Written by 6:09 am Behavior & Training

Why Do Dogs Lick?

A blog post about why dogs like to lick. Some potential reasons could be that they are trying to ge…
Dog with licking tongue, close-up view, shot through the glass.
Funny pet portrait, focus on the tongue

You may have wondered why your dog likes to lick so much. After all, licking is a rather strange behavior. Dogs aren’t the only animals that like to lick their companions, of course. Cats seem to enjoy it too! So if you think about it from a selfish perspective, why should we care whether our pets lick us or not? Who knows what kind of germs they’re spreading with their tongues! In reality, though, dogs licking is a perfectly normal and healthy part of canine communication. Here are some common reasons for this behavior:

1 – Cleaning & Shows Affection

If you’ve ever licked the inside of someone else’s mouth (I’m sorry), then you know how much bacteria can accumulate in the crevices and corners of your own teeth and gums. That’s why it’s no surprise that dogs like to lick other dogs – and people – all over their faces. They’re cleaning away the bacteria that might otherwise cause problems for them down the road. When a dog licks you, he or she is showing affection. By licking you (and other members of its pack), a dog says, “You are my friend! I approve!” Dogs have special saliva glands in their tongues that produce much-needed moisture during hot weather or when they overheat. Licking helps cool the animal by evaporation from a wet surface rather than cooling from air circulation alone, which can be insufficient during periods. Other animals lick because they don’t have hands to wipe their faces, of course.

2 – Getting Attention

Dogs also lick for attention. If you’ve ever noticed your dog licking the air after you leave the room, then this is probably what he or she was trying to do. Your pet may just be communicating that it’s lonely without you around. Also, if you’re paying more attention to someone else than to your dog at any given time, licking can make sure that you pay some loving attention on him or her too! If dogs are bribed with treats (ahem), they will quickly learn when they should lick and how long they should keep at it until they get what they want! This behavior sometimes occurs in conjunction with separation anxiety.

3 – A Sign of Submission

Another reason why your dog might lick your face is that he or she sees you as a higher-ranking member of the pack. In this case, licking is more likely to be an act of submission rather than one of affection. Dogs have been known to lick their owners’ mouths as a sign that they’re ready to eat out of a bowl on the floor or receive food from a human hand. Your pet may also lick other dogs in an attempt to show him or her who’s boss! However, make sure not to mistake this behavior for feelings of love and respect. While some dogs will only submit to people and never see them as fellow pack members, others will happily accept humans as equals. Only your dog can answer this question for sure!

4 – As a Defense Mechanism

Dogs that like to lick sometimes do it when they’re feeling nervous or stressed. For example, an animal might lick hands if he or she is in a veterinary office and feels frightened. If you’ve ever watched a dog at the groomer before, then you know how much licking and back-licking (to try and remove what’s happening to him or her!) can go on in such a situation. In addition, dogs have been known to lick themselves after being handled by strangers. This is not necessarily because they dislike being touched but rather because of uncertainty about who these humans are and whether they’re safe. Dogs may also lick their owners’ faces when they’re feeling anxious or even afraid.

5 – Other Reasons for Licking

Some dogs may lick floors, carpets, and other surfaces because it gives them something to do! Remember: canines aren’t pack animals who feel obligated to perform certain rituals within their groups. If there’s no food involved (e.g., with begging) and you’ve treated your dog well by feeding him or her proper meals and snacks at the appropriate times, then boredom is likely the problem. Dogs like to eat grass sometimes as a result of iron deficiencies in their diets (not necessarily anything else). Some may also do this after vomiting up a hairball or some other ‘undigestible’ mass that came back up. Dogs also lick their behinds, of course, to clean themselves up after going to the bathroom!

6 – Possible Medical Causes of Licking

It’s possible that your dog is licking excessively because he or she has separation anxiety or feels lonely when you’re not around. If this is what’s happening, then make sure to spend more time with your pooch and perhaps get him or her a friend! Both dogs might feel calmer as a result. A few other medical conditions that can cause excessive licking are allergies, skin disease (such as ringworm), diabetes mellitus, and cancer. These are all serious problems that could indicate far worse underlying disorders if they’re not taken care of immediately! Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s licking to learn more.

7 – Treatment for Excessive Licking

If your dog suffers from one of the conditions mentioned above, then his or her excessive licking may be caused by that health problem. Otherwise, excessive licking is usually a sign that your pooch is bored, anxious, or otherwise not happy with the way things are going in his or her everyday life. Make sure to schedule more playtime with him or her! Of course, you should also spend quality time with Fido every day, but make sure it’s active time rather than simply time spent sitting or standing around. It might also help if you get another furry friend for your pet to interact with!

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