A well-timed kiss from your dog can be one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. However, sometimes receiving a bath from your pet isn’t on your to-do list (particularly if you’ve already showered!). Why does your dog lick you? Common reasons are discussed below.

Learned Behavior

Puppies are licked by their mothers from the moment they are born. This behavior stimulates their breathing initially, and after that the mother uses licking as a way to bathe the dog and show affection. Later, puppies lick the mother’s mouth as a way to signal it is time to eat. Your dog will remember this behavior throughout life.

Taste

Another reason dogs lick their humans is because they like the taste of salty skin. If you recently finished a meal, your pet may also be searching for stray crumbs and residues.

Stress Relief

Dogs also engage in repetitive behaviors as a way to relieve stress. When dogs lick (or chew), chemicals in the brain are released which signal reward. This behavior might occur when your dog is anxious and you are the nearest lickable target. If you believe your dog is licking because he or she is stressed, provide an appropriate chew toy, such as a Nylabone.

Show Submission

In the wild, dogs show submission to more dominant members of the pack by licking their muzzles. Your pet may lick your face (or that of a resident dog) as a way to show appeasement. This may be especially true after a long play session or when the pup gets into trouble with a sibling or parent.

Attention Seeking

Your dog may be licking your face because it results in attention. For instance, you might scratch your dog behind the ears when she starts to lick. Even if your reaction is negative, your dog may simply be looking for you to acknowledge her presence. If you would like to correct attention-seeking behavior, ignore your dog whenever she licks. At first, the licking may grow more profuse, but eventually she will get the hint.

Underlying Medical Disorder

If your dog’s licking is indiscriminate, there may be an underlying medical issue to blame. Does your dog excessively lick the floor, windows, couch, bed, and other objects with the same enthusiasm? If boredom can be ruled out, consider whether your pet has anxiety, allergies, or a gastrointestinal problems. Excessive licking of inanimate objects may also be a sign of a neurological disorder. If in doubt, visit a veterinarian.

Affection

Finally, the most common reason a domestic dog will lick the face of its owner is to show affection. As humans we subconsciously reward this behavior, creating an environment where licking is associated with love. If you like an occasional kiss but not an entire bath, you can train your dog to kiss your nose instead. When your dog begins to lick your face, say “kiss,” and then walk away when the licking becomes excessive. If you would like to curb licking entirely, walk away from your dog the moment that licking begins.

Does your dog lick you? Why do you think it is?

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