Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Dogs are practically licked into life. As soon as the little puppy comes out, the mother licks it frantically to clear the airways. With such a welcome, it may not be so strange that licking is an important part of a dog’s life. But why do they lick us, humans? There are different theories. Here are six possible explanations.

1. Communication

Dogs lick people to communicate. But the messages can vary: “Hello, what fun that you are home again!” or “Check out what a nice hole I chewed in the sofa cushion!”. Or maybe: “We belong together and I know it’s you who decides.”

2. Food time

In the animal world, when the mother has been out hunting for food, she often comes back to the cubs and vomits up what she has eaten, just half-digested to suit the little ones. Weaned puppies often lick their mother’s mouth when they are hungry. So when dogs lick us, humans, in the face, especially around the mouth, it may not be loving kisses it is about without a prompt: “I’m hungry, vomit something for me!”.

3. Exploration

Dogs use their tongues to explore the world. And it can just as easily be about getting to know a new person. Many who meet a dog for the first time have their hand examined by a curious nose and tongue.

4. Attention

People who are licked by a dog react differently. Some with disgust, with most with joy. Maybe by scratching the dog behind the ear. Licking thus has pleasant consequences. A good way to get started master or mistress sitting glued in front of the TV.
“I lick, so there I am.”

5. Lick the wounds

Dogs’ tongues are drawn to wounds. It has been known since ancient times that they licked their own and also human wounds. Until the Middle Ages, dogs were actually trained to lick wounds so that they would heal. If you feel bad on the dog walk, your dog shows great curiosity.

6. Affection and approval

The dog is lying next to you on the sofa and you scratch it a little behind the ear. Soon it may turn around to get itchy on your stomach as well or lift a leg for you to itch there. In response, it licks your hand or arm, as a way of saying, “We belong together and what you do is more than okay.” Maybe not a proof of love but well of satisfaction.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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