Why Does My Dog Lick Me?
Is your dog a licker? If you’ve been around dogs long enough, you’ve probably picked up that some dogs like to lick all the time while other dogs may lick only occasionally. If you’re wondering why your dog licks you, themselves, or other items in your home, you’re not alone!
There are many harmless reasons behind dogs licking people or other objects. However, there are also a few reasons that could indicate your dog is suffering from some sort of illness or condition that should be addressed. If you’re concerned about your dog’s licking habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet for help.
Why Dogs Lick
Licking is a habit as old as time for dogs. During a dog’s puppyhood, they will receive licks from their mother to comfort them, clean them, or even encourage them to eliminate poop or pee. Mothers and puppies will often lick each other’s mouths as a way of expressing affection.
Because of this, many dogs come to associate comfort with licking. In fact, according to WebMD, licking releases endorphins in your dog, causing a rush of pleasure and comfort. If a dog is uncomfortable or simply wants to express and indulge in happy feelings, they may lick.
There are other reasons that dogs may lick as well, some of which are harmless while others may be a sign of an underlying issue. Let’s look at some common reasons why dogs lick people, themselves, or other objects.
Dogs have very powerful tongues and noses. If your dog smells something on you (or somewhere else in the house) that they think may taste good, they’re probably going to taste it by giving it a lick.
Most dogs are attracted to the salty sweat and acids that humans release after a workout, for example. Some dogs also like certain types of lotion or medication that humans wear, which may lead them to lick you.
In general, licking for taste is probably harmless, but be sure they’re not licking anything that smells good but could be poisonous if ingested.
Dog’s tongues are made to help them clean. Their tongues actually contain a few types of antibacterial properties to help them keep their bodies clean. Most dogs lick themselves as a natural part of their grooming routine.
Attention or Affection
Many dogs lick their people to seek attention and show affection. As mentioned, puppies learn to show affection through licks exchanged with their mother. When you become their “parent,” they learn to show affection to you through licking as well.
Of course, they may also discover that you react to them when they lick, which is sure to make them happy. You can help minimize this type of licking by not reacting or simply moving out of reach when they start to lick.
Playing with your dog and taking them out for exercise can also help them feel well attended to so they don’t try to seek your attention with unpleasant habits like licking.
Anxiety or Stress
Some dogs struggle with separation anxiety or get anxious around stimuli such as loud noises. In fact, just like humans, some dogs are prone to anxiety and stress on a regular basis.
If your dog is anxious or stressed, they may lick you, themselves, or household objects to seek some sort of relief from their feelings. If you suspect your dog is anxious, it’s important to ask for advice from your vet and take measures to help your dog feel better.
Treating dog anxiety is usually not too difficult and includes a few small lifestyle changes like more exercise, more play-time or toys, healthier food, more socialization, etc. Talk to your vet about the treatment options that will work best for your dog.
Dogs often lick when they’re suffering from an underlying illness. It’s common for dogs to lick their lips if they’re feeling nauseous. They may also lick an area on their body that is hurting or at least very near the source of pain if they can’t reach it properly.
If you suspect illness in your dog and notice other signs such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, fever, etc., be sure you take your dog to the vet as soon as possible to determine what may be wrong.
Some dogs develop Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD. This condition will lead your dog to lick excessively pretty much all the time. They may lick you, themselves, others in your home, and even the floor, furniture, walls, or other household objects.
It’s important to treat OCD as quickly as possible so that dogs don’t lick things while you’re not at home and ingest household objects (e.g. fibers from the rug) that could cause intestinal damage.
OCD can also cause sores to develop on your dog’s tongue and could lead to other issues. Treat OCD as quickly as possible to help your dog get back to their best and healthiest self.
How To Prevent Your Dog from Licking
You’ll never be able to completely halt your dog’s licking habit. However, there are some dogs who lick more than others, and sometimes the reasons for licking are unhealthy or could lead to other health issues down the road.
If your dog licks more than you like or licks you when they really shouldn’t, there are a few steps you can take to help your dog learn not to lick.
- Ignore licking. If your dog wants attention, your best bet may be to move away whenever they lick without acknowledging that they’ve licked you. Eventually, they should figure out that licking for attention doesn’t work and they need to stop.
- Provide entertainment. If your dog is anxious or bored, you can help them stop licking by ensuring they get plenty of exercise. You can also offer them a toy or game as a distraction whenever they start to lick you.
- Stay positive. Punishment won’t help your dog learn to stop licking. Instead of punishing them, divert their attention by training them to sit, roll over, give you a paw, etc. When they do so, reward them with praise and treats to encourage more of this type of behavior instead of licking.
- Stand strong. It can be difficult to maintain good boundaries, but it’s crucial that you do so if you’re going to teach your dog to stop licking. If you decide on a method, keep doing it over and over again, no matter how long it takes. Don’t give up on teaching your dog—they’ll learn eventually!
Taking Care of Your Dog
If your dog is licking you or other people/objects excessively, it’s important that you help them stop. Spend more time with them, give them good food and exercise, keep their play area clean, and train them to do activities that you both enjoy.