Why Does My Dog Lick Me? Explained by Veterinary Experts

Luis Dogalyo
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A warm and wet dog tongue on the skin... Some dog lovers love this, while others prefer to avoid this contact. But why do quadrupeds use it? Today we answer your question: why does my dog lick me?

Licking is a social interaction

Licking is one of the first social interactions that dogs experience. As soon as they are born, the mother licks her puppies extensively. This serves to strengthen the bond, clean the puppies and massage the stomach after meals. The puppies imitate this and lick each other. At that moment, licking is part of the dog's repertoire of behavior. Some dogs like to continue using it in adulthood. Others use their tongue very rarely. Whether a dog expresses affection by licking depends on each dog.

Why does my dog lick me?

There are different reasons why quadrupeds stick out their tongue to lick their humans or lick each other. If you pay attention to the rest of the dog's body language and watch the whole situation, you will understand it better. This way you can realize why your furry is licking you.


Why Does My Dog Lick Me? Explained by Veterinary Experts

Expression of affection

Dogs express their affection for a person through licks more often than cats do. Likewise, it is common for dogs to lick each other when they are resting. Whether it is a same-sex or a human, licking serves both to greet kindly and to express joy or as a spontaneous sign of friendship.

Calming licks

Among themselves, a lower-ranking dog licks the snout of a higher-ranking pack member to pacify it. This behavior is also possible in interaction with humans. It can be used, for example, when your reference person is angry or tense.

This behavior of the human does not have to be related to the dog: some furry lick their caregivers when they fight with another person or when they sing very loud and badly. The dog wants to calm him down. Sometimes the licks also serve to calm themselves. For example, at the veterinarian or in other situations that stress the quadruped.

Invitation to play, have fun and cuddles

Sometimes, dogs want to get something through licking. For example, some four-legged animals have learned that when they lick their human’s hand they receive attention. In this way, they try to get cuddles. Or they may be bored and receive attention through licking. It is possible that this way their caregiver plays with them or gives them a treat.

Think about it: your reaction to your dog’s licking determines what request they associate it with. That’s why you should consider carefully if you want your reaction to their attempts to become a habit.

A matter of taste

Have you eaten a ham sandwich or petted another dog? Your four-legged friend wants to know exactly what you have done! Licking also serves to absorb molecules of odor and taste. Many dogs want to discover interesting smells through licking. So they can literally lick the smell of other dogs off your hand. In addition, human sweat and other body odors attract many dogs. It seems that good taste simply leads them to lick.

Related: Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet?

Do dogs transmit diseases through licking?

Many people like their dog to lick them. Others find it unpleasant, especially when the dog’s tongue runs over their face. Mucous membranes contact should be avoided so that the dog cannot transmit germs that can cause disease. Although intestinal parasites are mainly transmitted through feces, if the dog has licked his anus before and licks the human’s face shortly afterwards, it is possible to transmit it in this way. Dogs can also transmit several bacteria, such as Pasteurella multocida.

Affected dogs do not show symptoms of the disease, but they can infect humans. In the worst case, this can lead to blood poisoning or meningitis. It is very rare for an infection to occur. However, if a dog has licked your hands, you should wash them before preparing food or rubbing your eyes. This rule is very important, especially for people with a weak immune system and for children.

How to react when my dog licks me

As always, reward desired behavior and ignore undesired behavior. Teach your dog from puppyhood if you want them to lick you or not. After all, what can be cute in a small Bernese mountain puppy might be less pleasant in an 8-year-old. If you don't want your dog to lick your face, step away from them and ignore them for 30 seconds.

That way the dog learns that licking your face has the opposite effect, that is, interruption of social interaction. Also, be sure to not reinforce demanding licks, but ignore them. Besides that, plenty of petting is a good response to your furry one’s expressions of affection.

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