Dogs love to lick. They lick themselves, each other, and of course, they lick their humans. It’s a fact that all dog lovers observe. Have you ever stopped to wonder why, though? If you just ate a salty snack, it’s pretty obvious. Your fingers are tasty! But what about all the other places your dog loves to lick? We scoured the internet to come up with 7 solid reasons your dog won’t stop licking you.
# 1- You Are Tasty
Dogs are motivated by taste. They lick the floor clean when a kid drops crumbs on the floor. As already mentioned, they love the opportunity to lick your fingers after you eat something with your hands. But get this: your dog thinks you are tasty, too. Humans are pretty salty creatures, especially compared to furry canines. Your skin is covered in delicious salty goodness that your dog just has to lick! Take notice next time you come in fresh from a workout. Your pup will want to lick you even more than usual when your skin is nice and sweaty.
#2 – Shared Grooming
Back in the day when dogs were wild and running in packs, one of the ways they bonded with each other was to participate in shared grooming. After a day of hunting and fleeing danger, the pack would settle in for a long rest. Feeling quite comfortable and safe, they would commence to a shared grooming session. They would lick themselves clean, removing dirt and debris from their paws and coat. These wild pups would also soothe their scrapes and cuts with methodical licking.
This treatment wasn’t a solo activity, either. They would do the same for one another, too. After all, a dog can’t very well clean his own ears, can he? No doubt, you have witnessed your own dog do the modern family dog version of this ritual. If you have multiple dogs, you’ve probably seen them do this with each other. Here in the modern world, you are also a part of her pack so she licks you. It’s in her nature to share grooming rituals in this way.
#3 – Showing You Respect
A wet, slimy lick to the face may not feel like an act of submission, but based on pack behavior, that is exactly what it is. In a pack, there is always an alpha dog. This dog is the leader and all the other dogs look to him or her as the boss. The other dogs in the pack show submission to the alpha in a variety of ways, including licking their face. You serve as your dog’s alpha. When she licks your face, she is showing you that she respects your authority.
Your dog has other ways of showing submission to you. Rolling on her back and showing her tummy is one way. Lowering her head towards you is another. Licking is just one more way she shows respect and communicates that she knows your position in her pack.
#4 – Licking Your Wounds
The saying “licking your wounds” comes from the literal act of dogs licking cuts and scrapes. Dog saliva contains enzymes that help their bodies heal. They lick their wounds to help speed the healing process. Have you ever had an injury or scrape that your dog wouldn’t leave alone? They have an innate understanding of these kinds of injuries and are drawn to them. They want to help you heal so they try to lick them again and again, even if you protest. Historically speaking, many humans have allowed the practice!
For centuries, dog licks have been considered medically beneficial not only to dogs but to humans themselves. Dogs were used in Ancient Egypt to heal injury and cure disease. Fisherman in Fiji allowed dogs to lick their wounds, believing the practice sped the healing process. The French have a saying: “langue de chien, langue de médecin” which translates to “a dog’s tongue, a doctor’s tongue.” Who knows? Maybe your dog understands something you don’t. Your dog is doing his best to help you get better.
#5 – Dog to Human Communication
I know. You speak to your dog using actual words all day every day. He even understands some of them! Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have the gift of speech. He is forced to communicate with you in other ways, some of which you comprehend. Licking is one of those forms of communication. Your dog wants to go outside but you are not getting the message. He licks your hand and has your attention now. Maybe your dog wants to play so he sticks his back side way up in the air. You don’t budge so he tries again. Still ignored, he lunges in for a lick. Now you’re listening! You get it. In some cases, licking is a way your dog speaks to you.
Licking isn’t always a positive communication, either. Dogs enjoy personal space. When you invade a dog’s personal space, the dog can communicate their need for space with a lick to the face. It’s pretty easy to see the difference in this lick and others. It’s not aggressive by any means, but it’s not friendly, either. This lick is quick and to the point, intended to tell someone to back off a bit.
#6 – It is Comforting
When puppies are newborn the first touch they experience is the loving lick of their mother’s tongue. She cleans them up, methodically working over every inch of their tiny bodies. This process makes them feel safe and secure and above all, loved. When they lick themselves or their closest companions, they are providing comfort. Humans have self-soothing strategies. Some little ones suck their thumbs. Some adults breathe deeply. Others think of a happy place. Dogs lick. Licking lowers their anxiety and brings them to a calm, comfortable state of mind.
Certified applied animal behaviorist Dr. Mary Burch told the American Kennel Club, “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.”
#7 – They Love You
There is some debate as to whether dog licks should be called kisses or not. Anyone who has a dog knows that some licks are definitely a show of affection and love. What else should we call that other than a kiss? When you come home and get down to your dog’s level, you are going to be welcomed with a absurd display of face licking and butt wiggling. That’s love right there. Your dog is showing you how important you are and how much you were missed when you were gone. Without a doubt, dogs lick to show us love and affection.
“Of course dogs love their people!” animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai told the Science publication, Inverse. “The hormone oxytocin is released (in both dogs and people) when they interact/have contact with someone they like. This ‘love hormone’ helps cement and increase the bond we share … it’s also the hormone that floods the system of new moms to amp up attachment to new babies.” And one way they show this love is by kissing us.
Dogs lick for tons of different reasons. Next time you get licked, listen up to what your dog is trying to say. If your dog won’t stop licking you and it bothers you, get into the habit of walking away. Your dog wants to be with you even more than she wants to lick you.
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