Why Do Dogs Lick You?

Some people love it. Some people hate it. But we all wonder, “Why do dogs lick?” Understanding dog body language helps you decipher what it means when dogs lick, and, more specifically, why your dog is licking you at that moment.

Perhaps the most obvious reason why dogs lick you is to get salt or even food crumbs off. You’ve probably noticed your dog seems more eager to lick you if you are sweaty. That’s because they like the salt in the sweat. Dogs also love to lick a hand or face just after you’ve finished eating — they’re great cleanup crews!

What does it mean when a dog licks you?

Puppies lick adult dogs around the mouth as a sign of appeasement, meaning they are not threatening. Some puppies and adult dogs will also lick a human’s face as a way to show their affection. Dogs that are licking for this reason will have a soft relaxed body and a wiggly tail.

Appeasement licking can also come from a state of stress. Dogs that do not want to interact may lip-lick themselves, tongue flick or lick your mouth. These dogs will have stiff body posture, be low to the ground and have a tucked tail. They will move away quickly after licking.

What does it mean when dogs lick you compulsively? Compulsive licking is often a sign of something medical going on. Dogs that obsessively lick you in one spot may be suffering from a range of things, like allergies, hot spots or anxiety. If you witness this behavior, a trip to the vet is in order.

There are many reasons why dogs lick. Learning more about how your dog communicates with his tongue can deepen your bond and even help prevent dog bites by recognizing a stressed dog that needs to left alone.  

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