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Dog Licking Behaviour and their Meaning
Dog Licking Behaviour and their Meaning

Dog Licking Behaviour and their Meaning

As a pet parent, you probably experience your dog licking you almost daily. They might wake you up with a lick on the face and go on to lick your hands or feet at several times during the day. So, what does it mean when a dog licks you? Does a dog’s licking mean that they are expressing their love for you? Let's find out.

Why do dogs lick us?

To properly address this question, we need to understand that there are many aspects to dog licking. Each aspect has a different meaning.

  • Expressing affection

    Dogs usually use licking as a means of expressing affection towards their family and/or owners. This a trait they have picked up from their kind and, most importantly, their own mother. So, if a dog considers you a part of their family, they will show affection the only way they know - by licking.

  • Expressing hunger

    A study by Dr. Katherine A. Houpt, a canine behaviorist, explains a dog's mouth-licking behavior. This dog licking is a behavior that they have been addicted to since they were puppies. They lick the mother dog's mouth to convey hunger. And when the dog does this for a long time, the behavior will become a habit until the animal grows up. Therefore, when a dog kisses or licks your face or mouth, it is not always an expression of their love - they might just be signalling to their beloved owners that it is time they got their food! And what better meal to satisfy their hunger than wet dog food

  • Showing submission

    When a pup is living with the rest of the herd, licking indicates consent. Pups will lick the leader's mouth to show that they are harmless. So, when the leader of the pack sees a herd of innocuous puppies they will not try to fight, and the licking will ensure peace. Similarly, a dog can display this behavior towards their owners as well. They lick to let you know that they agree with the owner, or to convey that they are small and harmless. You can understand this through dog's body language

  • Seeking attention

    Licking is also a behavior your dog uses to learn about you and get your attention. For example, if the dog licks your hands or face and you pay attention or show affection by hugging or kissing them, they learn that licking gets your attention. They understand that when they lick you, they will surely get your attention and love. So, they may continue doing this to get you to pet them or show affection. The more you respond to dog licking, the more this behavior will continue. Firmly say your dog's name and ask them to stop. You can encourage your pooch to lick their toy instead. 

  • They like how you taste

    That’s true! If your dog licks you and likes how you taste, they may want to lick you again and again. Moreover, dogs learn about the world by either taste or smell. So, when exploring things around them and their humans, they lick. If they like the taste that they get, they may keep coming back for it.

  • They’re suffering from OCD

    Dogs can also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can be triggered due to anxiety or stress. If a dog keeps licking excessively, it may be a part of their obsessive-compulsive behavior.

What are some reasons for a dog’s excessive licking behavior?

Licking is a normal behavior in dogs. However, if your pet tends to display a pattern of constant licking that seems beyond ordinary, they may be indulging in excessive licking. A dog’s excessive licking may be a sign of anxiety, stress, or physical pain. It can also mean that they are suffering from OCD. If the dog keeps licking themselves, it can also be a sign of a skin infection. If you feel that your dog shows excessive licking behavior, consult your vet at the earliest.


FAQs on dog licking

  • Why does my dog keep licking at nothing?

    If you notice your dog licking the air, the behavior could be triggered by any of these reasons: they want to smell better, they are feeling anxious, they are suffering from dental disease, they are in pain, they are suffering from gastrointestinal disorders, or they have skin infections.

  • Why is my dog licking and smacking his lips?

    If your dog is licking or smacking their lips, it is either because they are eagerly waiting for their food, or because they smell something interesting and wish to taste it.

  • Why does my dog lick so much at night?

    Dogs may lick themselves at night before sleeping for either of these reasons: to groom themselves, to feel the affection they used to get from their mother when they were puppies, or to alleviate pain.

  • Why is my dog licking the floor all of a sudden?

    Dogs may start licking the floor because they are feeling bored or anxious, suffering from a nutritional deficiency, or fond of the taste of the floor cleaning agent you have.

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