Puppy kisses are one of the many things we love about our canine friends. But when your dog is always going in for a smooch, it’s hard not to wonder “Why does my dog lick me so much?” We spoke to a veterinarian who says dog kisses can be a sign of affection — among several other explanations. Here’s what it means when your dog can’t seem to get enough kisses and what to do when the licking becomes a little too much.
Dogs lick objects, their humans and other pets as a means of exploration. They also lick themselves to groom, itch and soothe wounds or sore spots. Dr. Gina Ushi, DVM, the medical director at Pet Urgent Care of Wesley Chapel, says to keep an eye on your dog’s self-licking — excessive self-licking could indicate parasites, allergies, infection, anxiety or another medical condition.
Beyond the exploration of new things, Dr. Ushi says licking is a form of dog to human communication. Here’s what your pup might be saying between slobbery smooches.
Licking to show affection is a behavior puppies learn from their mom, Dr. Ushi explains. Mother dogs lick their young to nurture, bond and otherwise care for them — a loving behavior that continues with us humans.
Licking out of love isn’t the only behavior dogs retain from their puppyhood. As gross as it sounds, Dr. Ushi says that pups will lick their mother’s mouth to ask for regurgitated food or to provide another need. While fresh kibble is probably on the menu, your pup may still retain the urge to plant a slobbery kiss for your attention.
Boredom or anxiety
Licking releases happy chemicals in the brain called endorphins, Dr. Ushi explains. “That makes licking a fun and relaxing thing to do if dogs are feeling bored or anxious.”
You might not taste exactly like peanut butter, but your skin could have a salty taste that your dog enjoys. Lotions, balms and perfumes can also attract a curious tongue. Because these products could contain dangerous essential oils, it’s best to deflect those oh-so-loved kisses after lathering up.
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Dogs in a pack will lick the face of more dominant pups to show respect, Dr. Urshi says. “This same idea can also be applied to humans. In many ways you’re a part of the pack and a few licks to your face could be a way to support your role.”
If you enjoy a slobbery kiss now and again, there’s no harm in letting your dog lick you. After all, licking is a normal, instinctive behavior for dogs. If the behavior becomes bothersome for you or an unsuspecting recipient, distraction techniques and positive reinforcement should redirect your dog’s attention. “Try distracting your dog with a command like sit-stay, roll or high-five, or try an activity like a quick game of fetch,” Dr. Ushi recommends.
When in doubt if your dog’s behavior is typical, consult your vet for advice. They can get to the bottom of the cause for licking or refer you to a veterinary behaviorist.
The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.
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