Dog Education - Why Do Dogs Lick?

Dog Education - Why do dogs lick?


Why do dogs lick?

Simply put, licking is a very normal part of dog behaviors. Dogs lick for many reasons, and sometimes the reasons for this activity range wildly.

When dogs lick, they are usually trying to communicate something, including to get attention or ask for something. 

Luckily, we love a good "dog licking" - so keep reading to learn how to translate your furry friend's laps of love.

Cute Dog With Tounge Out ready to lick

Your Dog Licks to Communicate

Why do dogs lick other dogs? Licking is one of the ways dogs interact with other pack members. 

Many dogs may lick themselves or others as a sign of dominance, such as when they are trying to assert themselves over another dog.

Licking can also be a sign of submission for dogs, and they will often lick the hands of people they see as superior to them.

Greeting licking is most common among puppies, who lick the faces of their mothers and littermates when they want to be fed. 

As they grow older, dogs learn that licking people can also be a way to get attention from their dog owners, small children, or any welcoming arms.

Dog licking a child as a fellow pack member

They show affection with a good dog licking

A good dog licking is a way for your four-legged shadow to say "I love you" and to bond. 

Dogs will often lick the faces of their owners as a way of showing affection

Also, your pup may lick you just because you taste good. When a dog licks your face, it's basically giving you a doggy kiss!

They may lick because they're thirsty or hungry

Thirsty dogs lick anything that has moisture on it, while a hungry dog may be licking people or odd things in the hope of finding food or water. 

In both cases, licking objects is an attempt to get relief if your dog's mouth is too dry. Your pooch will typically give objects a few good dog licks before they go around and eat things.

Cute dog gently licking a tasty looking butterfly

They lick because they like the taste or smell of something

Your pup has a very strong sense of smell, and they use their tongues to explore their environment and gather information about what is going on around them. 

They can detect tiny amounts of scent in the air. When they are licking something, they are getting a better sense of what it is. 

They may also be tasting or smelling something that the dog likes, or that is familiar to them. 

Why do dogs lick themselves? 

Dogs may be licking themselves as part of their grooming routine. They lick because they're trying to clean themselves. Dogs will lick their fur, their skin, and even their teeth in order to remove dirt and debris. It's a habit that they learn early on, and it keeps them clean and healthy. 

This is especially important for animals who spend a lot of time outdoors, as they are more likely to come into contact with dirt and other potential contaminants. Nuesta Pet's No Rinse Grooming WipesNuesta Pet's No Rinse Grooming Wipes are a great way to keep your pup clean and simulate licks for some extra bonding.

Cute Dog Licking his nose

A good dog lick might their way of trying to tell you something

A dog lick is a common way for dogs to communicate, and it can mean different things depending on the context. 

For example, if a dog licks your face, your dog may be trying to show their affection for you. But if they are licking all over your body, it might be a sign that they feel lonely, anxious, or stressed.

Pet health is important so if you don't know the exact cause of why your dog is licking, it's best to ask your vet or an animal behaviorist for individualized advice. 

They'll be able to help you figure out what your dog is trying to say!

Why do dogs lick when they're anxious or nervous

A Dog's lick is a way of calming themselves down and relieving stress.

If your dog is constantly licking you, it may be feeling stressed or anxious. But if your dog is excessively licking, it may be a sign of an underlying problem, like separation anxiety.

If your dog is anxious or stressed, there are several things you can do to help. You can try training your dog with positive reinforcement, providing them with ample exercise, mental stimulation, and making sure they have a calm and quiet place to relax.

Anxious dog licking the air with his tongue out

They may lick because they're in pain or feeling sick

Your pets may lick their wounds or irritated skin to clean them and help them heal, or they may lick other areas of their bodies if they're experiencing discomfort or pain.

Dogs also lick when they're feeling sick, because they're trying to make themselves feel better or because they're trying to get your attention so you'll take them to the vet.

If your dog is licking themselves excessively, there may be a medical reason and it's important to seek veterinary guidance to rule out an underlying cause.

Dog saliva contains enzymes that promote healing, as well as other chemicals that can help prevent wounds from infection. Researchers have found that certain compounds called histatins in a dog's saliva aid in the prevention of infection.

Obsessive licking can be a sign of medical problems and may require a trip to the vet.

Might also lick because they have a medical condition

Sometimes a dog's licking behavior can be a sign of a more urgent need: they're experiencing pain or discomfort and need medical attention. 

Dogs can suffer from various health problems that may cause them to lick their bodies excessively.

Some of the most common medical conditions that can lead to excessive licking in dogs include:

  • Skin Allergies 
  • Flea Allergies
  • Fungal Infections
  • Dental Disease 
  • Thyroid Problems

Only a professional can provide veterinary advice and treat whatever underlying medical issue may be causing your dog to lick excessively.

a jolly pair of dogs licking while taking a walk

They lick because of an instinctual urge to clean

Your pet has a natural inclination to groom itself and others, which is why they often start licking their owners and other dogs.

This behavior is beneficial because it helps keep the dog clean and free of pests, such as fleas. Check out Nuesta's Flea and Tick and medicated shampoo (Coming Soon)!

Your furry friend is telling you they're bored

When dogs are left alone for long periods, they can become restless, start showing destructive behaviors like eating things they shouldn't, and start to lick as a way to entertain themselves. 

Carpet licking behavior is also a sign of boredom. Many dog owners may not realize that dog's carpet licking is them showing signs that they need more activity. Maybe it's time to let out some zoomies!

Why do dogs lick when they are bored? 

Licking is a way for dogs to release pent-up energy, so if your dog is always licking, it may be a sign that he needs more exercise. A doggie door can give your pup access to releasing pent-up energy if you have a safe place for them to run.

Try to give your dog more opportunities to socialize and play. You can also try dog puzzle toys like a snuffle mat or food dispensing toys to help keep his mind challenged and engaged.

Some dogs lick because they enjoy it

Some dogs lick simply because they enjoy it, just like humans lick ice cream cones. It feels good to them and they love the taste.

Licking releases pleasurable endorphins that make dogs feel good. Some dogs will lick anything, including people’s faces, hands, and feet.

This behavior is often seen in puppies and young dogs, but can be found in older dogs, too. Dogs have a very powerful sense of taste and smell, so licking something is one way for them to get a lot of information about it.

A playful jumping pooch licking the air

Dogs lick to get attention

Your dog may be trying to get you to pet them, or they may just be hoping for a little bit of praise and affirmation. 

In any case, if your dog is licking you, he wants your attention. Your dog craves attention and will do whatever they can to get it. In any case, it's a way for dogs to connect with their owners.

You can discourage your dog from licking if you don't enjoy it

Positive reinforcement is a great way to discourage your dog from excessive licking if you don't enjoy it. By rewarding them with treats or attention when they do not lick, your dog may learn to stop licking and it is not something that gets them what they want.

You can also try to redirect your dog's attention by giving them a chew toy or bone to lick instead of you. If they start, you calmly say "no" and give them the toy. 

With enough practice, they'll learn that licking is only acceptable when it's directed at their toy and not you.

Finally, if it's because of behavioral reasons make sure you're providing your dog with enough mental and physical stimulation.

Whether they are bored or under-stimulated, excessive dog licks can be a sign of boredom or anxiety

Make sure you're giving them plenty of exercises and providing them with lots of toys and activities to keep their minds challenged. This will help avoid the development of a behavioral issue. 

You should also avoid scolding your dog for this behavior, as this may only make the problem worse. 

If you simply ignore your dog's licking, there's a good chance the behavioral issues will not continue (as they are no longer receiving the extra attention)

If you follow these tips, you should be able to discourage excessive dog licking 

Remember, every dog is different

It may take some trial and error to find what works best for your dog. Be patient and consistent, and you'll eventually find a method that helps keep your dog's tongue in its mouth! 

At Nuesta, Pet Health is extremely important to us. If you are concerned that your pet may have medical reasons for their excessive licking, talk to your veterinarian to see if there is an underlying medical condition that may be causing it.