Reasons Dogs Lick

Family Pet Hospital - Dog Lick

Every dog owner knows that their canine companions lick – a lot! Some owners are quite happy to have their faces smothered with affectionate licks whereas others aren’t so keen on this extremely intimate form of contact. However there are many different reasons why dogs lick and this page is going to explore some of them now.

Dogs lick in order to communicate with people

By far the biggest reason that your dog greets your return home with a large slurp of his tongue is because it is one of the few ways he has to communicate with you. Some experts believe that dogs enjoy the saltiness in human skin, but the fact remains that it is virtually impossible to ignore being licked and in doing so your pet is letting you know that he wants your attention!

If you are an owner that dislikes more than just the odd lick, then there are ways to curtail the behavior and stop it becoming a habit. Dogs tend to learn by association and so by walking away and leaving their side when the licking becomes too much, your pet will soon get the message about which behaviors you like and which you would rather he didn’t exhibit.

Dogs lick in order to communicate with each other

Dogs have always been known to lick one another. Mothers lick their newborn pups to clean them, comfort them and mark them as their own, teaching them from the moment that they are born that licking is a natural and acceptable part of canine life.

As puppies get older they learn to communicate with their mother and siblings through licking and submission is often indicated by one dog licking the mouth of another, an act that has been seen for centuries. One dog licking another, or even a dog licking his adult owners, can often be considered a sign of respect for a higher ranking authority.

Dogs lick to groom themselves

Even though dogs don’t have the reputation for fastidious hygiene that cats do, dogs do lick themselves to keep clean. If your dog repeatedly tries to lick your face then he may think that you need a good wash too!

Dogs lick because it feels good

Experts believe that the act of licking actually releases pleasurable endorphins in your dog. Licking you or himself provides a sense of comfort, reassurance and security that just feels good.

Dogs lick to heal themselves

If your dog is excessively licking a certain part of his body then it could be that he has a wound or injury that he is trying to heal. Although it is probably not considered good medical practise today, for centuries armies used dogs as rudimentary nurses, licking wounds clean to keep them free from infection. If your dog is persistently licking an area that doesn’t have any visible injury then you should book an appointment to take him to your veterinarian to ensure that there are no underlying medical concerns.


Rest assured, slobbery kisses from your canine companion are a perfectly normal part of their behavior, as is licking in general. Pay attention to when and how he is licking you and you might be able to work out what he is trying to tell you!