why do dogs lick

Why Do Dogs Lick?

Dogs are known for their affectionate and often quirky behaviours, one of which is licking. While this behaviour is generally harmless and can even be endearing, excessive licking can become frustrating for pet owners. Understanding the reasons behind your dog's licking and how to respond appropriately can help manage this behaviour effectively.

Table of Contents

Common reasons why dogs lick you

1. Affection and bonding

Licking is one of the common ways dogs show affection. This behaviour starts early in life when puppies are licked by their mothers. As they grow, they carry this behaviour forward, using it as a way to bond with their human companions. When your dog licks you, it's often their way of expressing love and reinforcing the bond they share with you.

2. Communication

Dogs are incredibly communicative animals, and licking is one of the tools they use to convey messages. They might lick you to get your attention, signal that they are hungry, or indicate that they need to go outside. It’s a form of non-verbal communication that helps them interact with their human family.

3. Taste and smell

Human skin, especially after sweating or eating, can taste salty or carry the scent of food. Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and taste, and they may lick you simply because they find these flavours and scents appealing. This is especially common if food particles are on your skin or hands.

4. Grooming behaviour

Licking is a natural grooming behaviour in dogs. Just as they groom themselves, they might extend this behaviour to you, seeing it as a way to take care of their family members. This grooming behaviour shows trust and care, showing that your dog sees you as part of their pack.

5. Soothing and comfort

Licking releases endorphins in dogs, which can provide a calming and comforting effect. When dogs are anxious, stressed, or in need of comfort, they may lick as a way to soothe themselves. This behaviour is akin to how humans might seek comfort through certain actions or habits.

6. Healing Instinct

Dogs have an instinctive tendency to lick wounds, both their own and those of others. Dog saliva has some antibacterial properties, and licking can help clean minor wounds and promote healing. However, excessive licking can introduce bacteria and cause infections, so it’s important to monitor this behaviour and intervene if necessary.

7. Habitual behaviour

Sometimes, licking becomes a habit for dogs. If they receive attention or positive reinforcement when they lick, they may continue to do it as a learned behaviour. In other cases, dogs may lick out of boredom, anxiety, or as a repetitive behaviour to pass the time.

How to stop or prevent your dog from excessive licking?

While licking is generally normal and harmless, excessive licking can sometimes indicate underlying issues. If your dog licks compulsively or seems unable to stop, it might be a sign of anxiety, boredom, allergies, or other health problems. In such cases, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian to find any medical conditions and address potential behavioural issues.

Common signs of dog excessive licking

  • Persistent licking of specific areas (paws, legs, joints)
  • Licking objects repeatedly (furniture, floors, walls, bedding)
  • Hair loss or bald spots
  • Red, inflamed, or irritated skin
  • Development of sores or "hot spots."
  • Behavioural changes (anxiety, restlessness, withdrawal from normal activities)

Ways to stop it

  • Schedule a visit to the veterinarian to check for allergies, infections, or other medical conditions that might be causing your dog's licking.
  • Make sure your dog gets enough of physical activity every day to help burn off excess energy and reduce anxiety.
  • Engage your dog with interactive toys, long lasting natural dog chews and training exercises to keep their mind active and prevent boredom.
  • Set up a quiet and comfortable area where your dog can relax without any stress or disturbances.
  • Train your dog to respond or follow your commands that redirect their attention away from licking. Reward them with natural treats or praise when they stop licking and engage in appropriate behaviours.
  • Apply natural treatments such as colloidal silver cream to soothe any irritated or itchy skin that may be causing your dog to lick excessively.
  • If excessive licking continues, seek advice from a veterinarian or an animal behaviourist to develop a tailored plan for managing your dog's behaviour.

Why does your dog lick your face?

Dogs often lick their owner's face as a sign of affection and bonding. Again, this behaviour is rooted in their puppyhood, where a mother dog licks her puppies to clean and comfort them. Licking the face is also a way for dogs to communicate and show submission, trust, and love towards their human companions.

Why does your puppy lick your feet?

Puppies lick feet primarily because they are curious and are exploring their environment. Your feet carry various scents that are intriguing to them. Additionally, licking can be a way for puppies to gain attention or to engage in a comforting activity that helps them feel secure and connected to their owners.

Why does your dog lick your hands?

Dogs lick hands for several reasons, including showing affection, seeking attention, and enjoying the taste of your skin, which may have traces of food or salt. Hand licking can also allow dogs to explore their surroundings and gather information about where you've been and what you've touched.

Why does your dog lick your ears?

When dogs lick your ears, it's usually a sign of affection and social bonding. The ear area can have interesting smells and tastes due to natural oils and wax, which dogs find appealing. This behaviour is also a way for dogs to groom and show care, mimicking how they would interact with other dogs in their pack.

Final thoughts

While licking is a natural and common behaviour in dogs, excessive licking can indicate underlying issues that must be addressed. Understand the reasons behind your dog's licking and implement appropriate strategies to help manage this behaviour and ensure a happier, healthier relationship with your pet.

With wags and woofs,
Laura, Dolly & Reggies

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