You’ll often see dogs licking themselves and others - and this doesn’t seem out of place because dogs have a natural instinct to lick from an early age.
Dogs even have a tendency to lick the things they love, including their favourite humans (that means you) - and this, too, is completely normal behaviour.
The issue begins when the licking gets out of hand - obsessive licking can leave you questioning if this is a sign of affection or if there is something else your dog is trying to indicate with all the licking.
Well, there are a variety of reasons why this happens and understanding dogs and their behaviour has never been easy - so we’re here to break down why dogs lick you? - helping you to understand your furry friends better! Let’s get started:
As humans, we have different ways of expressing our affection, but when it comes to dogs, they have specific ways of letting us know how much they love us - and licking us while leaving us with slobbery faces is one of them!
Dogs associate licking with a feeling of comfort, as their mother's natural behaviour is to lick them a lot when they are puppies. This is to keep them clean and to form a bond with them.
Even as they grow older, dogs tend to recreate this feeling of comfort and relate it to a familiar mode of expression of their love for us. Licking also releases dopamine and endorphins in dogs, which makes them feel happy and loved, too.
Dogs know exactly what they need to do to get the attention of the persons they love - so whether it’s jumping playfully or licking, they’d do anything to get those extra pets and strokes!
Just imagine this - if a dog comes up to you and licks you lovingly, you’d immediately respond to the dog with loving and gentle strokes - because you know that at that moment, the dog is expecting nothing but someone to fuss over them. After all, they probably just want some positive attention.
Puppies usually tend to lick more, as that’s their way of greeting any new person they come across. The excessive licking is also accompanied by tail wagging - but that’s just how puppies express their happiness on meeting someone new. Cute, right?
As dogs grow older, the licking reduces to a greater extent - but doesn’t stop completely. They’d still lick, and it remains a big part of the way they greet people and each other, too.
So the next time a dog licks you, don’t just ignore them - shower them with attention because that’s what they probably want!
And remember, if you respond to a dog licking you, it’s more likely they’ll do the same thing to seek your attention the next time they see you!
If you smell of food or some really good skincare product, dogs are bound to jump on you to lick it all off your face, hands, and bare parts of your body. And, well - dogs love licking sweaty humans!
And that’s exactly why you’d notice dogs licking you the most when you head back home after a run or a workout session at the gym. Human sweat contains acidic chemicals and salt, and dogs find the taste of sweat appealing.
If not for affection or attention, you just gotta accept that, at times, dogs find your skin delicious!
We all know dogs have an excellent sense of smell but apart from using their sniffers to explore, dogs also use licking as a medium to gain more information. When dogs lick, they take in the scents and tastes of different things and people around them.
They sometimes even lick other dogs' urine to gain more information about the dog. Merely by licking other dogs' urine, dogs are in the position to find out the gender of the other dog and whether or not they have been neutered!
Scents and taste are the two primary senses from which dogs collect and process all the information they require. Think of it as their equivalent to scrolling social media.
So don’t be surprised if a dog licks a person they have never met before - it might be just out of curiosity to learn more about the person and understand them.
Licking is a dog's way of expressing empathy. Dogs immediately understand when their parents or anyone else is feeling the blues and will jump into action to make them feel better in whatever little ways they can.
Licking is oneway dogs express their care, concern, and love for you. If you’re sad about something, are in a broody mood, or are crying, your dog will definitely come up to you and lick you until all your sadness wanes away. Dogs do understand our emotions - and look for ways to comfort us when we aren’t really feeling good.
If you pat your dog or give them something every time they lick you, you’re kind of reinforcing their licking behaviour.
When dogs know they will get something as a reward (be it lots of praise, treats, or toys) from you when they lick you, they will do it constantly - because that’s just the way dogs process things.
As pet parents, we may end up encouraging certain behaviours in dogs unknowingly. Hence we need to keep a check on our own actions before we proceed to correct the dog for excessive licking or any other behaviours.
Well, not really. If you have a strong immune system and no open wounds, the licking should be just fine. But dogs licking you does cause transmission of bacteria, which may pose to be harmful to humans.
The saliva of dogs contains Capnocytophaga, which is bacteria that can result in infection among humans, leading to the weakening of the immune system. But this happens in very rare cases - so there’s nothing to freak out about!
However, when dogs lick us, they also lick off all the skincare or beauty products we use on our skins. Mostly these products feature chemicals which may be harmful, toxic, or even deadly for dogs. So as pet parents, it’s on us to ensure that we don’t have anything on our skin that can be potentially harmful to the health of our furry friends.
Licking comes very naturally to dogs - it’s what they’ve seen their mums doing since the day they were born, and they just tend to carry forward the habit.
So it’s completely normal behaviour among dogs.
If you find your dog licking themselves continuously, it may be something to be concerned about - as dogs tend to lick themselves due to pain, stress, allergies, itching, and a lot more. In this case, you can always discuss it with your vet and get your dog checked, just to clear things out.
Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.
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