Why does my dog lick me?

April 13, 2012

As soon as puppies are born, the mother dog would use its tongue to clean the pups. Licking the stomach and the anal area is done to encourage the puppies to defecate and urinate. Puppies in turn lick the mother dog when they are hungry and they want to nurse. Older puppies lick the mouth of the mother dog to encourage her to regurgitate food that will be eaten by the pups. Of course licking is also done to show affection. Notice how the mother dog would lovingly lick the puppies. Puppies also lick their littermates. Licking can also be a sign of submission. In the wild, dogs lower in rank would lick the alpha dog. The submissive dog may be asking the leader of the pack to be allowed to have a go at the prey.

The licking behavior similar to sniffing is the dog’s way of getting acquainted with its environment. The dog would lick anything that can be reached by its rather long tongue. A dog’s tongue is the counterpart of the human hands. The tongue is a most useful tool used to explore and taste new things. The tongue is used to show a submissive behavior as well as to show love and affection. This licking habit can be quite disconcerting especially when you are the recipient of the dog’s slobbery tongue. For sure, no one would like to be licked on the nape while getting a hot casserole from the oven or to be startled by the raspy tongue of the dog while trying to open the door with the arms laden with bags of groceries. And certainly no one would like to be licked by a dog that has been lapping the water on the toilet. Yuck!

So why then do dogs love to lick? Dogs are highly intelligent and affectionate creatures. Notice how they would watch your every move even if they seem to be sleeping. A dog can sense the emotional state of its master. If you are happy the dog would like to share with your happiness. The same thing is true if you are sad or troubled. The dog would want to offer comfort. For the dog snuggling and slobbery kisses are the best ways it can show its affection and empathy. A dog given a treat would show its approval and thanks by licking. Licking can also be the dog’s way to gain your attention. For some dogs licking can be a behavioral problem though in most cases the pet is just craving attention and trying to tell the master that they are uncomfortable, tense or unhappy.

The dog may be licking you because it knows that it makes you happy and when he licks you he would get a treat. Or you may have chosen a licking breed. If there are touch types and kiss types of person some breeds of dogs have the propensity to lick too. Of course when the licking becomes excessive and obsessive you have to assess the situation. Can the dog be yearning for companionship and attention? Is the pet uncomfortable or is it bored and unhappy? Situations like these can result to compulsive licking.

There are some ways to curb the licking behavior of the pet. A dog that is cooped alone inside the house all day would naturally be enthusiastic to see the master. If the dog wants attention then attention it must receive. Take the dog for long walks, play with the dog or provide the dog mental stimulation. Leave the dog toys it can play with if it will be left home alone all day or take the dog to a dog day care where it will have other dogs for company. Another option is to get another dog. Teach your pet other tricks it can do to show its affection. Rolling and shaking hand would be good but be sure to lavish the dog with praises and show the pet that the effort is appreciated. Be cautious in stopping the dog from licking you. Instead of stopping the pet it could lick you all the more thinking that you are not satisfied with its show of affection. A firm NO would suffice. At first the message may not get through to the dog but when the dog sees that you are displeased with its actions the message will finally sink in.

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