Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Nearly everyone, dog owner or not, has been subjected to doggy “kisses” which might range from a polite lick to a sloppy face washing!

But why do dogs lick people? According to dog behaviorists and researchers, here are the reasons:

One – Submissiveness – If you think about the way a mother dog communicates to her pups, one of the ways is through licking. She licks them to stimulate their breathing when they are born and also continues to lick them as a way to keep them clean as they get bigger.

Puppies, in  turn, return the mom’s licking by licking her around the mouth. Generally it’s a sign of submissiveness, as the more subordinate members of a group will lick the more dominant members. 

Two – Affection – For most domestic dogs, licking people is a clear sign of affection.

Three – Taste – Dogs seem to like the taste of salty skin. 

Four – Pleasure – For most dogs, licking, whether they are licking people or themselves, seems to be a way to release stress and make them feel good.

If you want to break a dog from licking you, then you have to commit to strictly ignoring the behavior until it’s extinguished. Wait until he licks you, then immediately get up and go out of the room. If he starts to lick you as you are petting him, then stop petting him, get up and again leave the room. As soon as he associates your leaving the room with him licking you, the behavior will stop.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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