Why do dog’s lick?

Why do dogs lick | N°1 Edinburgh Dog Trainer | Clan Dog

Why do dogs lick you?

Is it to show love and affection, or do they just like the taste of you after a sweaty run, or the shower afterwards? There are more reasons than you may first imagine, but here’s a few reasons why.  And if your dog is an excessive licker,  here are some ways to help stop the behaviour.

A dog may lick you simply to show love, affection and to firm up bonds with their nearest and dearest, or to gathering information, after you’ve showered or been for a run etc. They do this with all their other family and friends. It’s a lovely greeting and a way of them understanding more about where you’ve been by the scent you carry. Your dog will sniff and sometime get more of a hit if they need more info by licking you. For example, Otto will always give me a full sniffing over (his ‘Lab report’!Why do dogs lick | N°1 Edinburgh Dog Trainer | Clan Dog) when I return home from training other people’s dogs.

Dogs have an organ in their nose called The Jacobson’s Organ that connects the roof of the mouth to the nose. Its purpose is when they lick and sniff at the same time and gather far more information about what they are focussing their attention on.

Dogs bond through grooming each other and they do exactly the same to us and we to them. Ok, so we don’t lick them, but we do brush and massage and stroke them.

Your dog may lick you after a shower, as they may be working out the real you under all the flowery scents.( You look like the same, but suddenly you don’t smell like you ) and this can cause some dogs anxiety?

After a sweaty run, your dogs may lick you. But is this because you have salty skin, or is it because you’re pumped with adrenaline and this is causing your dog some anxiety? Many studies have been carried out on this subject, and varying opinions are out there.

Dogs may lick a certain part of your body and if this is a new behaviour I’d go get yourself a check at the doctor’s. Your dog may know something you don’t. Do not under estimate the power of your dog’s nose!

Remember……Dogs speak and do ‘dog things’. That’s all they know. So the behaviour they show you is the same they show to their own. Here are a few more examples of why licking is all part of communication, how they feel and what they need to know or want.

  • Puppies lick to encourage mothers to regurgitate food
  • Dogs lick their wounds and this encourages wound healing and keeping the area clean
  • Dogs lick us to show love and affection. It’s bonding through grooming
  • Front paw licking can be an indication of neck issues derived from pulling on a lead
  • Anxious dogs lick as a displacing or showing nervousness to calm situations
  • Too much or too little physical and mental stimulation
  • Dogs lick to clean themselves, when in season, blocked anal glands, remove thorns in pads, or soothe nettle stings
  • Dogs gather scent from licking urine, faeces, and items they wish to gather more information about
  • Dogs lick our skin to take in salt
  • Licking walls can be an indication of an underlying Gastro-Intestinal issue
  • When a dog licks themselves it can also be a sign of environmental or food sensitivities
  • A flick of the tongue over the nose or lips can a sign of anxiety
  • Why Do Dogs Lick Anything Else?
  • It’s important to find the cause of why your dog is licking you, themselves, or other substances, so you may either help them or see it’s simply a natural behaviour at that time.

Is Excessive Licking A Problem

When dogs’ licking becomes excessive it is very important to establish the cause / reason. Either it is derived from a medical issue or a stand-alone behavioural problem?

The first port of call is your vet. Get a full health check to rule out any of these reasons. Looking at environmental sensitivities, food sensitivities, and foreign bodies, etc. If it’s a clear health check then we are needing to step in to help them modify their behaviour. Consider if your dog’s diet is causing any problems?

 How to Reduce Obsessive Behavioural Licking

If they are intent on licking you, simply walk away. Call for cuddles and affection, but ensure your face is not encroaching their space.

Find the root cause of any anxiety your dog may have. When do they lick? Is it a displacing behaviour and occurs when you have visitors or the children are noisy? Help your dog out and give them access to their own space.

Ensure they have the right amount of exercise and time with you. Give them suitable bones, or long-lasting treats, antlers etc to chew for enrichment. It’s also important they get sleep / rest in the day as well as night time.

It’s lovely to have a lick on coming home but any more than a couple it’s getting too much. So let’s keep it simple and step away after the happy greet to calm things down and be able to let them have a quiet chat and cuddle.

I hope this was useful  to some readers!

Best wishes,


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  1. I always thought it was an old wives tale about dogs detecting changes in your body but not anymore. At the beginning of this year, my Rotti/Lab kept snuffling by my left boob/armpit. A mammogram a month later confirmed I had breast cancer with a fast growing tumour. Thankfully now on the mend, but I will definitely take note of any further snuffling my dog carries out!

  2. Remember to mention if your dog briefly licks you after you apply an over the counter moisturising lotion, he should be fine, but the behaviour should be discouraged. Script lotions and creams used by owners can be much more dangerous.