Why Do Dogs Lick People?

by Perfect Puppy Care on November 2, 2010

Puppy Licking

You’re taking a moment to relax in front of the television. The family dog wanders over to you and plops down at your feet. Your furry canine friend begins to lick the exposed skin on your leg and continues until you’re all slobbered up. The licking continues until you feel that your skin has been cleaned to the point where it may disappear.

Have you ever wondered just what your dog gets out of licking you?

Most dogs are so intent on the licking process that you know there has to be a good reason for doing it.

Some people say the dog’s licks are canine kisses that prove the dog likes or loves you. Fido is showing you that he cares about you. While this may be one reason that dogs lick people, it is clearly not the only reason why they perform this act.

Another theory is that dogs lick you because they were taught to do so by their mother from birth. Female dogs that give birth lick the new puppies to stimulate them to start breathing and to clean them up. Licking is important to the survival of puppies. The licking process is a natural instinct that they quickly learn from their mothers.

Licking is also a submissive gesture. In the wild, the more subordinate dogs will lick the more dominant ones. This helps to maintain harmony among the members of the pack. By licking you, the dog is showing you that you are the dominant being and you are in charge.

Another reason that dogs lick humans is to gather information about them. Dogs use the scent receptors located in their nose and mouth to process information about a person. A person who is secreting sweat from his or her body is actually unknowingly sending information about him or herself to the dog. This is one reason why a human’s feet are so attractive to a dog. Human feet contain many sweat glands. Eccrine glands release moisture that contains salts, water and waste products. Some dogs love the taste of salt.

Sebaceous glands, which are found near hair follicles, release sebum. The combination of the sweat and sebaceous gland secretions provide a lot of detail about you to an inquisitive dog that can tell if you are afraid, stressed or happy.

Dogs also enjoy licking because the act releases endorphins that allow the dog to feel pleasure and a sense of security and comfort.

In some cases, a dog will go all out to lick his or her owner’s face, hands or legs when strangers are around. Experts believe that this could be the dog’s way of showing that you are important to them and that they care more about you than they do the stranger.

While dogs do have good reasons for licking people, some folks don’t understand nor do they care to try to grasp why they are being slobbered on. It is important to train your dog in a manner that he or she does not get carried away with the tendency to lick people.

Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    My sister’s beagle/dachshund mix likes to lick people, especially on their hands. Maybe he thinks he’ll find a ‘scrap’ of food. Lol! Our dad used to say that dogs licked humans because they liked the ‘salty taste’ of the skin. I have no idea if this is true or not.

  2. Barbara says:

    Our dog used tonot only lick my feet, but he used to leave his tounge on my foot and kinda of press on it ( we used to call it sticky tounge) never had another dog that did that..

  3. We have two boxers, and their licking needs are quite different. One goes to town on all exposed skin areas, and his tongue is about a foot long!!! He doesn’t like to cuddle, but will pull your hand back toward him with his paw, if he isn’t done licking. That is his main contact with humans. The other dog licks us mainly on our faces, when he is happy to see us, or when we are giving him attention and loving him up.

    When we first got our dogs, we never had dogs before, and each time they licked, we thought “ew!” and went to wash our hands. Now, we are so used to it that it is second nature. We just don’t like to be licked on our faces!

  4. Angelica says:

    I still say that my dog does it to get my attention! I love him so, but he always wants his dinner on time!

  5. Stephen says:

    Our tibetan spaniel likes to lick my forehead, but he only licks my partners nose, but when he licks anybody else it is only their cheek and ear, anybody know why this might be?

  6. Julia says:

    I have a pomerainian (not sure if I spelled it right) and she loves to lick me and my friends. When I get home from work and take off my socks, she goes striaght for my feet. I actually like how it feels. I’m a little weird that way. xD

  7. diana says:

    dogs lick people because they think your skin is salty.

  8. Savannah says:

    My American Eskimo mix loves to lick my feet and my 4 month old son’s feet. Personally, I love having her lick my feet while I’m falling asleep at night. It feels good. I think my baby boy likes it, too because he just sits there and smiles :)

  9. Crystal says:

    My 3 year old nephew turned to my dog once and said “I’m not your licktoy” It was so cute!

  10. Reyniii says:

    I have a dog but when he liks he oley lils when we say kissy if not then when he sees us and is happy abaut it

  11. Colleen says:

    I have a chihuahua and he loves licking my face when I’m laying down and he just doesn’t stop!

  12. desmond says:

    my puppy licks me all the time, anywhere and all over. when i get back from excercising and i’m all sweaty, she’ll follow me around and keep licking me furiously until i ditch her. so i’m pretty sure that the #1 reason is they like the salt on your skin

  13. Debbie says:

    My dog is obsessed with licking me one time I let him lick me as long as he wanted n it was like a whole hour! It was crazy! But I love him he’s a cute little wiener dog n he know it but his favorite place to lick is all ovr my legs lol

  14. Jackie Zerka says:

    Shelley why you you slap and kick your dog in the first place? That needs to stop, there is NO reason for you to be kicking your dog. Would you like it if we kicked you all of a sudden? I have a hard time with hitting something we love!

  15. Paul Burgess says:

    We have two Bichon Frisé and one Bichon/Yorkie cross. The Bichon male and the Bichon cross please themselves and only lick you when their having cuddles and strokes. The Bichon bitch LOVE’s to lick whenever we call her she will come running and immediately start licking, VERY cute, but she will never do it to strangers. I think that kind of proves the point above about dogs licking to gather information.

    Though we still like to think their loving kisses =D.

  16. ethan whiting says:

    My friedns dog berry (a jack russle [if that is even a type of dog] i think ) and he LLOOVVEESS to lick me and he wont stop unless i pet him and he seems to like me more than my friend.

  17. Adam says:

    My cousins have a chocolate lab named Hershey & he climbs on my lap. I hug him & he licks the heck out of my face! I think he loves me!

  18. Matt says:

    I have a puppy and sometimes he licks me so much I’m like “whoa there, buddy!” but he keeps doing it! I think we’re bestest friends! LOL!

  19. sharon says:

    I have an australian cattle dog ( i love him dearly ) I have noticed lately he will lick my hands , arms i seem to think this may be due to boredom as i have MS i stay indoors in our hot australian summers bit will experiment to find out if my theory is or is not correct i have lived and worked on propertys a lot of my life i have never let dogs that live inside or outside lick my face asking speaking to numerous vets they do agree

  20. Mikkah says:

    Hi, my name is Mikkah, I am a Siberian Husky. One of my talents is licking spots on my owners that are sore. If their knee is sore, that is where I concentrate, if their ankle is sore, that’s where I concentrate, and so on. I have even been able to detect ear infections on some of the younger members of my family. I always amaze my owners with this special talent.

    Sometimes though, I just like to lick them. They are so nice to me!

  21. Gay Hudgins says:

    I have a golden retriver,he is 6 yrs old and loves to lick the sofa it is leather also he will lick the skin off my husband if he did not tell him to stop. It seems to be an obsession to him. After he licks a while he goes to sleep, he will also lick the sheets.

  22. Patrick S. says:

    My dog, Timmy, will lick my hair until my entire head is slobbered up! Timmy is an 90 pound black Lab mix. He will drape his left paw over my left shoulder to get a better angle! He’ll lick me until my entire head is wet; I definitely take a shower after every time he does this! I call him my “Big Baby”.

  23. Parker says:

    My dog sometimes licks my mouth to shut me up when I’m talking to him :P

  24. Heather says:

    I have two chihuahuas. One licks all over ,especially our feet. He also leans mt husbands ears. The other doesn’t lick at all.

  25. ollie says:

    My boxer lives to lick….He will lick skin where ever it be found!

  26. Sherry says:

    My dachshund is lick crazy. He loves licking my leg at bedtime. I thought he was just weird, but this article explained a lot about why Jack-Jack does this behavior. It’s actually kind of sweet.

  27. Rick says:

    My Corgi/Border Collie mix only gives kisses when he wants to play with his ball, which is often. He knows it butters me up. He also gives kisses when it is storming, so the endorphin explanation makes sense.

  28. victoria says:

    My dog is a springerdor. His licking obsession started when I was pregnant. But now he dies it all the time. He loves now to lick my feet. He likes to greet me with a lick to the ear, I think them ones are his loving kisses!!

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