If you've got a furry friend at home, chances are you have been licked by them on many occasions. Whether you came back from the office or gave them snuggles, your dog tends to lick you time and again.
Ever wondered why do dogs lick you when you pet them?
There are numerous ways in which dogs communicate - barking, running around, body stances, and more.
They use such methods to let you know if they are hungry, if they feel upset if they want you to pay attention to them or want to go out for a walk.
One such method of communication for dogs is licking you.
Dogs lick people when they are trying to speak to them or communicate their needs and wants. In domesticated dogs, licking is a sign of communication or a sign of affection where they are trying to communicate their love or needs to you.
Your dog cannot talk to you directly, so when your dog licks you, know that they are trying to say something to you.
By identifying these signs, dog owners can develop a better bond with their dog and know exactly how to meet their needs quickly.
Let's dig deeper and learn the many reasons why your dog licks.
1. Sign Of Affection
The head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, Alexandra Horowitz, wrote a book called Inside Of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.
In this book, she talks about how the puppies of wild animals like foxes and wolves lick their mother’s face when they return from a hunt.
The mother regurgitates the food into the puppy's mouth because they can't chew their own food yet. The mashed up food often gets stuck near the mother's mouth, which the puppy licks off. This food-seeking behavior is where a puppy gets his habit of licking someone's face. One might even say that this behavior is in a dog's DNA.
The next time your dog licks your face and you wonder why do dogs lick you when you pet them, know that they are showing you affection in the only way they know-how.
If they can't reach and lick your face, they would likely lick your feet, legs, arms, or hands.
Do know that if your dog doesn't lick very often, this does not mean that they aren't affectionate towards you.
2. They Want Your Attention
Often, when your dog licks you, you will respond to it with some reaction. You will either laugh and proceed to give them hugs or you will pat their head and give them some treats to munch on.
Positive reinforcement makes your dog believe that licking is a ‘good thing’ which is being rewarded by you with things that your dog loves. When you continue to show affection, your dog will believe that every time they need your attention, all they need to do is come lick you.
Usually, your dog would want your attention if they are bored or feeling particularly ignored on a certain day.
Remember, even if you respond with a negative response - pushing your dog away, reprimanding them for licking you and more - your dog considers that as a reinforcement and this could encourage their licking.
3. Dogs Communicate With Licking
When dogs are looking to share their needs or emotions, they often lick the faces of their dog owners. Even in the wild, dogs and other wild animals are known to lick their pack members' faces when they are trying to communicate something to each other.
You might have also noticed your dog doing this with other dogs as well. Whenever they meet a new dog in the park or on the road, both dogs tend to start coming really close to each other and lick each other’s faces.
Depending on the conditions or scenarios, your dog might lick your face to indicate hunger, annoyance, loneliness, or anger.
4. You Taste Good
The human skin inherently tastes a little bit salty. This salty skin is new territory for your dog, and as we know, dogs love to explore surfaces and environments that are new to them.
Using their nose and tongue, dogs familiarise themselves with new places and so licking is just a way for them to explore you more.
Do note that if your dog has started licking you more often than usual, it means that they like the salty taste of your skin and so want to continue with this behavior.
Plus, when you pet them, hug them, or laugh when they lick you, the behavior gets reinforced, which pushes them to do this more.
5. Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior
Obsessive licking is found very commonly in dogs. A dog loves to show affection by licking the face of the dog owners, but this can become quite excessive in some domesticated dogs.
They might continue to lick you or even the furniture around the house. This is referred to as obsessive licking and can originate from obsessive-compulsive behavior.
While rare in domesticated dogs, anxiety can cause them to become nervous, which results in them licking the dog owners obsessively. If you have recently found your dog licking obsessively, it is a wise idea to get in touch with a vet or an animal behaviorist. This could help your dog to stop licking excessively.
Other reasons why your dog could be licking excessively include sensitive or itchy skin, a wound, or an allergic reaction.
A dog is a naturally inquisitive being who loves to explore its environment. A dog also loves to show affection by licking your faces or hands. No matter the scenario, licking is a way for your dog to communicate with you and let you know how they are feeling.
Plus, your body also constantly releases endorphins, which your dog might like licking on.
While most dog owners do not mind this, some find it annoying. If your dog licks you constantly and it’s not something you like, you must train your dog to stop doing this or visit an animal behaviorist.
For more information on your little furry friend, visit our dog blog today!