This blog is written with the expertise and aid of Bryony Cole, a dog behaviour expert and a leading UK dog trainer. Founder of EYE2EYE Dogs and a Beco Ambassador.
As you open the front door, you’re welcomed with open arms by your dog, covered in kisses and a whole load of saliva. It’s a wild exchange, but you’re used to it – it’s what getting home is all about.
As you wipe the slobber from your face, it’s not unusual to ask the question: why does my dog lick me? Following on from #TongueOutTuesday, we thought it’d be a good idea to explain why our dogs love to lick.
Above all else, dogs use licking as a way to communicate. Because dogs can’t talk, they find other ways to let us know how they’re feeling. Just like barking, it’s their own special way of talking – and boy do they make up for it. In a recent Beco social media poll, we discovered that a whopping 88% of you said yes, when asked if your dog licks you.
Why does my dog lick me?
There are plenty of reasons why dogs choose to lick us, but to make things simple, we need to ‘go wild’ for some answers. Wolves are dogs’ ancient ancestors, and they share many similar traits. If you look at a young wolf in its natural habitat, it will lick around its mother’s face to request food, interact and demonstrate submission to an older animal. Sound familiar?
With this in mind, here’s why your dog loves to lick you.
It’s important to remember that alongside feeding time, you are the most important thing in your dog’s life. They love you, and they love to be loved. In fact, 83% of you chose affection as the main reason behind dogs’ tendencies to lick.
It’s also worth mentioning that when dogs lick, pleasurable endorphins are released into their blood. This makes them feel calm and comfortable. It’s likely they experienced this same feeling of warmth when they were pups with their mother. Along with affection for their owners, it’s a nostalgic feeling for dogs.
Like we said, dogs love attention; if they’re not getting any, they’ll lick until they do. They may be hungry and ready for feeding time, gently telling you they need a quick trip to the bathroom, or perhaps there’s no reason at all.
If a dog does lick you when they’re hungry, and you duly respond, it’s likely you’ve become subconsciously accustomed to feeding them after a big sloppy kiss – a role reversal of Pavlov’s dog.
Just as dogs do with their mothers, and similarly to wolves in the wild, licking around their owners’ mouths is a sign of submission. It’s them telling us they mean no harm, and in many cases, letting us know that they’re superior in that situation.
Dogs have a far superior smell to us mere humans. The reason for their licking may be down to simply giving us a clean. They might sniff out some dirt on our skin that we’ve missed when washing – another reason why dogs really are the best.
The truth is, there’s no real definitive answer for why our dogs love licking us. Each dog is different, so they’ll lick away for different reasons. More often than not, they’ll lick for more than one. Now you know why you’re a victim to bucket loads of dog slobber, the question is: do you like it?
In our social media poll, 81% said they loved it, while 19% went for yuck. While the majority of people like, or don’t mind, our dogs licking us, it can often be the last thing you need.
How do I stop my dog licking me?
We asked Beco ambassador and leading UK dog trainer, Bryony Cole from Eye2Eye Training, to share her expert advice on how to stop your dog from licking you.
“Stopping interacting with your dog is probably one of the most effective ways to communicate to them that you would rather not be licked. The moment your dog starts to lick you, remove yourself from the dog's reach for a few seconds until the behaviour has stopped, then start interacting with your dog again. It'll most likely take a few repetitions of removing yourself from your dog for them to understand that licking is the undesirable behaviour”, says Bryony.
Make sure you don’t punish your dog. They are simply expressing their love for you! If your dog offers you interaction without the usual licking, be sure to praise and make a fuss of them to let them know that's what you want.”
Fantastic advice as usual from Bryony. Another option is to occupy your dog with something else. In this case, toys are a great bet. Next time you see their tongue heading your way, throw them a sustainable dog toy for – endless hours of fun, and some much needed peace and quiet on your behalf.
If none of this works, then taking them for a walk is a great way to halt the slobber. But if it comes to this, you’ve likely already given in to the lick. There’s no shame in that.