Why do Dogs lick?

Some pets have a tendency to always lick themselves, other members of their species and even their owners (i.e. us humans). A few such pets that come to our mind are dogs, cats, and rabbits.

But why do they do it?

In this article, we will try to find out the reasons behind such behaviour of them (focus will be on dogs). Also, we will shed some light on some related topics – does dog licking us pose any health risk, are there some precautions that we need to take, etc.

Table of Contents
  • Why do dogs lick?
  • Is my dog licking me safe?
  • How to stop your dog from excessive licking

Why do dogs lick?

Many pet animals lick themselves, random objects, and even people too. Dogs probably are on the top of this list. Some people like this habit of theirs, while others find it irritating and even gross. But what are the reasons behind this habit of dogs?

Why do dogs lick you when you pet them?

Dogs lick people a lot when they pet them, or goof around with them, especially if you are their favourite owner/friend. Though they do sometimes start licking even when you are doing nothing, say when you are just sleeping.

They do so mainly because of three reasons:

  • Way of Communication: Dogs cannot speak, but as you all know they can be very communicative. They try to send us messages through various ways – their barking, body language, and even licking. When a dog licks you, he/she may just be saying hello to you, or welcoming you home, or saying that he/she misses/loves you, or maybe he wants something from you (water, food, or maybe he wants to go out). You will observe that dogs lick those caretakers more, that are directly involved in feeding them or those that often play with them.
  • Detective Dog: Dogs also learn a lot by their senses of smell and taste. So, often dogs lick their owners just to find out what you have eaten recently, or maybe where you have been! Sometimes, some micro food particles maybe left sticking near our mouth and dogs may get attracted towards them.
  • Taste: Yes, your dog may be licking you excessively because he/she finds you tasty! Sometimes, dogs develop a taste for the salt in our sweat and like licking it off. (Don’t worry, he won’t eat you!)

Sometimes, a dog may also start licking us excessively if it’s under stress, anxiety, or under some fear.

Why do dogs lick their private areas?

Though dogs do not self-groom themselves as intensely as cats, but they do often groom themselves and their puppies to some extent. One of the areas of interest of almost all dogs is their private parts. This is a habit that many dog owners find very gross. But why they do so?

Often, they do so because of lack of grooming and cleaning. Though you cannot completely stop this habit of theirs, if you keep them clean, they will definitely feel less need to lick themselves clean. Unhygienic conditions may cause them a lot of itch, which may be worsened if they get infected with fleas.

Is my dog licking me safe?

In short, we have to say that your pet dog licking you may not be a good thing for you. It may not sound as music to your years, but that’s the truth. There are some solid reasons behind it.

Is it unhygienic to let a dog lick your face?

It may be. Just have a look at all the places that your dog licks, and the gross things it sometimes eats. Dogs are used to lick their private parts (and those of other dogs), and drink water from toilets. And I have seen many dogs even eat mud and shit in public areas. Imagine your dog licking you after that. Gross indeed and definitely unhygienic!

Is dog saliva harmful?

Yes, dog saliva is filled with various bacteria and parasites and may prove harmful to you. (Though the risk here is not as high as it is in case of cats). This risk is present even if your dog is healthy. However, if your dog gets sick, say it gets infected with rabies, then its licking/biting may prove fatal for you.

Though a dog’s saliva is really good and has medicinal properties for itself. If a dog gets hurt, he can cure himself by licking that area, as a dog’s saliva has anti-bacterial properties. However, if a dog gets hurt at a place where he cannot lick, that injury may prove fatal for him (as the open wound may get infected).

How to stop your dog from excessive licking

There are various tricks in our arsenal that may help you reduce excessive licking of your dog.

Regular cleaning and grooming

The more you will clean, bathe, and groom your dog on a regular basis, the less it will have to groom and clean itself.


  • Dogs can easily be trained to reduce their licking us, or maybe completely stop them from licking us.
  • Divert their attention and change their licking pattern. Whenever your dog tries to lick your face, you may present your hand in front of it. Washing your hands is much easier than washing your face again and again, and definitely less unhygienic.

Even if you do not do so, at least do not inadvertently encourage your dog to lick you. If your dog licks you and you giggle and laugh when it does so, it may do so even more in future. Dogs are smart creatures – they will soon learn what you like and what’s something you dislike.

Our dog used to lick my hands, but he never licked anyone else in my family as they did not like that. He learned that pretty quickly and adjusted his behaviour accordingly. We never even trained it for it. He learned it naturally with time.

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