Why do dogs lick you?

IN nature, dogs will lick themselves for several reasons. To help them with healing, grooming, social interactions and even nurturing their pups.

But why do dogs lick us though? For affection or another reason?

Why do dogs lick you?

We can't read dogs' mind, so we'll never know the correct answer.

But by studying their behaviour, we can make some estimated judgements.

Affection

The first we can assume is that they do it to show us affection.

When dogs are young, their mothers spend lots of time licking them – it is a nurturing behaviour. 

So when domestic dogs lick their owners, they imitate this behaviour and demonstrate the love they have for them.

It even feels good to your dog to do this; when they lick for affection, pleasurable endorphins are released in their brain.

Communication

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When in nature and dogs travel in packs, licking plays a big role in the way they communicate.

They can use their licks to tell each other they’re hungry, hurt, or even just to ask to be friends.

It's probable that your dog licks you as an attempt at communication sometimes.

Unfortunately, we cannot understand those licks as well as dogs, but if they're not growling or biting us, I'm sure we can assume they're saying something nice.

Reward

Often when dogs lick people, this interaction is reciprocated. You might start petting them, scratching them, or even give them some food.

This reinforces the behaviour and dogs will lick you more, because they are aware they will get something enjoyable by doing so.

Exploration

A dog's tongue is a particularly sensitive tool, and can learn a lot from it.

When dogs lick you, they are taking in sweat from your skin. This contains water, ammonia, sodium, potassium and a whole host of other stuff that dogs can draw information about you from.

It maybe they are just trying to learn a bit more about you.

Taste

It may sound a bit gross, but our skin is home to a range of tastes.

Particles of food we had for dinner, sweat and even just the grease and bacteria that exist naturally on our skin; this can all taste great to a dog.

Sometimes, they’re merely enjoying the flavour they get from you.

How can you stop a dog from licking you?

While we trust dogs mean well when they lick us, it can get annoying after a while.

You shouldn't feel guilty as no compulsive behaviour is good for them anyways, including licking.

Pet behaviourist Nick Jones says the most effective way to stop your dog licking you seems to be removing the positive affirmation of the behaviour and indicating your disapproval to your canine companion.

In future, when your furry pet licks you, you should ignore them or move away from them.

It can be hard to do this. None of us like ignoring our dogs but remind yourself that this will benefit them in the long-term.

If this fails to change your dog’s behaviour and you feel they have a real problem with licking, a behaviour expert should be able to provide you with advice.

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