Licking is a natural behavior in dogs, they use it to communicate with pack members, as well as to show submission and affection. So what does it mean when my dog licks me? Dogs learn to lick from their mothers and they use it throughout their lives to communicate with other dogs and humans. This instinctive behavior can be considered as a gesture of affection from dogs. Chances are that your dog is licking you because she/he loves you.
Why Do Dogs Lick?
- They learned it from their mothers. When dogs are born, their mothers lick them to clean them up and help them start breathing. As they grow, their mothers lick their bellies to stimulate their digestive system and prevent constipation. Puppies learn this behavior from their mothers and use it later in life as a communication tool.
- It is a communication tool. In a pack, dogs communicate using their body language and behaviors such as licking, wagging their tails, smelling other dogs, and barking. As puppies grow, they start using licking as a communication tool. They may lick their mothers to communicate hunger or lick other dogs trying to say “let’s be friends”.
- It shows who is the leade In the wild, the dogs that are lower on the hierarchy may lick the pack leader so they are allowed to eat from the prey. Similarly, your dog may lick you because you are his/her pack leader. When your dog licks you he/she is letting you know that you are the leader for him/her.
- They want to receive attention. Dogs may also lick to get their owners’ attention and show their affection and excitement. If your dog licks you and then you pet them, they will learn that licking you gets them your attention so they will repeat the behavior every time they want you to pet them or play with them.
- They are playing with you. Have you ever seen dogs playing with other dogs? They play using their mouths and sometimes seem to be fighting. Your dog may be using his/her tongue to engage in a similar version of this type of game with you.
- They like the taste. Some people believe that dogs enjoy licking their owners because they enjoy the salty flavor of their owner’s skin.
What Should I Do If My Dog Licks Me Excessively?
One of the main reasons why dogs lick their owners is to get attention and, in most instances, they achieve their purpose because even when some of us do not enjoy being licked by our dogs, chances are that we will tell them “no” or do some kind of gesture that our dog will likely interpret as attention.
If licking is not something that you like, you need to be careful not to reinforce the licking habit. You need to let your dog understand that licking you will not lead to the result he/she wants. For example, you may try ignoring your dog or moving to another room immediately after they lick you. If you are constant in your response to your dog’s licks, they will learn that licking you leads to being ignored or to you moving away from them. Over the time, your dog will probably decrease they frequency in which he/she licks you.
If you observe that your dog licks objects or him/herself compulsively, you should consult a veterinarian and/or dog behavior specialist. Compulsively licking objects may be an indicator of a behavioral issue in dogs. Dogs who lick themselves excessively may be suffering from skin allergies or other skin diseases.