Every dog owner has experienced it. You come back home, and your dog is excited. You pet your puppy, and it licks you. In most cases, it is a sign of pure excitement from your pet. But pet owners should also be wary of excessive licking. What does it mean when your dog licks you?
Licking is a tool dogs use for communication. It is the same as barking, but less irritating. Today, we will try to answer why my dog licks me when I pet her. Remember, dogs cannot speak our language, so we have to find a way to communicate.
What Does It Mean When A Dog Licks You?
As we said before, when a dog is licking you, it is a form of communication. Your dog is trying to tell you something. But what is that? There can be many different explanations. Let’s try and decode some of the communication messages your pet is sending.
Affection And Bonding
For dogs, one of the best ways to tell their pet owners they love them is to lick them. It is a form of bonding and affection. Licking is a way for your dog to show you he loves you. Accept it with pride. Showing affection between the dog and its dog owner is a way to improve the bond. And the better bond you have, the more willing your dog will be to train and work with you.
You might not know this, but licking can also be a form of submission. Dogs are pack animals. They are used to living in a pack where there is a clear hierarchy. And licking is you’re their way to tell you they accept you as the pack leader.
Usually, this happens when dogs lick the face or mouth of their dog owner. It is their way of deference to the more dominant pack member.
Trying To Get Your Attention
Excessive licking can be a way for your dog to tell you to come and play with me. They want your attention. Dogs can use licking to show you their affection but also ask for your attention. And the more you pet your dog, the more they lick you.
This cycle of compulsive licking is a communication form for asking for attention. If you have a needy Velcro dog, expect even more licking and kisses.
Is Licking A Dog’s Way Of Kissing?
Dog owners tell it all the time. We love puppy kisses. Any animal lover would enjoy some dog kisses. And while in some cases, licking can be a kiss, it is not always the case.
Sometimes, they might lick you to get food. This might surprise you, but remember, dogs are descendants of wolves.
In the wild canine world, puppies lick the face and muzzle of their mother when she returns from the hunt to give them food.
In a similar way, domesticated dogs might lick you because they think you taste nice. Remember, humans have slightly salty skin, especially after sweating. Those licks on your face might be about seeking salt, and not about giving attention.
Why Do Dogs Lick When They Are Being Petted?
Now let’s answer the main question, why does my dog lick me when I pet her? Dogs may lick you when they are being petted as a way of showing gratitude and affection. It is the same way as humans. When someone hugs us, we hug back, right? Or when someone kisses us, we kiss them back.
Licking releases endorphins in your dog’s brain, making them feel good and happy. They are also communicating their enjoyment and satisfaction with you.
Sometimes, they lick to reinforce positive behavior. When you pet your dog, it feels good, and it responds by licking you so that you continue petting and scratching them. We all know how positive reinforcement works, right? Well, now your dog is training you and reinforcing good behavior.
How To Tell If Dog Licking Is Normal?
While dog kisses are fun and loving, sometimes, excessive licking may be a sign of an underlying health issue or anxiety disorder. Pet owners should monitor their dog’s behavior and seek veterinary advice if they notice problems. You have to understand your dog’s behavior and respond appropriately.
Here are some examples of when licking can be a sign of an underlying health issue:
- Excessive licking on themselves, any part of their body
- Obsessive licking of objects, including furniture, walls, and floors, is a clear indication of obsessive-compulsive disorder
- If the licking behavior suddenly changes, becoming more frequent or less frequent, it might be a sign of a health problem
- Skin irritation, when your dog’s skin is red, inflamed, or irritated, it is a sign of a skin infection or allergic reaction
- When dogs are licking a specific area of their body for a prolonged time, it might be a sign of pain or discomfort. Usually, this is the paw or joint
Remember, while in most cases, licking is a harmless form of self-expression, there are some scenarios when you might want to think twice. In some rare cases, it is a symptom of a serious problem like boredom, anxiety, pain, irritation, or allergy.
How To Respond To Your Dog’s Licking?
When your dog is licking you, you should respond appropriately to either reinforce or stop the behavior. In most cases, we advise reinforcing positive behavior and improving the bond with your dog.
Yet, in some cases, there are people who do not want to be licked. For example, if you have friends and family members that do not want dog saliva on their skin, redirect your puppy to do something else. Here are some options on how to respond to your dog’s licking.
- Pet your dog to reinforce positive behavior and show you appreciate the affection
- Verbal praise like “good boy”, “good girl”, or similar to encourage them to continue
- Redirect the dog’s attention by providing a chew toy or anything similar to engage your puppy in a different activity
- If you are not comfortable with the licking, set boundaries and communicate your expectations clearly
Can You Stop Your Dog From Licking You?
While licking is a sign of affection, it might be irritating for some people. Or in certain situations, when you need to get things done without constantly wiping dog saliva off your face.
There are two things you can do. The first thing is to keep your dog occupied with toys. Distract your furry friend with some mental stimulation toys that will occupy their brain. Now, the longer your dog has been encouraged to lick you, the harder it will be to modify and change the behavior.
The other thing you can do is change your body scent. Usually, dogs love licking the salty taste of their owner’s skin. Things like body wash, soap, and perfume will all impact how tasty you will be for your puppy.
When Should You Visit A Veterinarian?
If your dog is licking excessively, you might be dealing with an underlying health issue. There are times when you should visit a veterinarian to check.
For starters, if you cannot redirect your dog’s behavior and attention, it means something is wrong. Persistent licking and obsessive licking should be your red flags.
And if there are physical symptoms like redness, swelling, irritation, or something similar, it might be a sign of an allergy.