Dogs have different ways of displaying love and affection; licking their owners is one of the most common ways. When you return home after a long day at work, and your dog sees you, they tend to jump at you and sometimes lick your body.
Dogs lick their owners for different reasons, including to greet them, displaying empathy, showing love and affection, a desire for their owner’s attention, feeling relaxed when anxious, and showing submission. When your dog licks you, it reinforces the bond between you.
If you have ever wondered why your dog licks you, why it is so eager to jump on you and lick your face, or why it licks your hands when you pet it, there are different reasons for this.
Why Does My Dog Lick Me?
Dogs have this instinct of licking. It is a way of them showing affection towards you. However, the rate of licking varies from dog to dog. Some humans do not like their dogs licking them, as they could feel irritated. However, you do not need to be harsh on that dog; it just shows you how much it loves you.
Licking is also a way for our dogs to communicate. You should be worried when such licking becomes very excessive, as your dog could be trying to pass an important message. Below are reasons why our dogs often lick us.
To Show Affection Towards You
This is the major reason why most dogs lick their owners, to show affection. It helps them bond with you. When a dog licks a person it loves, dopamine endorphins are released, which helps it stay calm and relaxed. While your dog is licking you to show affection towards you, you can also reciprocate your affection towards them with a warm hug or kiss. This makes your dog feel loved.
Dogs do not lick only their owners to bond with them; female dogs also lick their puppies to comfort, groom, and bond with them. So a dog licking you shows how close you are with the dog.
Additional reading: Why Does My Dog Lick Everything?
To Get Your Attention
When your dog wants to get your attention, it could lick you. The attention needed could be an indication of playtime or food. You get to know it is for food when the dog brings its feeding bowl towards you; then, it begins to lick you. By doing this, the dog gets your attention and lets you know that they are hungry.
You could then choose to reinforce this behavior by feeding the dog. However, if you are not cool with this style of getting your attention, you can choose to ignore them. The dog would understand that licking you will not get your attention.
To Calm Themselves When Anxious
When dogs feel anxious, licking is a way of calming them down. They could get anxious for many different reasons. It is best advised that you do not chase them away. Instead, you can choose to stoke them to make them feel calm and less anxious. A reason why a dog could become anxious is due to separation anxiety.
Some dogs tend to feel very nervous wherever you are away for a while. So, the moment you return, they will lick you furiously. For dogs that often experience separation anxiety, you should get a dog sitter to keep them company while you are away.
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To Feel Your Taste
This often happens when a dog owner returns home after what might seem a long period of absence for the dog, or even an actual long period. Also, dogs lick their human when they sweat. The sweat on human bodies contains salt and some acidic chemicals that dogs like. So, they tend to lick your body to have a taste of the sweat. Sometimes too, immediately you are done eating, dogs could also want to taste the food we ate by licking our hands.
This is due to the smell or aroma they have perceived in your body. However, you must pay attention to how your dog licks your body. Some smells or tastes, such as our body lotion and chocolates that would be nice to them, might not be healthy. So, whenever you have chocolates in your hand, do not let your dog lick them. Chocolates are not good for dogs.
To Show Submission
Dogs licking is a way of showing submission. They do it to show that they acknowledge you as their owner and master. Sometimes, they come to sit by your side whenever you correct them for misbehaving.
After a while, they tend to lick you gradually. When dogs do this, they try to acknowledge that they are sorry. Puppies would often lick their mothers’ mouths for food; it shows submission towards their mothers.
What Does It Really Mean When A Dog Licks You?
When a dog licks you, it tells you that it loves you, adores you, and accepts you as family. It can also be a sign of submission; the dog accepts that you are the owner and controls it. A dog will also lick you when it has missed you or has not seen you for a while.
A subtle reason dogs lick their owners is to understand their mood; dogs can understand what is happening through their taste and scent. So when a dog licks you, it is similar to when a person touches something to know what it is. This is why dogs can understand human moods and emotions.
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Why Does My Dog Lick Me Everywhere So Much?
We mentioned earlier that licking is instinctive dog behavior, and your dog will perform it continually, except you dissuade it by discouraging it when it licks you. Your dog licks you everywhere because it wants to bond with you. Once a dog has accepted a person or animal as family, it will want to always lick the person or animal.
If you have been with other animals, such as cats, it might lick you so your scent goes back to something that is familiar to them.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick You?
Allowing your dog to lick you or not is a matter of preference. Some people would easily accept it, as they see it as a way of their dog showing affection towards them. This licking could be further encouraged by giving the dog a warm hug. On the other hand, some people naturally do not like this habit of dogs licking them.
They often ignore their dogs or walk away when this happens. However, it is important to know is that getting licked by dogs might not always be healthy for you. Some activities of dogs often make them susceptible to being hosted to certain germs and bacteria. For instance, dogs sometimes eat and sniff other animals’ poop.
This is an unhealthy act for your dog and you. Now imagine having sniffed poop; the same dog comes to lick you. There are chances that the dog has already contacted hookworm. Campylobacter, leptospira, ringworm, hookworm, and Salmonella are bacteria and parasites that can cause human gastrointestinal diseases.
If at all you are going to let a dog lick you, ensure it does not get anywhere close to your face or a wound on any part of your body. Dogs licking other parts of your skin is not likely to cause any form of problem, especially for someone healthy. However, it is advised that you wash off whatever part of your body has been licked. This is to help you stay healthy and safe.
Humans have various ways of displaying affection; in fact, we have more ways of showing love than every other creature. Dogs have limited ways of showing love and affection, the most effective way they do that is by licking their loved ones. However, it is important to always stay clean for the dogs’ safety and health.
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Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.