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The Slobbery Scoop: Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

Are you living with a compulsive human face licker? Do you find yourself covered in doggie spit every time you return home from work after a long day? If you wonder why do dogs lick your face, you may have theories but no facts. It’s possible the dog is happy to see you.

Maybe the dog smells some of your last meal. Let’s face it, dogs are always interested in human food. Perhaps your dog has noticed that you show affection to other humans by kissing them, and your dog is now modeling that behavior.

However, all of your ideas are speculation unless you ask the experts. I’ve done some of the leg work for you and sourced some of the top information available about what motivates dogs to lick our faces. Your best course of action is always to ask your vet or a behavior expert. Before you explore the situation at your dog’s next check up, let’s review this slippery situation. why do dogs lick your face

Your Dog’s a Big Baby

Your dog’s interest in lots of licking has its roots in its early development. Just like human babies, puppies explore the world with their mouths. They don’t have hands, so it makes lots of sense.

In addition, older puppies lick the mouths of older pack members to promote them to regurgitate food. This happens after the puppies have begun eating solid food. This may sound distasteful to us, but it is normal part of dog behavior and one we must embrace and understand if we want to share our lives with them.

Keep in mind, It is ok to put a stop to the licking when you’ve reached your limit. You can do this by distracting your dog with a toy, or performing some obedience training. Tell your dog to sit and stay and take a few steps away. There are some more tips about behavior modification coming up. Stay tuned. why do dogs lick your face

Grooming Is Relaxing and Bonding To Your Dog

Dogs lick each other to strengthen bonds and to calm and relax each other. Because puppies engage in this behavior to achieve satisfaction of physical needs such as hunger, adult dogs may find licking to be emotionally rewarding. It reminds them of being soothed earlier in their lives as puppies.

Also, licking stimulates the release of endorphins in adult dogs. They could be licking you to make you feel good, but they are getting a rush from it as well. Simulating behaviors that produce necessary results like the regurgitation thing ends up being soothing later in life because of the association the animal has with it.

In the same way and for the same reasons, being licked produces friendly behavior in other dogs. Your dog may be licking you as a method of gentle emotional manipulation to get you to love them or throw that darn ball one more time. Maybe Fifi just wants a little cuddle.

For instance, I know a border collie personally who is a huge manipulative licker. She is an extremely intelligent dog and highly emotionally sensitive. If she thinks you are upset with her, she becomes a very aggressive licker. It is as if she bent on apologizing for her misdeed and regaining your approval. why do dogs lick your face

The way I know she is attempting to manipulate me is that as soon as I cave and pet or cuddle her, she immediately resumes the behavior I scolded her for. She just can’t get enough of playing fetch. It’s exhausting.

The Instinct is Maternal

why do dogs lick your face

Dogs, like people, can trace many of their behaviors back to childhood. When puppies are small, their mothers lick them to provide comfort. Female dogs also lick their puppies to stimulate the babies to have a bowel movement.

As dogs grow older, they recognize licking as a social behavior. Part of the social signals dogs send by licking is to give and receive comfort. Just like the food motivation mentioned earlier, licking reminds adult dogs of the good feelings they once received from their mothers.

Remember that humans enjoy touch as well. We don’t go around licking each other, but close friends and family do hug and kiss. When you think about this, it’s easy to understand your dog’s motivation and cut them a little slack.

Dogs Like The Taste and Smell of Human

One reason dogs lick your face is pretty simple: they like the way you taste. Human sweat contains salt, and dogs enjoy the way that tastes. You’re sort of like a walking appetizer. More accurately, dogs keep right on licking because there is instant tastebud gratification.

In addition to your taste, dogs become comforted by the smell of their human. This explains why your dog often wants to steal your socks and why puppies take comfort in sleeping on one of your shirts.

For this reason, when your dog licks you it is telling you that your mere presence brings it joy. Most of the reasons experts give for licking behavior in dogs supports this conclusion.

Licking is Submissive/Respectful Behavior

According to veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, dogs interpret being licked as a sign of submission. This traces back to the puppy behavior of begging for a little pre-digested food from their parents. When your dog licks you, or another dog, it is showing a form of respect.

Similarly, a dog will show its belly in play to signal to its companion that they are the boss. The other dog understands that the submissive dog poses no threat. This is dog etiquette and also a way to ensure there is no escalation to violence. Some dogs lick for the same reasons they show their bellies.

Consequently, the next time you find yourself annoyed by your dog’s incessant licking, try to keep in mind it is really telling you it thinks you are way more awesome than it is. That might soften the blow.

Dogs Think We Love Licks!

why do dogs lick your face

I bet you thought this licking thing was simple, but we still have lots of reasons to cover. The next reason your dog licks you is that humans tend to positively reinforce this behavior. Even if you hate your dog licking you, on some level you know it is showing affection. This factors into how you behave back toward your dog, and you provide it with extra attention.

Dogs often can’t tell the difference between negative and positive attention, so anyway you react to your dog when it licks you is probably reinforcing their behavior. If you’d like to send the message that you do not appreciate being bathed in dog kisses, ignore your dog completely.

Turn your body away from the animal and take a few steps away. Do not make eye contact. Don’t speak to the dog. If you feel you must reprimand your pet, make your statement short and curt. A simple, strong “Down!” or “Off!” is sufficient.

Any more conversation and you are just feeding into the energy of the dog and actually encouraging it. Telling your dog no is not a command. You want to give an alternative direction when you reprimand.

They Are Feeling Anxious

Because licking is soothing to your dog, dogs will lick excessively to calm themselves when they are feeling anxious. Sometimes your dog will turn this behavior on themselves. This can cause some issues with their skin and fur, so you should consult your vet if you notice that your dog is licking an area of his body too often.

If you notice that your dog is anxious in general, you can take steps to build up your dog’s self esteem. Understand this will be a long process. You are in this for the long haul. It will be worth it to watch your companion blossom into a confident pet.

Also, obedience or agility training can help improve your dog’s confidence. This type of instruction works because it gives the dog a small job to accomplish that it is then rewarded for.

If you take your dog to training, take care to choose trainers that aren’t aggressive or harsh. This can make your anxious dog feel afraid of the very thing that is going to be the key to helping him! You must remain calm and quietly confident yourself and think about transmitting that energy to your dog. This is expert advice from Cesar Millan.

They Don’t Want To Bite You

When dogs play with each other, there are a lot of good natured nips. Dogs use their teeth with each other and each understands the difference between a play bite and a sign of aggression.

Your dog has probably figured out that you prefer not to be bitten, so he is modifying his inclination to bite you in play by licking you instead.

Is It Safe To Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

You’ve probably heard that your dog’s mouth is cleaner than your own. This is not exactly true. It is like comparing apples to oranges- both mouths are completely different environments. Studies are conflicted about just how dangerous it is to let your dog lick you in the mouth.

For these reasons, it is probably best to be cautious and try to prevent direct mouth to mouth contact with your dog. Learn more about the fascinating condition of your dog’s mouth in this informative video.

Sometimes Your Dog Licks To Alert You To Something

why do dogs lick your face

If your dog is licking you a lot out of the blue, it is worth taking the time to check their food and water. Because dogs use licking to communicate, Little Cheeto might be trying to tell you that you forgot to feed him on schedule or that he’s really thirsty. Your dog may even be trying to communicate to you that its favorite toy is under the sofa. why do dogs lick your face

You don’t want to give too much attention to licking if you dislike it. However, if your dog is trying to alert you to something, licking is better than barking in most situations.

Dogs Who Lick Children

Many dogs understand on some level that children are equivalent to puppies. They seem to know that they have to be gentle when they play and interact with children. If your dog is a kid licker, you want to discourage face licking, but you may have to let it go. Your dog is just trying to show gentle affection and care to the little one in the house.

Now that you have some insight into all of the many factors that go into your dog’s desire to lick you, do you feel better about the situation? Most of these reasons are born of affection and a desire to let you know that you are your dog’s whole world.​

It is good to promote healthy self soothing behavior in your dog, which you can do by following the tips above to build your dog’s confidence. When you are calm and secure, your dog will feel that energy and respond to it. Always consider the idea that the catalyst to your dog’s behavior could be you.

​Distracting Bad Behavior and Understanding Your Dog

If you do want to distract your dog from licking you, I’ve given you some tips on how to accomplish this. Need more advice? Consult your vet or a dog trainer with a good reputation. They can often offer insight on a deeper level. why do dogs lick your face

Additionally, open minded folks can contact one of the animal communicators available to attempt to psychicly or energetically connect with your animal. They claim to be able to provide you with actual insight about your particular dog’s motivations and behaviors. This can be a fun exercise and may just provide you with the key to solving a slobbery situation.

Whatever method you choose to put up with or alter your dog’s licking behavior, be consistent. You also want to be calm, show leadership skills, and never become angry or abusive with your dog. If you are feeling frustrated, walk away and isolate yourself until you feel better. This not only protect your dog, but it is much more effective for behavior modification.

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Lauren is a young woman with a true passion for animals. She has kept many pets over the years and has intimate knowledge of their needs both emotionally and physically. She loves that her dogs keep her so active and satisfy her desire to spend lots of time in nature.

One thought on “The Slobbery Scoop: Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

  1. We have a lurcher called Lacey but we affectionately call her ‘licky lacey’ due to the fact she just loves to show everyone she loves them. I’ve never known a more affectionate dog!

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