Why Do Dogs Lick?

Why Do Dogs Lick?

Author WDF Staff


There are many reasons a dog may lick different things, and if anyone asks us, we will always say that our dog is giving us kisses and shows affection. However, there are many reasons dogs lick, and not all causes are as benign as giving kisses.

We still believe that coming home to a happy puppy giving us kisses after a long day in the office is one of the best and happiest feelings you can feel. But as dog owners, we can’t help but ask ourselves, “Why do dogs lick?” Is it really a sign of affection? We were adamant about finding out, so we did. We decided to answer questions all dog owners have about their dogs licking different things. So let’s dig in.

Why do dogs lick their paws?

There are many reasons for this type of behavior; some are physical, and some are psychological. The most common reasons dogs lick their paws are;

  • Dermatitis - If their paws look normal, your dog may be suffering from dermatitis. This nasty problem can occur if your dog has a bad reaction to different cleaning products, pesticides from your yard, or even food allergies. Cleaning their paws with water can help.
  • Injury - Licking because of an injury can happen if your dog suddenly starts licking their paws and looks pretty focused on one spot. Check if there is anything stuck in there like a thorn, grass, or maybe you can spot a small cut. Your dog can get a blister or has walked on salt (during winter) that has irritated their paws. Apply first aid, and you should be good. If the problem persists, visit your vet.
  • Parasites - Parasite infection can cause itchy paws. Things like mange or even fleas can cause dogs to have itchy paws, which they will lick to ease the discomfort.
  • Boredom - Your dog might just be bored, and licking their paws is a way of finding something fun to do. You should curb that behavior because damp, dark places make a great environment for yeast and bacteria to thrive, which can cause infections.
  • Anxiety - This is another behavioral problem that can cause your dog to excessively lick their paws. To battle this problem, you should solve the problem that causes their anxiety in the first place. Check this article if you think your dog might have separation anxiety.

dog licking owners face

Why do dogs lick you?

This is one of the most interesting questions, and dog behaviorists are still debating the real reason behind dogs licking their owners. We stand firm by our theory of kisses! However, some professional behaviorists and veterinarians mention these reasons;

  • Natural instinct - Researchers of wild canids, such as wolves or wild dogs, said that puppies often lick their mom’s muzzle when she comes back from a hunt so that she regurgitates the food and feed them.
  • Affection - This is something we felt was the right answer even before we read it. Licking can be a sign of affection in the same way it provides comfort to pups that lick their mothers in litters.
  • You taste good - This was a bit of a surprise to us, but the reason behind it is quite logical. Humans might simply taste good to dogs. We have slightly salty skin, especially after a whole day of perspiration. This also happens after we ate something tasty, then a dog might want to lick your face or fingers.

dog licking fingers

Why does my dog lick my feet?

If you are a dog owner, it is quite possible that this happened more than once to you. We are not too fond of that behavior, and we were determined to stop our dog from doing it. First, we needed to understand why dogs love licking feet.

There are two theories, and both can be true, depending on your dog’s behavior.

Looking for healthy, tasty treats, you can give your dog for training? Why not make it a fruit? Here is an article about what are the healthiest and safest fruits dogs can eat.

Dogs lick feet to show respect

There is a theory that dogs lick their owners’ feet as a sign of respect and as a way of acknowledging their status within your family or pack. Lower members of the pack show their submission through feet licking, and to them, it is completely normal behavior.

Licking feet because they taste good

We believe that sweaty feet are a disgusting thing, and that is a good thing. There is nothing worse than entering a room that smells like stale feet. Your dog has a completely different opinion on that.

Our sweaty feet are tasty to them because salt attracts them, and they love the salty taste of sweaty feet. Plus, dogs can smell and taste at the same time, so licking and smelling our feet gives them a bunch of information about us. We even release pheromones through our feet, and our dogs love those.

dog licking his face

Is licking a problem?

Usually, your dog occasionally licking you is nothing to worry about. It is a way of bonding, and more often than not, it is a sign of affection. However, as a dog owner, you should know how to spot problematic behavior and put an end to it.

If you are worried about your dog’s behavior, ask your vet or a dog trainer about your pet’s behavior, and ask for advice on stopping excessive licking. It could be a sign of behavioral problems that could be solved through training and socialization. If the licking continues, it can cause your dog secondary problems in the form of bacterial or yeast infection.

New to dog ownership? Check out these socialization tips and tricks.

dog giving a kiss

If you allow excessive licking to go on for too long, your dog will most likely develop one of these two problems that could only be taken care of by the vet’s intervention. You will have to apply antibiotics to your dog’s paws or skin, and you might have to change their diet.

Now you know everything you need to know about why dogs lick, and you will know how to react or spot problematic behavior.