Without being a canine expert, it is easy to notice that dogs love to lick humans. But then, why do dogs lick us? Discover the origins and meanings of this behavior.
Origins of dog licking
The dog learns this behaviour from a young age by imitating his mother who cleans him and shows him affection. When he is weaned, the puppy licks his mother’s snout to ask her for food. In the wild, this behaviour stimulates the mother to regurgitate her partially digested food.
Why do dogs lick us?
A sign of appeasement
If a dog senses that his owner is stressed or anxious, he can lick his face or hands to let him know that all is well, as if to relieve his tension. This behaviour comes from his mother, who used to do the same thing to comfort him when he was little
A way to communicate
Just as humans use the spoken word to communicate a need, our friends the dogs have a completely different way of sending us a message. For example, dogs often lick us to let us know a particular need such as the need to eat, drink, relieve oneself or go for a walk.
A sign of “submission
When a dog licks his master, it may mean that he accepts his “dominated” status. In the wild, dogs do this to the pack leader to reassure him in his leadership position
A sign of affection
A dog can simply lick a human to show him all his affection. His intention is simply to have a tender gesture with you, as if he were giving you a “kiss”.
A way to identify yourself
Many animals such as dogs use their senses to identify objects and people around them. Indeed, the dog’s tongue is an excellent organ of perception. So when your dog sniffs and/or licks you, it may simply mean that he has recognized you.
A way to attract attention
Dogs are sensitive beings who need, just like you, to feel loved and considered. Even if they are overflowing with love and give you too much, they also need your attention to flourish. So, licking their owner can be a way to get attention.
Also, it is important to specify that dogs have an excellent memory and tend to quickly take certain gestures as a habit. In fact, if the owner notices that licking is a good way to get your attention, he will not hesitate to repeat this behaviour on a daily basis.
Of course, everyone is free to accept or not to accept that his dog licks him, especially for reasons of hygiene. Dogs’ saliva contains germs, which is why you are advised to wash your hands regularly when you touch him. However, it is not advisable to try to forbid him to behave in such a natural way. In spite of this, a recent study has shown that having a dog in the home helps to maintain the immune system.
Should we worry about untimely licking of a dog?
Usually, licking the dog is automatically associated with a positive meaning in the popular consciousness. However be careful, because this behavior can also have a different meaning. It is therefore normal for dogs to lick us. On the other hand, when a dog is constantly trying to lick its master, it can be a sign of great anxiety and lack of confidence.
In this case, it can also happen that the dog licks himself frantically, sometimes even to the point of bleeding. If you notice that your dog licks you and licks himself excessively, analyse the environment in which he is evolving. Has your dog been confronted with a change in his habits (such as children moving out of the family home, a newcomer, rearrangement of living space…)?
Sometimes even an event that may seem small to you can deeply destabilize your pet. This is why introspection may be necessary to detect the root of the problem. Also, a strong anxiety can manifest itself in different ways, notably by repeating the same movements over and over again, such as going around in circles for example.
Be aware that there are many alternatives to calm your pet’s anxieties, such as pheromones or Bach flowers. Don’t hesitate to ask a veterinarian or a behaviourist for advice.
What is your behaviour when licking your dog? Do you let him do it or do you try to prevent him from licking you?