he’s letting you know it’s time to eat! Dogs do use licking as a way to communicate with other canines and their pet parents, after all.
- Cleaning and grooming you: perhaps your canine companion thinks you’re in need of a bath and some good grooming to spiff you up a little bit.
- You have a sore: some dogs are notorious for licking wounds; in fact, some dogs will even tear the scab off of a wound to in their urge to clean it.
- Sign of submission: your pet could be licking you to show he’s subordinate to your authority. Or sometimes he may lick you after he’s been in trouble—for the same reason. This is one way low-ranking dogs in a pack make up with their superiors.
- Licking during playtime: dogs love to use their teeth when playing; however, humans generally discourage this type of play. Instead, some dogs will lick you, rather than using their teeth on you!
- Being Affectionate: your pup could be licking you to show how much he loves you! If you act happy when he licks you, chances are he’s being affectionate. What a sweet pup! He’s saying he loves you!
These are some of the most common reasons dogs like to lick. What about hand licking—what does it mean when a dog licks your hand?
Licking your hands could possibly be due to the fact you just handled some yummy food. Dogs have a strong sense of smell and taste; the smell could be strong enough to get his attention. He’s letting you know he appreciates the food and would probably love to have a bite…of the food, that is, not your hand. Another reason dogs like to like our hands is due to the salt on our skin. Or, if you’ve just put lotion on your hands, and he may be enjoying the flavor, believe it or not.
These behaviors seem strange to us but are quite normal for many of our canine friends.
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Why is my dog constantly licking me? Excessive licking can either be your problem or your dog’s. Some people just don’t enjoy being licked by their dog or any other dog. We’re all different and the reasons can vary—it may the feel of the dog’s saliva on their skin, maybe they’re allergic to dogs, or they’re worried about the bacteria and parasites that can live in a dog’s mouth. This is more of a people problem than it is the dog’s problem.
If your dog seems to generally be healthy and just likes to lick, it’s OK if you don’t like this. However, you need to keep in mind that if you reject your dog’s licking this could affect the relationship with your dog. Never scold your dog for liking you. Instead, try just getting up and leaving when his licking becomes excessive. If you do this each time, then he’ll eventually get the idea that his licking makes you go away. Your pup wants to be close to you, so he’ll probably stop licking in order to maintain that closeness.
Other times, excessive licking can be a dog problem. Dogs, just like their humans, can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders. Some dogs just have to lick someone or something. Then again, some dogs may turn to licking themselves excessively—they seem driven to do so. If you notice this type of behavior in your dog, it’s time to take him to see the vet for a medical assessment of the issue.
Why Does a Dog Lick Your Face?
Your fur baby could be telling you it’s time to eat. As noted earlier, puppies lick their mother’s face to get her to regurgitate food she’s eaten and partially digested. You might think of this as something like baby food for the puppy. Again, it seems gross to us, but this is natural and healthy for puppies when they’re too young to eat and digest food on their own.
In a canine pack, dogs greet one another by licking each other’s faces. So, your pup may be greeting you as one of the pack!
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Is there a problem letting your dog kiss your hands or face? There could be—let’s take a look at some of the issues with doggie kisses:
1. Consider what’s been in his mouth: if you’ve been a pet parent long enough or have been around dogs, you know that they are notorious for picking up and/or eating many things they find on the ground. Dogs are generally drawn to things we’d consider disgusting. In fact, the more the disgusting to us, the more appealing to the dog! They love road kill, for instance.
Other times, they may be very happy to raid your kitty’s litter-box for special snacks—much to your cat’s horror! The things your dog picks up can leave bacteria and parasites in his mouth. Our canine friends can also pick up bacteria and other things by drinking dirty water. All of these organisms may be harmless to him, but could make you or your family sick.
2. The zoo on your fur baby’s face: not only is there a zoo in his mouth, but your dog carries a veritable zoo on his face, too. This also includes his muzzle. You’ve probably seen your dog nosing around while you’re out for a walk. Have you seen what he noses? It will be most anything—from other animal droppings, to dead things, etc. As a result, his face and muzzle can also be carriers of bacteria and other organisms.
3. Zoonotic organisms: these are bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeast that can all live and thrive in your dog’s mouth. They’re usually quite harmless to your dog—he’s probably built up an immunity to the zoo in his mouth. However, humans are not immune to all of these organisms. Consider salmonella and e.coli, for instance. These can make you quite sick.
There’s a special concern for anyone—adults or children—who have compromised immune systems. The problem with dogs “kissing” babies is due to the baby’s underdeveloped immune system. If the baby becomes infected with bacteria, for instance, their immune system may not be strong enough to fight off the infection.
In adults with compromised immune systems, the problem is much the same. People receiving chemotherapy, diabetics, anyone with open sores are all at greater risk of developing an infection from a dog’s saliva and kisses. Elderly people and pregnant women can also run a higher risk of infection.
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You may not mind your pup’s kisses, but how can you avoid developing an infection or skin problem from his kisses? There are some things you can do!
- Be sure to keep your dog vaccinated and de-wormed and keep him up-to-date each year.
- Avoid letting your dog kiss you if your immune system is somehow compromised.
- Wash your face and hands after your dog’s given his kisses.
- Keep your dog’s mouth away from your mouth, nose and eyes. Many of the zoonotic organisms need to come into contact with the mucus lining in these areas in order to infect you. So, keep your dog’s kisses on your cheeks, but wash afterwards.
- Don’t let your pup kiss your baby or young children. This is sometimes almost impossible to avoid. If your dog kisses your baby or young child, be sure to wash the area with warm soap and water. One note—never leave your baby or young child alone with your dog. It’s not safe—even for a few seconds. That’s all it takes for an ear or tail to be pulled, resulting in a dog bite.
- Avoid taking kisses from dogs you don’t know.
We hope this guide has helped you to better understand your dog’s licks and the possible reasons behind his sweet kisses. There’s nothing wrong with letting your dog kiss you—just use common sense and be sure to wash your face and hands after being showered with your fur baby’s love and affection.