Why Do Dogs Lick? 3 Interesting Reasons You Might Not Know…

Lick Attitude on Your Pet Dog and How to Understand It FurtherDogs – they are our best friends, they are our family, they make our lives whole.

When we share our lives with dogs, we tend to learn a lot about them. Not just about our own pups, but dogs in general. We learn that dogs like to explore the world with their noses. We learn that dogs show unconditional love towards their people. We also learn that dogs like to lick. A dogs tongue reminds me a lot of their noses. To me, it seems they like to explore the world with their tongues almost as much as they do with their nose.

So, why do dogs lick?

This is a question many of you might find yourselves asking. I wondered myself, which brought on the idea for this article. I mean, we know in general a dog will lick to taste things. That’s the obvious. But is there more to it?

Lets find out…

We all typically notice a dog will lick the floor if food spills, lick our faces, and some dogs even seem to have a foot fetish. My one pup Lexus is obsessed with licking feet! But why?

  • When a dog licks the floor, we can assume that food has been spilled.
  • If your dog licks the couch cushions, again, we can assume there are food particles there.
  • When a dog licks your face, this could be a number of things – such as showing us affection, they could be attempting to groom us, or they could simply like the salty taste of our skin.
  • If your dog licks your feet, we can assume they must like the taste, as gross as that sounds.

All of this sounds pretty straight forward, and rather obvious am I right?

Lets get a little deeper. The reasons I listed above are only scratching the surface as to why a dog licks. The truth is, there can potentially be much more to it than we think.

If your dog has ever had a wound, you will have noticed him licking it. While we may find that odd, the reason they do this is because a dogs saliva contains enzymes which kill bacteria. Our pups lick their wounds to help the healing process. Although this has to be monitored, as some dogs can get out of control and lick their wounds constantly, thus reopening the area.

Your dog may also lick out of comfort. Believe it or not, some dogs are extremely comforted when they lick objects or even humans. It can provide them with the same feeling human children would get from snuggling with their mother.

Licking can even take a disturbing turn as we get into compulsive behavior. Yep, it’s true. There are many dogs out there who quickly turn into compulsive lickers. While that may sound silly, it can actually lead to self destruction, and is often a sign that your dog has anxiety.

Does your dog show signs of compulsive licking?

Does he/she tend to lick one area for a long duration of time?

During a stressful situation, have you noticed your dog finds comfort in licking themselves, or an area of the house?

These can all be signs of compulsive licking. There are some things you can do to help.

  1. Redirect the behavior - when you notice your dog licking one single area for far too long, take him/her for a walk, or introduce a toy or treat to redirect their attention.
  2. Compulsive licking can sometimes mean your dog may not be getting enough exercise. In this situation, extra exercise can help deter the licking behaviors.
  3. Water therapy can be a great tool for anxious dogs.

Above all else, if you notice your dog has an abnormal licking habit, seek answers from your veterinarian. Before anything, medical and neurological reasons need to be ruled out. Also keep in mind that licking is perfectly normal for all dogs. When it becomes compulsive – that is when you need to find a solution.

What is your dogs favorite thing to lick? Please share your comments with us!

jenna drady headshotJenna Drady

Jenna Drady  is the author and creator of ownedbyahusky.ca. She is a mother of two beautiful daughters and 3 Siberian Huskies. Being a husky mom for a long duration of her life, Jenna was inspired to begin writing about them. In doing so, she began doing massive research on dog behavior, and all things dog in general. Jenna is inspired every day by her family, and loves to bring her readers valuable information as well as a little humor too! Jenna has created her own business partnered with her lovely mother while blogging called Pawz N Clawz Jewelry N Things. They currently sell handmade jewelry with added pet charms, as well as a few dog toys too!  As an animal rights activist, and huge believer in helping pets who have been stuck in shelters, they donate a portion of their sales to local shelters throughout Canada.

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38 Responses to Why Do Dogs Lick? 3 Interesting Reasons You Might Not Know…

  1. Sometimes my chihuahua mix Matilda attacks me with relentless face lickies for no reason at all, it’s just hilarious. I think she does it when she wants my attention!

    What’s water therapy?

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Oh definitely an attention grabber as well!! Haha!
      Water therapy is an amazing thing truly! Can be used for things like arthritis in dogs all the way to helping an anxious dog.

  2. Heather says:

    I love this post! When I was working as a dog groomer, there was a dog who would visit regularly who would compulsively lick the air, regardless of whether or not there was a target. This gives me a lot to consider when thinking about his behavior.

    • Jenna Drady says:

      I’m glad I could share some incite with you. It’s sunny because I have known people who get pretty angry with their dogs because of compulsive licking meanwhile it is a sign of underlying medical issues!

  3. As a veterinary technician and a blogger, I am asked all the time about dogs who can’t control their licker. This post is a fantastic overview. I think I’ll direct people to this if they have questions because it explains things so clearly and succinctly! You rock!

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Wow, thanks so much! I really appreciate your comment Bernard!! :D Please do direct people here, as I think it is super important for people to know and understand what is really behind their dogs licking habits.

  4. MattieDog says:

    Dis is a great overview and worth sharing a lot! Us dogs – sometimes we jus want attention, so we give humans a *smooch* and sometimes there’s something way more serious underfoot (paw)…most of the times it’s in-between. Your research is great – thanks for sharing!

  5. Great, informative post. It’s funny how some dogs lick, and a handful don’t! I hate to be denied kisses! Thanks for the interesting info.

  6. I am a horribly compulsive licker, my paws mostly, because of allergies. But I also love to give mom kisses because I love her! Love Dolly Pees: If licking a wound is good for it why do we have to wear the stupid cone?

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Hi Dolly, that’s too bad about your allergies! When a dog licks a small wound, it does have some healing power, however the reason for cones is due to the fact that some dogs just overdo it. As mentioned in the article, when a dog continuously licks their wound, it can work against them, as it tends to just keep re-opening. Which of course will not help healing whatsoever.

  7. Cathy Armato says:

    Such an interesting post about licking. My Husky licks her paw when she gets anxious or stressed out by something. I try to redirect her w/ a chew toy. I also spritz a little bitter apple around the area (Not directly on it if she’s lick it raw) to deter her from licking
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  8. Kilo loves to lick my face. He puts his little paws around my neck and gives pug hugs and kisses, plus occasional overly enthusiastic nips. I think he likes the taste and smell, especially if I have eaten PB. But I also think he is showing affection. I rub his back and neck and he looks so happy. He occasionally chews and sucks compulsively- it really relaxes him. X Susie

  9. Robin says:

    Very interesting! Isn’t it great that nature has set in place ways for dogs to care for their own wounds? Things like that always amaze me.

  10. Gambler is a licker, it was fun to read this.

  11. Beth says:

    Great information!

  12. Great article! Cats’ lick for similar reasons I believe. One of my girls is a licker, she’ll often lick my hand when I stroke her, and when she was a kitten she’d sit behind me on the sofa and lick my hair after I’d washed it, purring contently at the same time.

  13. great article! Poppy used to groom the cat, but after he passed away she really misses that comfort licking. I will let her lick my arm for a minute or so and then tell her to stop. It seems to comfort her without getting too obsessive!

  14. Great info ,thanks so much :) Odin used to lick his feet till I started him on goats milk for spring allergies , now all better :) but of course I get a lick /kiss whenever I want one or when I lay on the floor :)
    Doggie kisses :)

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Goats milk, I love it! Well I don’t love it, I mean I love the concept. I have gave my huskies goats milk before but not for anything allergy related. I love my pup kisses! :D :D

  15. I’ve always had dogs lick my face and I’ve never minded it. My mom has a dog that tends to lick a lot and we think it’s allergies.

    Truffle (my cat) will lick my hands.

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Oh for sure! Life wouldn’t be the same without dog kisses!!! Every morning, that’s what I wake up to! :D
      Allergies is definitely another cause for excessive licking.

  16. Jen Gabbard says:

    Wonderful tips; figuring out why they lick can be a bit of a challenge considering there are so many possible reasons for it.

  17. MyDoglikes says:

    Harley can be a bit of a compulsive licker. At times I notice him licking the carpet or the couch and usually a quick redirection or giving him a toy helps. It can also be a sign that its time to go for a walk and get some exercise.

  18. My corgi, Jon Farleigh, doesn’t lick anything but human faces. Especially mine. Because I LOVE his kisses! mwahahahaha! (OK, I got a little carried away there. I DO love his sweet kisses, but not in a weird way. He’s just cuter than a koala, that’s all.) :)

  19. Great post Jenna! Very informative!

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