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Animal Communication: Why Do Dogs Lick Us?

3 minutes
Animal Communication: Why Do Dogs Lick Us?
Last update: 08 May, 2018

When we come home, when we watch television, when we play on the floor… Any situation is perfect to get a “kiss” from our pet. Do you want to know why dogs lick us? Then keep reading this article.

Reasons for why dogs lick us

The reasons that dogs have for licking us are varied: it can be a habit, a behavior, a way to communicate, or an expression of their desires. The main reasons are the following:

1. To get to know us

Although the most developed sense in dogs is smell, they also can know a lot about the beings and things that surround them through taste. That could be the most “logical” explanation for why dogs lick us. When they run their tongues across our faces, basically they are getting to know us. Of course, because we have a special taste that carries two very important pieces of information: our moods and states of health.

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2. To express love

We could say that a dog’s lick is equivalent to a kiss or a caress for humans. That’s why dogs express their fondness for someone by their tongue. You should know that there is no “bad intention” on the animal’s part when he licks your face or mouth. He is simply telling you that he loves you, thanking you for taking care of him, and that he is happy next to you.

3. To say hi

Have you ever thought about what moments or situations your dog licks you the most? It’s probably after not having seen you for a few hours (or even minutes). When you come back from work or from running errands, even when you get up in the morning, your pet will want to lick you. This could translate as a “hello,” or also as an “I’ve missed you.” Licking is accompanied by energetic tail wagging and jumping all over the place.

4. To taste creams or perfumes

This is another reasons for why dogs lick us. Because they like the products that we use! If you put on a cream, lotion, or perfume… the first thing that your canine will do is lick it. Some pets like certain products more than others (for example, those that have fruity flavors or smells).

He could also lick us when we come back from working out or if we have sweated. Why? Because dogs love salty flavors… Just like sweat.

5. To get your attention

Licking can be used as a call if the animal wants you to pay attention to him. For example, if he wants to play and you are watching the television; if you are eating and he wants some of your food; if you are sitting on the couch and he tries to get on top of your skirt, etc. He could also be asking you to take him for a walk, rub his belly, or give him water. Observe in which moments or situations your dog licks you and you will immediately realize what he wants.

6. To reduce anxiety

Licking his owners, his toys, his bed, or himself can be a technique to calm himself down. For example, it can happen when there is a very bad storm (with thunder included) or when he goes in a car for the first time. If they are anxious, dogs lick us to feel better. 

7. To show submissiveness

Dogs can use licking to detect the essences natural to their breed, such as when a dog is dominant or if a female dog is in heat. Therefore, when he licks us, he could be showing his submissiveness towards us. This means that he “accepts” that you are the alpha of the pack, and that he will do whatever you tell him to (although there are sometimes exceptions, obviously).

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8. To clean us

When puppies are born, the mother licks them to clean them. Your dog could be wanting to do the same when he licks your feet or hands if he finds them dirty for whatever reason.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.