“Why do dogs lick people?” is actually quite a straight forward question to answer in most cases. When a dog licks someone, most of the time they’re just showing affection.
There are also a few other reasons involved too though. So let’s take a look at some of the explanations for why dogs lick people.
Why do dogs lick people?
Licking is a natural thing for a dog to do. From the moment they’re born their mum will lick them. She does this to clean and groom them, to get their attention and to make them feel safe.
So it’s an inherent behavior in your dog to lick. Here are some of the reasons why experts believe dogs lick:
As a sign of affection
As we said earlier, often a dog will lick you just to show their affection for you. This the most common reason a domesticated dog will lick you.
They like your taste
Believe it or not, dogs will also lick you because they like the way you taste! Your skin tastes salty to them and so they lick you. And you may also have tiny bits of food on your skin that just adds to the taste.
Licking for attention
Dogs will also use licking to get your attention. If you’re ignoring them or have just returned from somewhere, your dog will lick you to say, “Hi, I’m here!”
And we humans tend to respond to the licking by petting them and giving them more attention. So your dog learns to associate the licking with attention and are then likely to do it more and more.
Licking as a substitute for biting
Sometimes dogs will also use licking as a substitute for biting when you’re playing with them. If you’ve trained your dog not to bite or chew your hands during your play times, they may lick you instead.
And sometimes, they’ll forget they’re not supposed to bite you and give you a nip. When they do, they’ll often lick you straight afterwards either as a way to say sorry or to try and avoid a telling off!
Licking for stress relief
When a dog licks you (or themselves), their body releases chemicals called endorphins. These give the dog a feeling of warmth and well-being, as well as a feeling of pleasure.
So many experts believe that anxious and shy dogs lick as a form of stress relief and relaxation. Dogs that do this will also often yawn a lot too.
Licking as a form of submission
Dogs are also thought to use licking to show their submission to more dominant members of the pack. They use licking to show their respect for the pack leader.
So if your dog licks you, they could be recognizing you as the alpha dog! This is a good thing, of course. You want your dog to view you as pack leader as then they’re more likely to be well behaved, and easier to train.
Licking to tell you something
A dog will use licking as a way to communicate with another dog. They also do the same with us humans, for example to tell us they want something or that something is wrong.
Of course, we’re not quite as tuned in to what they’re trying to tell us as other dogs are. But if you dog does start licking you hard, make sure nothing is amiss. For example, make sure their bowl has water in it, or that they don’t need to go to the toilet.
Teaching your dog not to lick people
If you don’t want your dog to lick you (or other people), it’s quite easy to train them not to do so as a sign of affection. Just make sure that when your dog licks you they don’t get any attention.
The aim is to teach them that licking equates to you ignoring them. So if they do come to you and lick you, just stand up and walk away. Likewise, if you stroke your dog and they then start to lick you again walk away.
Your dog will soon get the message that you don’t want them to lick you.
The most common answer to the question of why dogs lick people is that they are just showing affection. That said, there are several other reasons why dogs might lick you as discussed above. It’s pretty straightforward to get your dog to stop licking you just by ignoring them when they do.