A sloppy dog’s tongue on the skin – some dog lovers think that’s great. Others place less value on contact with the dog’s damp tongue. But: why is my dog licking me? We explain why dogs like to lick people.
From an early age: licking as a social interaction
Licking is one of the first social interactions dogs get to know. Shortly after the birth, the mother dog licks her puppies extensively. This is for bonding, keeping the puppies clean, and massaging the stomach after meals. The puppies imitate this and lick each other off. From this point on, licking is part of a dog’s behavior. Some dogs continue to like to use it as they age. Others rarely use the tongue. Whether your dog expresses his affection by licking is a matter of type.
Why is my dog licking me?
There are various reasons why four-legged friends show their tongues and lick their humans – or each other – off. If you pay attention to the rest of the dog’s body language and keep an eye on the entire situation, you will understand your dog all the better. Then you can optimally assess why your dog is licking you.
The dog shows his affection
Dogs are more likely to lick people to express their affection than cats. Likewise, in a pack of dogs, we can regularly observe mutual licking in phases of rest. Whether conspecific or human: Licking is used as a friendly greeting, as a sign of joy or as a spontaneous expression of friendship.
Below them, lower-ranking dogs lick the snout of a higher-ranking pack member to appease them. This behavior is also possible when interacting with people. The dog shows it when the biped e.g. complains loudly or is very tense. The human behavior does not have to be related to the dog. Some dogs lick their two-legged friends when they argue with someone else – or when they sing loudly and crookedly. The dog wants to calm him down. Sometimes licking is also used to calm yourself down. For example, at the vet or in other situations that stress your four-legged friend.
Invitation to play, fun and caress
Why is my dog licking me? Sometimes dogs want to make a difference by licking. Some four-legged friends have e.g. learned that their human turns to them when they lick his hand. You want to get a caress in this way. Or they are bored and they attract attention by licking. The licking could eventually lead the dog owner to a little game or a treat. Remember: your reaction to the licking will determine what prompt the dog will make. So think about whether your behavior should set an example after its use.
Have you eaten a bratwurst in a bun or petted another dog? Your four-legged friend would like to know exactly that! Licking is used to absorb smell and taste molecules. Many dogs want to explore interesting smells more closely by licking them off. So you can literally “lick” the smell of other dogs off your hand. In addition, salty human sweat and other body odors are a magical attraction for many dogs. The good taste simply leads to licking.
Can dogs transmit disease by licking?
Lots of people like their dog licking them off. Others find the licking rather disgusting – especially when the dog’s tongue runs courageously through the face. Contact from mucous membrane to mucous membrane should be avoided. This means that the dog does not transmit any pathogenic germs. Intestinal parasites are mainly transmitted through feces. But if the dog has previously licked its anus and then licks its human’s face, this is also a transmission route. Dogs can also transmit various bacteria. This includes, for example, Pasteurella multocida. The affected four-legged friends show no symptoms, but can infect humans. In the worst case scenario, they can lead to blood poisoning or meningitis in the body. Infection is very rare. However, if a dog has licked your hands, you should wash them before preparing food or rubbing their eyes. This hygiene rule should apply particularly to people with a weak immune system and children.
My dog licks me off: how do I react?
As is so often the case, encourage desirable behavior and ignore undesirable behavior. Already teach the puppy whether or not you want licking. Because what may be cute in a small Bernese Mountain Dog puppy may be less pleasant in an eight-year-old Bernese. If you don’t want your dog to lick your face, turn away from him. Then stop paying attention to it for around 30 seconds. In this way the animal learns that by licking its face it does the opposite. Namely, breaking the social interaction. You should also make sure that you do not support the “licking at the request”, but ignore it. Otherwise, the following applies: extensive petting is a very good “answer” to your dog’s affection.