Have you ever gotten a big ol’ lick right across the face from your pup? Some owners may find this behavior endearing while others may not find it as such. If you have a dog that seems to love licking you, you may find yourself wondering what’s going through their head when they do it.
Keep reading to get a better idea of why dogs lick, when it may become a problem, and how to get your pup to stop the behavior if it needs to be curbed.
Answering the question of why dogs lick could take a while. Licking is a normal behavior for dogs and pinpointing exactly what each lick means can be difficult. There are several reasons why dogs lick. Dogs tend to lick in order to:1
- Explore their surroundings through taste and scent
- Taste something or when they’re hungry
- Seek attention
- Groom themselves or others
- Show affection
Licking can also be a health or behavioral issue. For instance, the act of licking could help dogs feel calm and comforted since this is what a mother normally does for her puppies when she grooms them.2 Your dog could be licking you to show their affection for you, to get a taste of you (or maybe the food you just ate), to ask you to pay attention to them, or to provide them with a feeling of comfort if they feel anxious or stressed.
In addition to licking you, your dog may also lick themselves or other objects. This is normally harmless, even if your dog licks a lot. But it may become a problem if excessive licking is causing you or anyone else discomfort — we get it, some people just don’t like being slobbered on and that’s okay!
It may also become a problem if it’s ruining furniture or other objects that aren’t meant for your pup to lick. This could get them into trouble if they lick something that could harm them. When it comes to licking themselves, your dog’s excessive licking could lead to tongue sores, infections, or bald spots on the areas of the body they’re licking.
If your dog won’t stop licking you or it’s getting out of hand in any way, it can be a good idea to chat with your veterinarian. There could be an underlying health issue causing them to lick like pain, allergies, an injury, or arthritis.1,2 This could be especially true if your dog wasn’t a big licker before but suddenly starts to lick a lot. It could also be a sign of stress, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) — any of which may require both medical and behavioral treatment.1,2