Most dog owners appreciate a greeting kiss from their dog and many see it as a sign of affection, but is this really what is happening? Is your dog actually giving you a kiss or are there other reasons for the behaviour?
- Wild Welcome
In the wild, a mother will return from a hunt and her puppies will lick at her face to get her to regurgitate food for them. In older pack members, this behaviour is interpreted as a welcome. Packs have a hierarchy and each time a member returns to the den, the other pack members will lick them almost like a welcome home.
Since we cannot ask animals why they do this, we can only go off observation and educated theory. By watching different wild packs and their interactions, this is the most reliable explanation for the licking behaviour.
If you have prepared something either sweet or bitter to eat, then your dog may be licking you because you taste good. Although a dog’s sense of taste is not as strong as a human, they are very good at distinguishing sweet and bitter flavours.
They will also lick your skin if you are sweating because sweat has a salty, bitter taste. This is the same reason a lot of dogs lick to lick their owner’s toes. Your feet spend most of the dog in socks where it is warm and humid. Sweat collects on the soles of your feet and between your toes. Your dog will smell that and think he has hit the jackpot!
Many experts in canine behaviour believe that lower-ranking animals will lick more dominant members of the pack as a sign of submission. Your dog may lick you to show that they see you as the dominant member of the house. This is more likely in dogs with a shy or quiet personality.
- When Licking Is A Problem
Not everyone appreciates a dog licking their face. If you have friends who do not enjoy this particular kind of attention, it can lead to some awkward encounters. Excessive licking of your skin can also trigger irritation and skin infections, which is certainly not good for you.
It may also be a sign of increased anxiety. Excessive licking is believed to be a coping mechanism that dogs will use in order to soothe their feelings of anxiety. Consider if there have been any recent changes in your home that could be making your dog feel nervous.
- How To Stop Excessive Licking
To put a stop to persistent licking, first, have your dog checked by a veterinarian to rule out any health concerns. If this is all clear, you can stop the behaviour by simply removing yourself from the situation.
Any time your dog starts licking you, simply say ‘no’ and walk away. Leave your dog for 5 minutes before you engage their attention again. Be consistent with this so your dog understands that licking you does not get him any attention.