Why Do Dogs Lick You?

Do you know why dogs lick you? From salt and affection to allergies and anxiety, find out what it means when dogs lick and why it’s important as a pet owner to know.

why do dogs lick you
Is your dog a compulsive licker or is this a more recent behavior? Understanding your dog's body language is the first step in understand why your dog is licking you. © LWA | Getty Images

Some people love it. Some people hate it. But we all wonder, “Why do dogs lick?” Understanding dog body language helps you decipher what it means when dogs lick, and, more specifically, why your dog is licking you at that moment.

Perhaps the most obvious reason why dogs lick you is to get salt or even food crumbs off. You’ve probably noticed your dog seems more eager to lick you if you are sweaty. That’s because they like the salt in the sweat. Dogs also love to lick a hand or face just after you’ve finished eating — they’re great cleanup crews!

What does it mean when a dog licks you?

Puppies lick adult dogs around the mouth as a sign of appeasement, meaning they are not threatening. Some puppies and adult dogs will also lick a human’s face as a way to show their affection. Dogs that are licking for this reason will have a soft relaxed body and a wiggly tail.

Appeasement licking can also come from a state of stress. Dogs that do not want to interact may lip-lick themselves, tongue flick or lick your mouth. These dogs will have stiff body posture, be low to the ground and have a tucked tail. They will move away quickly after licking.

What does it mean when dogs lick you compulsively? Compulsive licking is often a sign of something medical going on. Dogs that obsessively lick you in one spot may be suffering from a range of things, like allergies, hot spots or anxiety. If you witness this behavior, a trip to the vet is in order.

There are many reasons why dogs lick. Learning more about how your dog communicates with his tongue can deepen your bond and even help prevent dog bites by recognizing a stressed dog that needs to left alone.  

1 thought on “Why Do Dogs Lick You?”

  1. Our dog licks us (and others) quite a lot but doesn't have any of the issues described in this article. We are puzzled. He is a happy, friendly dog, but when we adopted him as a puppy he was fearful and we had to work with him to turn him into the extrovert he turned into. This article doesn't seem to have any answer to this situation.

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