Why Do Dogs Lick You & Lick Other People?

Why Do Dogs Lick You & Lick Other People?

There are a number of reasons dogs choose to lick people, and this is your guide to why dogs lick you or other people and how you can stop it, should you want to...

title card lick

Don’t you just love a good, slobbery kiss from your dog? Or how about the hot breath that comes with it? 

...maybe if it’s minty fresh, you may not mind at all ;) 

But why do dogs lick people? 

We can mostly chalk it up to the fact that dogs love to groom their humans. Grooming is a great way for your dog to bond with you and show their affection! However, there are may be reasons besidesgrooming that dogs choose to lick their owner or lick in general.

Why Do Dogs Lick Humans? 

Licking is a natural behavior that dogs inherit when they are born. Dog  moms lick their puppies to clean and take care of them., s part of their genealogy, their wolf ancestors used licking as a sign of affection and submission (albeit they licked inside each other’s mouths, so count yourself lucky that you’re getting it on the cheek!). 


article grooming

Naturally, dogs lick their fur, skin, and paws to clean themselves. This is their way of ensuring good health and keeping their coat clean. So that is exactly what they may be doing to you.

Grooming is a behavior dogs learn at an early age from their mother. A mother licks her pups to keep them clean and to take care of them. It also helps stimulate puppies to go potty, and stimulates puppies in general to help them assimilate to the sensations of their new world. 

The behavior itself is learned and carried forward to their kin, or in your case, their pup parent.

You May Taste Like Chicken 

Well, maybe you don’t literally taste like chicken, but you definitely taste good to your dog. 

We have a salty taste from our sweat that dogsfind intriguing. 

Something less obvious is that we carry food particles all over our bodies, on our hands, and around our mouths. We may not be able to see these crumb-sized particles, but your dog knows they are there because of their high-ranking sense of smell.

A Way To Say Hello 

article saying hello

Since dogs can’t form the word “hello” or “good morning,” they often barrel in for a lick. Maybe they just woke up and are happy to see you, dreaming about the excitement they’ll experience in the new day. Or maybe they are delighted that you returned home from a long day at work. 

Whatever the case may be, your dog could be giving you a lick to simply show they are happy to see you.

Seeking Your Attention 

Similar to greeting you with a lick, dogs may lick to tell you they need something. Licking you may be their best resort in communicating their needs to you.

It could be that they’ve learned they get attention from you when they lick you. Watch closely next time it happens. One lick is all it takes to get you to give your dog a tender stroke on the head, a much-needed belly rub, or your loving voice to acknowledge them.

On the other hand, your dog may be trying to tell you something. Since they can’t take their bowl to the kitchen sink and fill it themselves, maybe they are asking for water. Maybe they need you to open the door so that they can use the restroom outside. Whatever the need is, you’ll have to play detective here, though the more time you spend with your pup, the easier it becomes to pick up their cues and know what they want from a single lick. 

To Tend To Your Wound

Is your dog licking you in a particular area? Perhaps you have a cut or a wound within the vicinity of the lick? This is a common reason for dogs to lick because they want you to heal. 

When your dog licks a wound, it softens it, loosening and removing bacteria or dirt that may be surrounding it. This is beneficial as it prevents infection from setting in and boosts the process of healing, and it’s how they tend to their own wounds in the wild. 

article tend your wound

Dr. Doggo is just doing his rounds, but you’re better off bandaging up that cut and keeping it away from the bacteria in your pup’s mouth. 

To Show Their Affection 

Dogs are humankind’s best friends, so what better way to show affection than with a big, wet kiss? We are sure that they’d tell you they love you if they could speak the language, but since they can't, actions speak louder than words.

Dogs have strong senses. When they are concerned, they may come over to you to comfort or calm you. That’s when they’ll nudge you a little and give you that lick, letting you know they are checking in and that they are there for you.

Social Bonding

With love comes bonding. And with bonding comes licking. 

article social bonding

Plenty of animal species use licking to bond with one another. Social bonding specifically relates to binding ties or bonding with family, and guess what? You are a part of your dog’s pack, their family. When your dog gives you a lick, they may be working to strengthen your companionship. 

Did you know that licking releases oxytocin for both you and your dog? Oxytocin is known as the love hormone. It strengthens bonds between two people (or between a human and a dog). It also relieves stress, leaving both you and your dog happier at the end of the licking session.

Should I Let My Dog Lick Me?

The answer is up to you. A once in a while lick is rarely of no concern. 

That said, licking is not inherently a threat but you should gauge when it may be unsafe for your dog to lick you.

Do you know what is living in your dog’s mouth? People typically don’t get sick from their dog licking them, but in some rare cases, some people have contracted illnesses such as sepsis, hookworm, ringworm, and more. 

Remember, dogs use their nose and mouths to experience their surroundings. Their mouths nearly serve as our hands to interact with the environment. It wouldn’t be surprising if they passed through dirt, or worse, tasted another animal's feces. 

It can happen, so it’s best to save those kisses for when you’ve been inside for a while — we don’t recommend letting your pup give you a thank you kiss right after the dog park. 

How To Stop Your Dog From Licking You

Is the licking just too much for you? It’s okay to admit it. 

Some owners indulge in those wet kisses, and others are disgusted by it. If you are part of the latter group, here are some ways to deter your dog from licking you or your visitors.

Do Not Reward Your Dog’s Licking Behavior

Rewards don’t always come in the form of a scrumptious treat, so you may not be aware that you are rewarding them in the first place. Your dog may feel rewarded by you acknowledging the lick with a gentle pet or any type of vocal praise. 

Next time your dog comes in for the lick, politely look them in the eye and give them a firm “no” command, lightly pushing them away from you.

If you prefer a different training method, simply walk out of the room when your dog approaches you for your grooming session. Your dog wants to be with you, so it should click quickly that their licking behavior is the cause of you leaving them in the room.

Have a Back-Up Plan Ready

If you find that your dog is licking you to relieve stress or because you taste good, it’s best to have a backup plan ready to sway their needs. A good alternative is a toy or a tasty bone. When your dog swoops in to groom you, distract them with the toy or bone. If it has a better flavor than that of your skin, it’ll be a win-win situation for you and your dog.

Another option is to replace grooming with exercise. This works for dogs who choose to groom you to enhance social bonding. Take your dog for a walk or play ball in the backyard to avoid doggy breath and added saliva. It’s beneficial to you both as you’ll strengthen your relationship, reduce tension caused by stress, and burn calories in the process.

Dog Licks — We Love ‘Em

When dogs lick you, or other people, it is a form of instinctive grooming that is taught to them when they are born. It is a normal behavior that dog owners either embrace or frown upon. It’s used to strengthen relationships and provide a level of comfort. 

Looking to learn more about your pup? Check out more helpful articles at the Finn blog.


Why do dogs lick? | Blue Cross

Why does my dog lick me so much? | The Kennel Club

Why Does My Dog Groom Me? - (12 Reasons Explained) | Not a Bully



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