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Why Do Dogs Lick? The Top Reasons

New Puppy Wellness

dog licking lips

Dogs lick. It's part of what makes them who they are and why we love them so much. But have you noticed that your pup seems to be licking more often than usual? It could be due to one of these common reasons. Take a look at these common causes behind excessive licking to better understand why your pooch is exhibiting this behavior and whether you should be concerned for your pup’s wellness.


Recommended: Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

You Taste Good

When you taste something pleasant you want more of it. Your dog is no different. You both have active taste-buds that want to be satisfied whenever the opportunity arises. For your pup, licking means he wants to lap up every last scrumptious morsel of food he can find, be it in his food dish or on your skin.

In some cases, a lick to the face or the back of the hand is only because you've got some small remnants of your lunch or dessert left on your skin. Say you’ve been enjoying an afternoon snack of watermelon and have some of the juice on your hand. Your dog wants to eat that watermelon, but will settle for a taste of it on your hand. 

Sometimes your dog wants a taste of the natural salty flavor on your skin. If it's a particularly warm day or you've been running around outside and you've started to sweat, your pup may want to enjoy some of that salty taste. 

Showing Affection

The most common reason for licking is because your dog wants to show how much he or she loves you. Dogs do lick as a means for showing affection to their humans. It comes from the behaviors they learn from their mothers who would lick their young in a sign of affection through grooming. When puppies are trained for these types of behaviors, it becomes second nature to them. So it's natural that your dog would do the same to you. 

dog licking owner

Seeking Attention

The urge to show affection through licking can also mean that your pup is also looking for affection or attention from you as well. Licking can be a way to get you to notice him or her. While it may be cute and playful, it could be their way of telling you to stop what you're doing and give your pup some of your undivided attention.

It could also be a casual way of saying hello. How many times has your dog entered a room where you are sitting or working and walked up to lick your hand or your ankle? That's your pup's way of greeting you and hoping you'll pet her in kind. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

There are other reasons behind licking that may signal an underlying behavioral or medical concern that needs to be addressed. For dogs, licking is also a way of relieving stress. But what is stressing your pup out and how do you deal with the problem? 

One of the more common causes of licking as a way to reduce stress is due to some sort of compulsion in your pup. Dogs will lick themselves or other objects in their environment due to boredom or nerves. The licking helps to calm the dog when stress levels are high, but when it becomes too much you could find the dog obsessively licking the same spot on his or her body. This could be a sign that your dog is experiencing some type of pain or discomfort as a result of an allergy or an infection.

Medical Reasons

To expand on that last point further, excessive licking can be an indication that your dog is dealing with a medical condition that requires your attention. 

Itchy skin is a leading cause of excessive licking of the body. The dog will continue to lick at the area to relieve the discomfort. This could be happening due to fleas or an allergic skin reaction. The area of the body being licked could also be a hint as to other medical issues and the licking is your dog's way of showing you there is a problem.

Pain is another reason behind licking, and not just skin-level pain. Pain that is seated deeper inside the body stemming from arthritis or an injury your pup has sustained could lead them to lick. This pain could also be in the mouth which will prompt excessive licking as well. A broken tooth or a painful gum will have your dog licking often.  

If you notice that your dog is licking him or herself more than usual, this could be a hint that you need to make an appointment with the vet and have your dog examined. Whether it's anxiety-driven or a medical condition, early treatment can make all the difference in keeping your pup healthy and happy

Dog licking lips in fall leaves

How To Get Your Dog To Stop Licking You

Sure it's nice when your dog licks you every so often but if you notice that he or she is doing it more often than usual or the behavior has turned from cute to becoming a nuisance, you may want to curb this conduct

The most direct way to get your dog to stop is to leave your dog alone when the licking starts. Get up and leave the room or ignore the dog when the licking grows excessive. If you stick to this game plan (as tough as it may be to do), your pup will start to realize that going overboard with the affection or attention-seeking behaviors will result in your departure. Through repeated practice of this response, the dog will begin to learn where the line is drawn and adjust their behavior appropriately.

Do not ignore excessive licking when the dog is doing it to him or herself. This is a much different bid for your attention, one that must be addressed quickly as it could be due to a growing medical or psychological issue. 

Want to learn more about puppy wellness? Check out the Two Tails Blog.



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