Why Do Dogs Lick? [Infographic]

If you ever wondered: Why do dogs lick people? Why do dogs lick their paws? Then sit back, you are in the right place.

If you ever wondered: “Why do dogs lick people?” or “Why is my dog licking himself?” Then sit back, you are in the right place.

While it is true that dogs’ licking is their way of kissing, it can also indicate plenty of other things. For example your dog might be licking himself excessively which could mean that he is having some health issues, or he can start licking everything around him, meaning that he might be having some behavioral problems.

Although licking usually isn’t something dog owners should worry about, there are cases when this behavior can actually tell you more about what your pup is experiencing. Let’s run quickly through some common questions about dogs licking and then we’ll continue to the infographic and 10 most common reasons why dogs lick!

Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Dogs lick people to show affection. Licking is a dog’s way of kissing, but dogs also lick when they’re seeking attention. People tend to react positively to licking, so when a pup licks his owner more often, it can mean that he just wants more attention. The salty taste of human skin may also incline dogs into licking us!

Why Is My Dog Licking Himself?

A normal amount of licking is the way dogs groom, clean and relax themselves. But when the licking gets excessive and frequent, it might indicate certain medical or behavioral issues. For instance, your dog could be licking his paws or parts because he’s feeling pain, has an allergy or an irritation. Excessive grooming can also be a sign of boredom.

Why Is My Dog Licking Furniture?

Defining why dogs lick everything that comes near them (furniture and carpets included) is very difficult. It probably lays in a behavioral problem that should be approached properly. It is not a good habit, because by collecting a large amount of dust and hair while licking, this behavior could potentially harm your dog’s health.

However, observing your dog’s behavior will provide you with enough information that your vet will easily understand. But now, let’s find out what are the most common reasons why dogs lick!

why do dogs lick infographic by barkingroyalty

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Here are more in depth explanations from the infographic:

1. A Mood Statement

Basically, you could tell much about your dog by only observing its rituals. Know your dog by its habits.

Every dog licks, but the way it’s doing it tells you a lot about its mood. If your pet is wagging its tail and approaches you happily to lick you, that’s excellent; but sitting in a corner and licking itself constantly might be something to worry about.

This way you’ll always know how your pet is feeling and whether it’s content or not. With everything we’ve previously mentioned, you’ll probably get to know your pet better now.

2. Pointing Out the Problem

A dog licking itself too much might be an alert.

We’ve already mentioned how a dog that spends too much time licking itself might be nervous or in a bad condition, which is why you should pay attention to your pet’s habits. Licking could be a way of saying how it’s feeling lonely and unhappy, which could happen if you’re not spending enough time at home. If you are busy, consider breeds that tolerate being left alone.

It could also be a sign of skin issue your pet has which you’re not aware of. So, we bring the conclusion once again – there’s nothing bad with your pet licking itself until it starts happening too often.

3. Showing Their Submission

Dog will lick another dog in order to surrender itself.

This shouldn’t be taken as something bad – young dogs would often run to the older ones and lick their face. It’s also happening between small and big dogs.

That is a way of showing submission, but also an open invitation to play. It’s something like starting a conversation with someone older in the human world, but with much of respect.

This fact only shows us that dogs are actually extremely nice creatures that aren’t intrusive and that know how to behave in most cases.

4. Expressing Love

Licking is dogs’ way of kissing!

We’ve mentioned numerous reasons why dogs are licking us and each other, but mostly, they’re doing it in order to show us their affection.

So next time your dog licks you or another dog with some sort of smile on its face, you’ll know what it’s all about. Especially if you’re sleeping with your dog and it wakes you up – is there a better way of wishing someone a good morning?

However, you shouldn’t let your dog lick your lips or eyes – even though their spit could be helpful to them, it could cause problems to us.

5. A Stress Reliever

Licking is a dog’s way of relieving stress.

The same way some people bite their nails or lips, dogs lick themselves when they’re nervous. You should definitely pay attention if you see that your dog is constantly licking itself – it could be a sign of their bad inside condition.

This is one of the few examples of why dogs licking themselves isn’t always a positive sign, so you should definitely be careful if your dog exaggerates with it. But don’t worry, this is something you’ve already known – everything’s bad if it happens too often.

“Licking releases pleasurable endorphins which gives dogs a feeling of comfort and pleasure — like the feeling people get when they are biting their nails — it relieves stress”, explained Victoria Stilwell in an article for Animal Planet.

6. Tasting Nice

Dogs lick everything that smells nice or strong.

We know that dogs are highly sensitive when it comes to smells and that they’ll check everything that has a strong smell. You’re probably sometimes confused when a dog starts to lick your feet, but it’s probably attracted to it.

Also, dogs would lick your skin if you have a strong sense on it, especially after eating something with your fingers which you know they can’t resist.

We’ve all been through situations when our dogs go crazy after eating stuff like bacon or any other meat. Or maybe eating lemon? 🙂

7. Marking What’s Theirs

Dog’s spit is also great for marking territory.

We know that dogs have their own ways of marking a pillar on the pavement (we’re talking about urine), but when it comes to licking, it’s also their way to connect with each other.

This “technique” is mostly used by a mother-dog which licks her little puppies, and vice versa. You could probably notice that dogs aren’t exactly great fans of other dogs approaching their bowls or toys, which is another proof of spit as a marker.

8. A Way of Communication

Dog’s spit also works when it comes to sending a message.

One of the main reasons dogs lick each other is to communicate, especially when it comes to mothers and their offspring. In that way, mother dogs are telling their puppies how to behave and to calm down when they get too annoying.

Of course, it’s not the only reason for why they’re doing it; it could also be helpful in communication between two dogs that don’t know each other.

Unfortunately, dogs are also trying to lick us in order to tell us something, but we’re not quite capable of understanding it.

9. Hair Styling

Believe it or not, dogs, also want to look nice in front of the other dogs.

Not literally, of course, but licking is their way of preparing themselves for another day or cleaning up at the end of one. Dogs’ way of cleaning and grooming their hair is licking it – it’s basically the same as us washing our teeth every morning.

This means you shouldn’t be worried about your pet’s everyday rituals that concern licking their hair. They’re also intensifying their smell by doing it, so it gets easier for females to attract males when they’re in the mating season.

10. Medicine for Wounds

Dog’s spit has enzymes that kill bacteria found in the skin.

This means that dogs have a way of self-healing the wounds they get. Of course, we’re talking about small ones which are not harmful or deep. However, dogs can reopen their wounds by overlicking them, so pay attention when you see it doing that – it might get dangerous.

So, if your dog gets a cut which you find harmful, take it to the vet, who could definitely tell a better diagnose for all of its problems instead of you or your pet – it’s always better to be careful when it comes to your pet’s health, instead of letting it solve the problem on its own.