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Why Do Dogs Lick? Your Pup’s Wet Kisses Defined

A signature characteristic dogs are known for is their long, slobbery tongue. But, there’s more to a dog’s licker than just lapping up water and tasting kibble. Dogs lick for all sorts of interesting reasons. Read on to find out what your dog’s licking means, and just how much licking is too much.

Sensing the World
Dogs lick as just another way to get to know their surroundings. The same way they use their sense of smell as a way of getting information, dogs also use taste to learn a bit more about the world around them. They might lick your face to get a taste of your salty skin, or they might find the taste of your lotion delicious after you hop out of the shower. While it might seem strange to us at first, licking is a natural way for our curious canines to explore their environment.

Natural Instinct
Both in the wild and in domesticated dogs, mother dogs will lick their babies right at birth. They lick to clean their puppies as well as to stimulate them to breathe and move. Newborn puppies will also lick their mother’s mouth as a sign of respect for the mother’s dominance. Puppies might lick their human superiors to show submissiveness. From an early age, licking plays an important role in a pup’s life.

Affection and Attention
Why else might dogs lick us? Because they love us, of course! Dogs lick their owners as a sign of affection, and because they get something in return by releasing feel-good endorphins in the process. And by showing affection, they know that they will get your attention in return. After all, you’re likely to reward your pup’s kisses with a loving caress, some friendly words or maybe even a treat. The gesture of licking can express an abundance of love.

Medical or Behavioral Issues
While you might see your pup’s licking as a cute way to say hello, too much or obsessive licking can point to an underlying problem. If your dog licks an object such as a piece of furniture repeatedly, it could point to an issue with anxiety or boredom. Dogs that compulsively lick their paws might be suffering from allergy itchiness. You should consult with a veterinarian if you notice your dog displaying these types of excessive licking.

When the Kisses Become Too Much
A few welcome-home licks are perfectly harmless, but if your dog’s licking becomes so excessive that it bothers you or your guests, there are things you can do to stop the behavior. Plus, considering where else your dog’s mouth has been, you might want to discourage your pup from licking your face. If your dog’s licking is mostly attention-seeking rather than indicative of an underlying issue, you can lessen the behavior by choosing not to reward your pup’s licking with praise or touch. Instead, leave the room for a few minutes each time the behavior occurs, and your dog will get the hint that licking does not equal something good in return.

Some dogs are huge lickers, while others reserve the lapping for their food and drink. What kind of licker is your dog?