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Published: Jan 30, 2024 3 min read

If you’ve ever even casually interacted with a dog, you’ve probably noticed that dogs lick people they know. Some dog owner’s first interactions with dogs as children probably involved some sort of licking behavior. But why do dogs lick people and what can you do to curb what can sometimes be a dog’s excessive licking? Read on to explore the variety of reasons dogs lick you.

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Why does my dog lick me so much?

It’s a sign of affection

Dogs lick as a greeting or to comfort you. Dogs get licked as puppies by their mother to clean them so they associate licking with showing affection and care. A dog loves licking as it releases endorphins and creates a network of positive reinforcement between it and its pet parent.

They like the taste

This may sound odd but you just might taste good to your dog. According to the Kennel Club, a dog’s sense of taste may be particularly attuned to want to taste our sweat for its salty and acidic qualities. A dog’s sense of smell might also catch the odor of something you recently ate when licking your face.

They want attention

Just as licking may be a dog’s way of showing affection, an attention-seeking dog might lick you to get you to cuddle up to it or pet it. A dog feels emotions similar to humans and often seeks the attention, love and care of its owner.

It is anxious

Although it is a rare phenomenon, dogs can get obsessive-compulsive disorder and excessive licking may be a sign of it. You can try to curb your dog’s behavior and get it to stop obsessively licking you by allowing it to expend energy on positive activities such as taking a walk or doing its dog training exercises.

If your dog is partial to behavioral issues or extreme separation anxiety and also tends to lick when anxious, it might be worthwhile to speak to a vet or a behaviorist on the subject. Fortunately, some pet insurance policies include coverage for behavioral therapy.

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Why do dogs lick you FAQs

Should I let my dog lick my face?

Although your dog’s mouth does contain naturally occuring bacteria, letting your dog lick you is probably harmless and is more of a personal preference than anything else. If you worry about getting contaminated somehow or are just doubtful about what your dog’s been putting into its mouth, you can wash your face with soap and water after the encounter.

Should I let my dog lick open wounds?

According to the American Kennel Club, although dogs licking wounds can protect it against certain bacteria, excessive licking can also lead to irritation and could slow down the healing process.

What can I do to get my dog to stop licking me?

Dogs respond to consistent body language. Moving away when they are licking you and giving them attention when they’re not can help teach your dog to stop licking you without needing to give them any negative attention.