Dog licking girl's face

Rare is the dog that doesn’t try to sneak a kiss or two. Most people are familiar with this decidedly canine behavior, and some even welcome it. That being said, however, there are quite a few dog owners that question the opportunistic tongue. If you’ve ever wondered why your dog licks you (and possibly want them to stop), we’ve got you covered.

The Slobber Factor

Let’s address the health and safety of dog kisses. Like us, dogs have a lot of bacteria in their mouths. It’s reasonable to assume that some of that bacteria gets passed from them to us via a kiss. This can certainly be off-putting, but unless their saliva enters an open wound on your body their kisses will not easily cause illness. Simply wash your hands and face after receiving some good ‘ole doggie affection. 

Strong Genes

Sure, slobbery dog “kisses” can be gross. The important things to remember, though, is that they aren’t trying to alienate you. In fact, just the opposite.

Dogs are simply answering their canine instincts by licking. This action has been relayed through wolf and dog DNA over the years. From their earliest days with their mother, wolf pups learn to eat food that has been regurgitated. They lick their mother’s face and are licked in return to get cleaned up. 

Me Love You!

Since licking is a natural, inherited behavior in dogs, owners may allow a few “kisses” from time to time. After all, pet dogs should feel comfortable expressing their love and devotion to their special humans. If they cannot get close to your face, it’s likely that your dog licks you on the hands, legs, and feet. Some experts believe that they do this to pick up signals of where you’ve been. You might even taste intriguingly salty to them

Where Is the Line?

Some owners might be uncomfortable with any and all licking. Others might accept this behavior as part of the territory of dog ownership. It is important to note that when your dog licks you excessively there might be something more going on.

Me. Me. Me?

If your dog licks you more often than you feel is necessary or appropriate, the following could explain why:

  • They could be using their kisses to get more attention from you. If you react with laughter, smiling, petting or scratches they may be more inclined to repeat the behavior. Remember that dogs can even seek negative attention which inadvertently reinforces the action. Instead of getting mad, try to simply ignore it. Only reward the type of behavior you want to see.
  • Stress and anxiety can trigger obsessive behaviors in dogs. Some dogs will lick things, like furniture, carpeting, toys, household objects, and even themselves repeatedly in an effort to soothe themselves. If left alone, this behavior can get worse over time. Please call us so we can help address your concerns. Animal behaviorists can also be very helpful at redirecting any symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • Boredom, pain, allergies and other health problems may be the cause and require attention and action.

When Your Dog Licks You

Dogs can be trained not to lick. It may take time, but with positive reinforcement they will eventually be less inclined to show this behavior. If your dog licks your face too much, give them a food puzzle or interactive toy. 

To curb excessive licking, be sure that your dog receives abundant opportunities to exercise. Spend time with them every day and keep to a routine.
If you need additional support regarding canine behavior or training, the Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are always here for you.