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Why does my dog lick me?

Dog licking person

Licking is a natural and instinctive behavior for dogs. Most pet parents are familiar with their dog licking their hand when they reach down for a pet or their face when they lean in for a hug. A common belief is that dogs lick us to show affection, but it is hard to confirm this when they can’t speak to us.  

Why do dogs lick us? Should you be concerned if our dog is licking you too much? 

Table of contents 

Why dogs lick people 

Dogs do a lot of communicating and exploring of the world around them using their mouth. When it comes to licking people, there are a few possible reasons for this behavior: 

  • Showing affection – As man’s best friend, dogs are full of love for their humans and often turn to licking as a way to communicate this love. This is likely a behavior learned from the grooming and affection given to puppies by their mothers and has become a ritualized greeting for many. A dog licking their owner is so common, owners widely call it “giving kisses.” These kisses release endorphins that make your dog feel relaxed, calm, and happy. So, just as it may calm you to pet your dog, it probably feels nice for them to lick your hand in return. 
  • Seeking attention – Licking that starts as affection often gets reinforced by their owner’s reaction. If your dog has licked you, you’ve probably laughed, smiled, scratched their belly, or scolded them and shooed them away. Whether positive or negative, your reaction lets your dog know that licking is a good way of communicating with you. Your dog may be hungry, thirsty, in need of a trip outside, or wanting to play with you. 
  • You taste good – If your dog has ever licked your forehead after a workout, it’s likely because your salty sweat tastes good. They may also want to lick your fingers after you’ve eaten something delicious. But just because something smells or tastes good doesn’t mean that it’s good for your dog—make sure your dog doesn’t lick cleaning products from your hand which are potential toxic substances. 
  • Comforting you – Your dog cares deeply about you, and a 2012 study found that licking you may be your dog’s way of showing empathy to make you feel better when you’re sad. So, if your dog has ever licked you when you’re feeling low, it may be because they can sense your mood and want to cheer you up. While it’s possible that this is a learned behavior, most pet parents would argue that our dogs can indeed share and understand our emotions. 

Is your dog licking you a problem? 

Licking is a perfectly natural behavior and is a useful way for dogs to express themselves. When it comes to licking you, it’s usually harmless. 

However, you shouldn’t believe the myth that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than ours. Dogs’ mouths contain a lot of natural bacteria and you’ve likely witnessed your dog lick some gross things. You may find it downright disgusting or simply annoying. 

How to get your dog to stop licking you 

Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s licking may help you get your dog to stop. If your dog’s licking becomes too much: 

  • Ignore – Your dog is likely licking you because they want something. If they have all of their needs met (i.e., food, water, potty, physical and mental stimulation) and they are still licking, simply ignore them and or walk away. Eventually, your dog will learn that their licking behavior doesn’t work to get your attention in the way they want, and they will stop. 
  • Redirect – You may need to redirect your dog or keep them distracted so they focus that energy on something else. Puzzle and chew toys, snuffle mats, and Kongs stuffed with treats and hid around the house are all great ways to keep your dog busy and distracted. Reward your dog when they engage in another activity to positively reinforce and train this behavior.   
  • Exercise – A tired dog is often a well-behaved dog. With the appropriate amount of physical activity, your pup is more likely to nap than beg for attention by licking you. Just like giving your dog healthy food and a safe place to sleep, owners should prioritize getting their pup enough exercise. Some breeds naturally require more than others, and exercising your dog should include both physical and mental stimulation. Try to keep things interesting by incorporating a variety of activities—fetch, walks, games, training, etc.   
  • De-stress – Dogs react to their owner’s stress levels. Long-term stress can synchronize between a dog and their human, so if you are feeling stressed, losing sleep, or otherwise tense, your pup may be catching on. Helping your dog feel relaxed is just another reason to take care of your own mental and physical health!   

How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help stressed dogs? 

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA chews, soft gels, and oils can offer support for dogs’ stress by helping their stress levels decrease and return to a normal state of balance. CBD + CBDA truly calms without sedating, which is key to allowing dogs to handle stressful situations without engaging in obsessive behaviors like licking.     

Bottom line  

While licking their people is generally a normal and positive behavior and form of communication for dogs, excessive licking can be a sign that something is wrong. Whether your dog is trying to tell you that they need something or experiencing stress, addressing these issues and calling your veterinarian will help both you and your dog live your best lives together.  

Consult your veterinarian if you feel your dog’s behavior is not normal. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help.