Have you ever wondered what’s going through your pup’s mind when they plant a huge sloppy lick on you? We certainly have.
So why do dogs lick your face? It’s a simple question, but there are quite a few answers to it.
Much like a human hug or touch, a dog’s lick actually communicates a few different things.
You might be wondering how to stop your dog engaging in this behavior, especially if it’s coming across more as a compulsion than anything else. Plus some people (understandably!) aren’t too keen on their faces being covered in dog drool.
Here’s all the information you need to unlock the mystery of licking and what you can do about this behavior if you would like to avoid it.
What Does it Mean When a Dog Licks Your Face?
They Are Grooming You
Dogs often groom their packmates as a sign of care and affection.
If your dog is licking you, they may also be cleaning and looking after you. After all, they see their human family as part of their pack, and they might think you need a good clean!
Because They Like You
When dogs are puppies, their mother will lick them to care and show affection for them.
Mothers and littermates will lick each other to strengthen their familial bond.
When your dog licks your face, they may be trying to communicate that they care about you and feel as if you are a part of their family or pack.
Respect and Submission
Like wolves in the wild, dogs adhere to the rules of their pack.
Your dog may be trying to communicate that they consider you to be the leader of their pack. Though many people think of dog/wolf packs as animals fighting and vying for dominance, there is generally a lot of order and respect in canine packs.
If your dog lowers their body as they lick you, they may be trying to show that they respect you as the alpha of your family pack.
They Think You Taste Good
Since humans’ sweat contains salt, you may actually seem kind of tasty to your dog.
It’s a sort of strange thing to think about, and while they definitely aren’t thinking you are on the menu, they may enjoy the flavor of your skin.
They Are Trying To Figure You Out
In addition to their other senses, dogs also use their tongues and nose to figure things out.
They can use the information they gather from licking to decipher out what you’re feeling. Your dog could be worried about you if they are giving you some “kisses.”
Self-Calm and Enjoyment
For some dogs, it helps them calm down when they lick something.
Licking can cause dogs to release endorphins, so they may use it as a way to self-soothe or just for the sheer enjoyment of the act of licking.
Some dogs also use licking as a way to calm their nerves, even if they are licking inanimate objects and not just you. As long as the licking is not excessive, it should be safe for your pet.
Reasons to Discourage Licking
For most people, getting a sloppy doggy kiss on other parts of your body isn’t really a problem. Your face may be a different issue though, since dog’s saliva can contain this like zoonotic pathogens or E. coli, as well as other bacteria that is harmful to humans.
If your immune system is weakened or compromised in some way, you may want to avoid sharing this sort of affection with your dog.
This equally applies to young children — it’s best to stop your dog before they plant a huge kiss on your newborn baby!
Generally the risk is low, but sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.
Plus, if you suspect that your dog is licking you too much — you may want to tone down their compulsive behavior and try to set some boundaries between you.
How to Stop Your Dog’s Licking
Since licking is often a way that your dog can seek attention from you or show attention to you, disconnecting that attention loop is the first step to stop licking behaviors.
If your dog starts to lick you, do not show them the attention or affection you usually do in response to this.
If you have some sort of cue or phrase that causes your dog to lick you, avoid it. This may be enough to stop the behavior, since the dog is no longer getting any cues or encouragements from you that their behavior is the right course of action.
You can also turn or walk away from your dog if they persist. If you repeat this behavior, your dog may get the hint that you no longer want to be licked.
If that doesn’t work and your dog just doesn’t seem to be picking up your cues, you can also say “No!” in an authoritative tone and then leave in a more dramatic fashion. Do not engage your dog for a few minutes after you have done this.
You may have to repeat these changed behaviors several times before your dog understands that licking is no longer acceptable, but if you are consistent, they are likely to take the hint.
Here’s a handy video tutorial on how to train your dog to stop excessive licking:
All in all, a dog licking your face is likely their way of showing that they care for you — not trying to annoy you. Try to remember that the next time your furry friend tries to plant on a wet one.
What do you think — why do dogs lick your face?