Why Do Dogs Lick People?
Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Why Do Dogs Lick You? Common Reasons and Indications

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There’s no doubt that dogs are affectionate creatures. And they have numerous ways of showing it. One of these ways is by licking their owners. You may enjoy it when your furry friend comes up and gives you a big ol’ pooch smooch.  But why do dogs lick you? In a poll* of dog owners, IAMS™ found a large majority (75%) believe dogs lick people to offer signs of friendliness. That’s definitely a correct assumption. Let’s dive a bit deeper for a better understanding. 


Licking has been a social behavior among dogs since the days of the great-great-great granddaddy wolf. 'It’s a standard canine greeting to lick others around the face,” agrees James Serpell, B.S., Ph.D., Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “Junior members of the pack will run around and lick the mouths of more senior members.” But is that all that there is to dog licking behavior? Or are there more reasons why dogs lick people? Let’s find out!


Why do dogs lick people?


Here are a few reasons that can explain why dogs like to lick.  


  • It’s their way of showing affection

    For dogs, licking is equivalent to kissing or showing affection. You may have noticed female dogs licking their puppies which is a behavior that is intended to show affection. And your dog considers you part of their pack, so they show you affection the same way their kind does - by licking.

  • You taste great… or at least interesting

    Dogs are oral creatures and gather a lot of information about their surroundings through taste and smell. Maybe you’re salty after a sweaty run. Maybe you’ve got barbecue sauce on your face. “Dogs can smell a lot better than we can,” says Dr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager, Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “so they find a lot more things interesting to lick than we can.” This is despite the fact that dogs only have about 1,700 taste buds compared to around 9,000 in humans.

  • They want your attention

    Have you been too busy with work lately? Or has anything kept you inattentive toward your pooch? If so, it’s probably one of the reasons why your dog is licking you. It is also possible that your dog just got too bored and wants you to play with them, which is why they’re suddenly licking you.

  • They have OCD

    That’s true. Much like humans, dogs can also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can be concerning. It is often triggered due to stress and anxiety and makes the dogs suddenly begin licking. You will need to visit your vet if you suspect this to be the case. 


Why is my dog licking my wounds?

Unlike humans, no other animals have knowledge about or access to proper healthcare. So, when they get injured, their first instinct is to lick their wounds. This helps them numb the pain to a certain extent, and also clean the wound. Thus, when your dog sees a wound on you, their natural instincts kick in and they try to help you by licking the wound, thinking it will clean the wound and lower the pain.


In fact, in ancient Greece, dogs at the shrine of Asclepius were trained to lick patients. In the Middle Ages, Saint Roch was said to have been cured of a plague of sores through his dog’s licking. The French even have a saying, “langue de chien, langue de médecin,” which translates to, “a dog’s tongue, a doctor’s tongue.”


Don’t cancel your health insurance just yet. While a dog’s saliva does have some possible bactericidal properties against some types of bacteria, it can put you at risk of exposure to others. Too much licking can also reopen the wound and cause further infection. With modern medicine, you’re much better off hitting the first-aid kit. And that myth about dogs’ mouths being cleaner than humans’? Not true — both contain over 600 types of bacteria. 


How to handle a dog that licks too much?

While an occasional canine kiss is “aww”-inducing, some dogs can overdo it to the point of annoyance. When this happens, the best thing to do is “completely ignore it and give no attention,” suggests Dr. Jo Gale. “When they stop, provide them with attention.” This acts as a form of positive reinforcement. Over time your dog will learn to scale back on the smooches. Another thing you can try is training them to cut back on the licking. Remember to use positive reinforcement in this case too - reward them with treats or toys when they display good behavior.


FAQs on Why do Dogs Lick You

  1. Does dog licking mean affection?
  2. Yes, but not always. For dogs, licking is also a way to explore and understand the world and the beings around them. Sometimes it can also be an indication of their OCD.


  3. Why is my dog licking me?
  4. Your dog may be licking you because of either of these reasons - to show affection, to seek your attention, because they like how you taste, or because they are feeling stressed or anxious.


  5. What does it mean when a dog keeps licking?
  6. If a dog keeps licking constantly, it may be because they are feeling anxious or stressed. Sometimes these feelings also trigger OCD in dogs, which can make them lick obsessively. They may also do it when they are bored and want your attention.


  7. Is dog licking a dominant behavior?
  8. Sometimes, dogs choose to show dominance via licking. They may do this with either other dogs of the pack or with humans. Dog licking may indicate dominance especially when the licks are uninvited, and the dog begins showing dominant behavior. This can include not obeying commands and acting in a demanding way.


  9. What is a dog telling you when they lick you?
  10. A dog’s licking may indicate several things. They are either showing affection or are just bored and need your attention. They may also lick you if they think you taste good or interesting.


  • How to Take Care of Puppies
    How to Take Care of Puppies
    How to Take Care of Puppies

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    Bringing a furry friend home is one of the greatest things you will do. If you are someone who has been longing for a furry companion, you should wait no more... however, only if you are confident that you can take complete care of this four-legged angel. Puppies need love and care, so as their caregivers, you need to help them grow into happy and healthy dogs. 

    Stay by your pet’s side throughout its growing stage. This is that time of its life where you need to do more than just provide food, love, and fun times; you must understand dog nutrition, follow the vaccination schedule, and potty train your puppy. Sparing some time and energy to provide your pet with basic puppy care can help you build a loving relationship with your pooch. So, let us explore a few things you can look into while nurturing a puppy. This basic puppy care guide will also keep you informed with what to expect in the first few months of being a caregiver.

    • Bringing your puppy home

    Wondering what to know about taking care of a puppy? Let us start with the most basic things like puppy proofing your house. That is right. Puppies and babies fall in the same category: delicate and fragile! You need to be careful about their surroundings and make sure that there is nothing hazardous around. Puppies are naturally curious. Make sure they do not encounter things like chemicals, electrical cords, harmful houseplants, valuables, and especially breakables. You also need to get necessary pup supplies like a feeding bowl, collar, leash, and more. Set up a cosy corner for your puppy to rest in!

    • Feeding your pooch

    Choosing the right puppy food is of paramount importance. You must pick out puppy food that is specifically formulated for growing puppies as it needs the right kind of nutrients to grow stronger. So, avoid adult dog food if your pet is still a pup.

    Not sure when to make a switch to adult dog food? Well, it totally depends on the breed size. If you have a small or medium breed dog, you can switch to dog food once it turns 9 to 12 months old. If you have a large breed dog, continue feeding puppy food until it turns 12 to 24 months old. Apart from that, make sure your pup always has access to fresh and clean water! 

    This is what a typical puppy feeding schedule would look like: 

    • 6-12 weeks old: Four meals per day 
    • 3-6 months old: Three meals per day 
    • 6-12 months old: Two meals per day 

    At IAMS™, we offer a range of puppy as well as adult dog food that nourishes your furry friend with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other essential nutrients. Our products are made with premium-quality ingredients to ensure that your dog enjoys every bite of its food.

    • Vet visits and vaccinations

    Taking your furry friend to the vet is the most important part of taking care of a puppy. Your dog’s first visit to the vet will help you learn about your dog’s overall physical health. Vet visits will also keep you informed about the vaccination schedule.  In fact, it is recommended to make a list of all questions that you may have. This list should include topics like: 

    • Vaccination schedule 
    • Spaying or neutering 
    • Potty training 
    • Basic obedience training 
    • Any symptoms 
    • Diet and nutrition 
    • Deworming
    • Socialisation

    Puppies should meet a variety of different people, dogs, objects, and situations – all in a positive way. The most important time for pups to socialize is between three and 12 weeks of age, however, it should continue throughout a puppy’s development. As pet parents, you can take your pooch to puppy classes as it provides a great opportunity to socialise puppies.

    • Potty training

    You can get started with potty training from the day one. This will help inculcate basic bathroom manners in your dog and will save you from cleaning the floor every time your pooch excretes. So, pick a bathroom spot outside your house and take your pup to the same place whenever it is potty time. Praise it right after it is done. You can also reward it with treats. However, under no circumstances must a puppy be yelled at since it may ignite fear.

    The best way to train is to reward good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour. It is never too early to begin training a puppy, but owners must remember that very young puppies become tired or distracted easily so training sessions should be kept to a short duration.

    • Oral care

    Dogs are prone to losing tooth, bad breath, and periodontal diseases. Moreover, they are good at hiding their dental pain. Hence, owners should introduce some form of oral care for their puppy as early as possible. Consult your vet to ensure that you pick the best dental care option for your pooch.

    •  Exercise

    Amounts of exercise should be controlled for puppies during growth. They should not be forced to exercise beyond the amount of time they would engage in with another puppy of the same age. Moreover, your furry friend must be allowed to rest when they need to. So, instead of offering a one long playtime period, go for two short walks.