It will come as no great surprise that for dogs licking is a perfectly natural behaviour. Puppies in the wild lick their parents’ mouths in order to get them to regurgitate food.
Mums lick their pups to clean them and pups, in return, lick their mums, often just for comfort.
It is also a sign of affection that releases the ‘feelgood’ hormone, oxytocin, in the body, which feels good for both the licker and the receiver. And it is very calming.
Licking humans can be a sign of affection or a sign of appeasement if the
dog feels that you are upset with them. On the other hand, it can simply be attention-seeking or that you are wearing a sweet-smelling body lotion or fruity lip balm!
Is it dangerous to let your dog lick you?
It can be if they lick your mouth or nose but only if your dog has been exposed to bacteria either from rotten food, poop or urine from infected animals (remember, too, that they lick their own butts!). And be aware that certain medicated topical creams may be toxic to your dog. So, it is generally best to discourage this behaviour.
So, how do I stop my dog from licking me?
- Give them something else to do with their mouth, i.e., a chew, stuffed food toy, snuffle mat or a LickiMat.
- Tire your dog out with physical and mental exercise.
- Change your body lotion to something less attractive.
- Turn away when they lick. This helps them to realise that licking gets no attention.
- Teach your dog a nose target, i.e., train them to touch targets away from your body as a means of distraction and giving them something else to do.
If they lick obsessively, it is best to seek advice from a behaviour professional or your veterinarian. This will help determine whether it is a symptom of a psychological or physical problem.
But if it is not constant and if the licking doesn’t bother you, enjoy those kisses!
By Diane Lowe
Diane Lowe has been living in the Algarve 23 years. It’s not where she was born but it’s where she belongs. She is passionate about dogs, hiking and being out in nature.