When you get home, when you watch TV, when you play with your four-legged friend… These are typical situations in which it is normal to receive a ‘kiss’ from your dog . If you’ve always wondered why dogs lick their owners , and people in general, here are the 8 reasons that explain this particular behavior.
Why do dogs lick humans?
The reasons for your dog to lick can be of different types . It can be a simple habit, the response to an attitude or, simply, its immediate way of communicating, maintaining contact with the owner or something else. Let’s see them together:
1. To get to know you
Although dogs’ most developed sense is smell, these amazing animals can explore beings and things around them through taste . This is definitely the most logical explanation of why dogs lick people. Licking your face means wanting to know yourself thoroughly. For what reason? The skin of human beings produces a special flavor, which manifests two very important data: the state of mind and that of health .
2. To express affection
We could say that a dog’s licking is equivalent to a kiss or a caress. In short, they express affection and esteem for someone through the language. There is never any bad intention on the part of the animal when it licks your face or mouth. He is simply communicating his love to you, thanking you for taking care of him or showing that he is comfortable and happy around you.
3. A way to say hello
Pause for a moment to think about when your dog licks you the most. Well, definitely after you’ve been away for a few minutes or hours . Upon returning from work or shopping. But also when you wake up in the morning: the first thing the dog will do is lick you. A simple way to say “hi” or even “I missed you”. A kiss of affection, always accompanied by a strong wagging of the tail and jumping everywhere.
4. To taste creams or perfumes
This is another reason dogs lick humans . They love the products you use! If you have applied a cream, lotion or perfume, the first thing your dog will do is run his tongue over your skin. Obviously, some products in particular will be more attractive, for example if they have a fruit taste or aroma .
You may also have noticed that your dog likes to lick you when you exercise or do some strenuous work. Your four-legged friend has a fondness for salty flavors, just like sweat .
5. To call attention
If your pet wants more attention, he may decide to lick you. For example, if he wants to play and you are sitting in front of the television or if you are eating and asks for a small snack . Licking can also mean a desire to go out together and take a walk, to be pampered or even thirsty. Learn to recognize the different moments and situations to understand the meaning of his way of licking.
6. To reduce anxiety
Licking his owner, toys, dog bed, or himself is also a great way to reduce stress . For example, it can happen when there is a very strong storm (especially if with thunder) or when the dog is traveling by car for the first time. Dogs lick each other to feel better in the face of possible anxiety situations.
7. To demonstrate submission
Thanks to the use of the tongue, the dog is able to recognize and interpret flavors with a high informative value, for example to know if a dog is dominant or if he is in heat . Therefore, when he licks you, it means that he puts himself at your disposal. “Accept” your role as leader of the pack and will do what you tell him (with exceptions, of course).
8. To clean you
Mothers are known to constantly lick their newborn babies to keep them clean. The same thing happens with your dog and you. Licking you, on your feet or hands, is his way of offering you a personalized manicure or pedicure… Yet another gesture of care and affection .
To explore the surrounding environment
As with children, dogs also use the sense of taste as a tool to explore their surroundings and relate to other living beings, since licking helps them recognize them. In domestic dogs, in addition to being a sign of affection, it can mean that they like the salty taste of their owner’s skin. In addition, licking releases endorphins, which create a feeling of comfort and pleasure and relieve stress .
Beneficial properties and problems caused by saliva
The saliva of dogs (and of all living things) contains an enzyme (lysozyme) which has tissue regenerating, bactericidal properties, thus preventing infections and promoting blood clotting. Specifically, dog saliva kills Escherichia Coli and canine streptococcus. Therefore, dogs often lick their wounds to speed up healing. Some species of animals also lick each other, licking each other’s wounds, especially if they are in hard-to-reach places. This practice can also help pull hair away from the wound .
Undoubtedly, too much licking can be dangerous for the health of the dog, as it can sometimes cause granulomas or stomach infections, caused by the ingestion of bacteria. Also, rabies can be contracted by licking infected wounds and, once the dog contracts it, through saliva. Likewise, licking wounds between different species is not advisable, as diseases can be transmitted which are not dangerous for one species, but are for others. For example, letting a dog lick a person’s wounds can cause the person to have septicemia or transmit anger. It can also complicate wound healing.
What to do if your dog is constantly licking you?
Sometimes domestic dogs compulsively lick their owners, themselves or other objects. It is possible that, as mentioned, a dog licks his owner constantly as a sign of affection, but it can be a bit annoying to have a dog that licks all the time. It is therefore necessary, to avoid this harassing behavior, to ignore the dog when he starts licking, leaving the room. If you are stroking or cuddling and the dog starts licking you, stop petting and ignore the dog for a while. Repeating this attitude over and over will teach your dog that every time he licks, he will be alone. This will stop licking all the time.
If he licks compulsively, then he may simply be bored, anxious, or have some annoying skin or paw allergy. In this case it is best to take him to the vet right away to treat any allergies or infections and make sure he gets all the care he needs.