Why Do Dogs Lick You When You Pet Them?

Dogs licking their owners or other people is often seen as a sign of affection and that the pet is comfortable with you. While that may be true in many cases, in some instances there may be other explanations for their licking.

Long, slurpy kisses that are accompanied by a soft, wiggly body are usually very affectionate gestures . Dr. Mary Burch, a certified applied animal behaviorist who is the director of the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s Family Dog program, says: “Licking can be a sign of affection.

A man being kissed by his dog at pool in Castelln de la Plana, a city in eastern Spain.Laura Leiva/iStock /Getty Images Plus Speaking to Newsweek , the AKC’s Burch said dog licking can also be more about craving salt than affection. Dogs licking people, particular after a person has exercised, could mean it craves the salt on the human skin. The ASPCA says when dogs feel frustrated, conflicted or stressed, they may display “displacement behaviors, which can then become compulsive over time.”

The dog expresses this anxiety by “grooming, lip licking, yawning or sniffing the ground.”

Have you ever wondered why dogs lick you? Most dogs love to lick people. It’s so common that dog owners usually call it “giving kisses” and consider it a sign of affection.

Instinct: When wolves (and sometimes dogs in the wild) return to their pups after a meal, they regurgitate meat from the hunt. Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior: Although it’s rare, dogs can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder , often brought on by prolonged stress and anxiety.

Though you may think medication should be a last resort, it’s important to understand that animals cannot learn while in a high state of anxiety.

If your dog has been licking you when you pet it, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.

If you tend to give it things such as extra attention, toys or treats, when it licks you, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. Nature When dogs are young, one of the first ways that they will explore the world is by licking and sniffing things.

If your dog is a puppy then it is likely to be the case that it is exploring when it is licking your eyes. In this case, it could help to give your dog more attention throughout the day by walking them, playing with them, being the one who feeds them and petting them more often. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that the behavior gets rewarded or possibly things such as separation anxiety if it started doing it when you leave or arrive home.

For example, if it only does it when you arrive home, it could be due to some separation anxiety or excitement to see you. Avoid encouraging the behavior As mentioned above, it might be the case that it has learned that it gets rewards when it licks you while you pet it. As your dog gets older they should start to get a bit less excited when you pet them which should result in much less licking.

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Why Do Dogs Lick You?

Dogs licking their owners or other people is often seen as a sign of affection and that the pet is comfortable with you. While that may be true in many cases, in some instances there may be other explanations for their licking.Why do dogs lick you? Here we look at some of the reasons.

Affection and Comfort

Speaking to”Some small kisses at the mouth are sometimes appeasement behaviors, like the way some small puppies lick at the mouths of adult dogs,” the ASPCA manager added.Dr. Mary Burch, a certified applied animal behaviorist who is the director of the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s Family Dog program, says: “Licking can be a sign of affection. It might also give a dog a feeling of security and comfort, just as the dog had when licked by its mother in the litter.”Queen added that licks can also be a way for dogs to gather more information, such as small licks near the mouth. “The licking helps the scents get up to the dog’s vomeronasal organ).”

A Need for Personal Space

Dogs may also offer a lick or two in order to appease the person so that they can be left alone. This tends to happen when a person puts their face too close to the dog’s face before they are comfortable, Queen told”Some dogs are even unintentionally taught to give kisses as a way to maybe create space between them and a person.”A dog learns that you can get a person’s face further away from them by licking it when the person moves away after receiving their “kisses,” she explained.”The dogs may offer an appeasement lick to show that they aren’t threatening, or may even do a lip lick or tongue flick as a stress signal and it happens to touch the person’s face,” the ASPCA manager said.So how can you tell whether a dog’s lick is a sign of affection or indicative of something else?Queen told”If they offer a lick and slink away, or their body is tense, they may be asking for space,” she said.

Salt or Other Food Craving

Speaking toPeople have slightly salty skin, especially after engaging in physical activities. So when a dog licks you, the pet may just be after the salt on your skin, Burch explained.According to Alexandra Horowitz, head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College and author of the bookHorowitz says researchers of wild canids, which include wolves, coyotes, foxes and other wild dogs, report that puppies lick their mother’s face and muzzle when she returns from a hunt. This is done in a bid to get the mother to regurgitate food for them.This may explain why you might often find a dog licking your face after you‘ve finished eating, Horowitz says.

Why Dogs Lick People

While we don’t know for certain why dogs lick, most experts agree that there is probably a combination of reasons. Licking is not considered a serious behavior problem unless it bothers you. Knowing the reason for your dog’s licking might even change the way you feel about it.

Excitement

Dogs will often lick when they are excited. It is likely that the reason why your dog licks you is that they are excited. To prevent this, it would help to avoid giving your dog any more attention as soon as they start to lick so that they learn that licking results in you not giving them more attention.

Wanting attention

If you have not been giving your dog much attention apart from occasionally petting them, it could be the case that your dog gets very excited when you pet them as a result. In this case, it could help to give your dog more attention throughout the day by walking them, playing with them, being the one who feeds them and petting them more often.Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.If your dog did not always lick you, when you pet it, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that the behavior gets rewarded or possibly things such as separation anxiety if it started doing it when you leave or arrive home.If there is a certain time that your dog tends to lick you, it would also help to consider what is different about the timing. For example, if it only does it when you arrive home, it could be due to some separation anxiety or excitement to see you.

The age of your dog

When dogs are young, they get excited very easily and dogs will often lick when they get excited. If your dog is still a puppy, it would be a lot more likely that your dog has been doing it due to getting excited when you pet them. In this case, it would help to train your dog to learn not to lick by not giving them attention as soon as they start licking. As your dog gets older, they should learn that licking is not rewarded.Below are a number of options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.

Positive reinforcement training

In order to get your dog to stop licking you, when you pet it, it would help to make use of positive reinforcement training. This is where you encourage behaviors you want to see by rewarding them and discourage unwanted behaviors by not rewarding them. To use it to get your dog to stop licking you when you pet it, you would start petting it then immediately stop as soon as it starts licking you. If it does not lick you when it normally would, you could also reward it with a treat.

Avoid encouraging the behavior

As mentioned above, it might be the case that it has learned that it gets rewards when it licks you while you pet it. Instead, it would help to reward it when it does not do it and, if it starts licking you, to wait for it to stop licking you before giving it any attention or rewards. It would also help to try giving your dog a “time out” as soon as they start licking you so that they learn that licking you is not rewarded.

Redirect its focus

In addition to the above, another thing to do would be to redirect its focus towards something else as soon as it seems likely to start licking you. Things to redirect its focus towards could include toys or a bone. Doing this should help to get it out of the habit of licking you.

Wait

If your dog is still a puppy, it is likely that the behavior will reduce as your dog gets older. Often, puppies can get excited very easily and dogs will often lick a lot when they are excited. As your dog gets older they should start to get a bit less excited when you pet them which should result in much less licking.This post may contain affiliate links. Petdogowner may be paid a commission from the companies mentioned in this post. This has no effect on the price that you pay and we are very grateful for any support.