Nothing beats the warm welcome from your dog when you reach home, but this reunion moment often turns into a party of slobbering licks. Dogs are social animals that naturally live in structured groups, and one of the characteristics of these social species is their ability to communicate with each other.
Why is my dog licking me?
Licking is an instinctive behaviour in dogs that they practice from birth. The mother licks her cubs to stimulate their breathing and groom them, while the puppies will lick their mother’s face, as a sign of affection or when feeling hungry. If your dog is continuously licking you, then this can indicate several things, depending on the situation.
5 reasons why your dog licks you
To show their affection and appreciation
Dogs can lick their owner’s face or hands, and this is their way of giving kisses and showing love and respect. Just like when the dog wags his tail or barks to try to tell you something, licking is just another gesture to help him express his feelings.
He might want to eat, drink or even go out and play. Besides, it can be a type of positive reinforcement involving the hormones of happiness. The continuous licking stimulates the release of endorphin, a hormone that allows them to be calm and comforted, which encourages them to continue their behaviour.
Empathy and care
When your dog feels that you are not doing well, that you are stressed or upset, he may start to lick you to give you comfort and show affection. Our 4-legged friends are very sensitive to our moods, and the attachment they feel towards us leads them to react in such ways.
Dogs not only like to show their love to their owner but also want to be loved. They love to receive your attention and will do anything for it. Lick your face, hands, legs or even jump on you!
It can be a way of reminding you that you are the leader (dominant) and that they respect you.
Develop their senses
Dogs are hunters by nature. They are brought up to use their senses and especially their noses to explore places and discover objects. In this case, constant licking can be as an “investigation” tool.
Should I be worried about my dog’s intensive licking?
After all, if this is your dog’s way of kissing you, then a friendly lick every once in a while should be fine. However, make sure to wash your face or hands afterwards as dog’s saliva contain bacterias and germs that can cause infections.
Normal licking behaviour
In most cases, licking is quite normal in dogs, but if this is something you are not comfortable with, then punishing your dog for licking you or any other object in the house will only make the problem worse.
However, obsessive non-stopping licks can result from deep anxiety, boredom, or even a neurological/medical disorder.
Similarly, if your dog is not receiving enough stimulation whether physical or mental, then he may have developed a new habit. Compulsive licking due to stress can be more challenging to manage. If your dog is anxious, licking will calm his emotions, especially if he went through a traumatic experience in the past.
Studies have also shown that some gastrointestinal problems may cause excessive lickings, like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pancreatitis, and gastric emptying. Be aware that the problem is not always behavioural and that you should consult your veterinarian if you think that your dog might have a medical problem.
6 ways to stop your dog licking you
Don’t punish him
Never scold your dog for licking you. Instead, use positive reinforcement to try and manage this behaviour, it’s the best way to get anything you want from your dog.
If your dog jumps or licks you as soon as you arrive home, then try to react as calmly as possible. If you step into his game and join in the excitement, he’ll think that you are rewarding him and that this is the proper way to greet you.
Leave the room
If your dog licks you out of affection, but you’re not comfortable with this, then just ignore him. Stand up calmly and leave the room.
Reward good behaviour
If your dog is sitting calmly next to you without licking, offer him a treat or any reward and calmly praise him. With time and repetition, he will learn what is generally acceptable.
Dogs usually do not like the taste and smell of citrus fruits. So, maybe now is the time to switch your body spray or shower gel to a citrus-scented product that will discourage your dog from excessively licking you.
Redirect his behaviour
When your dog begins to lick you, redirecting his attention to appropriate alternatives may be a solution. Pick up a toy and place it in front of him without playing with him as this toy is just a distraction mechanism to keep it from licking you.