What Does a Dog's Licking Really Mean?

by Melodie Anne Coffman Google
    Sneaking a kiss is sometimes just a sign of affection.

    Sneaking a kiss is sometimes just a sign of affection.

    Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Some dogs are notorious lickers, licking everything in sight; others may just sneak you an occasional kiss. Licking can stem from all kinds of emotions -- from happiness to fear. It's generally harmless, you might want to bring it up at your pup’s next checkup. Behavioral issues, like severe anxiety, could require some additional help from your vet.

    You Taste Good

    If you’ve ever had an urge for French fries or potato chips, you know how satisfying it can be to fulfill a salt craving. Your skin has a natural salty taste, and the more you sweat the saltier you get. When Buster curls up next to you and starts licking your arm obsessively, he’s just enjoying the savory flavor of your skin. He’ll lick you clean until all of that salty residue is gone.

    Feeling Happy

    Licking was the very first sight of comfort your pooch remembers. His mama used to lick him from head to toe until he drifted off into a doggy wonderland. So naturally, licking reminds him of something happy and releases pleasure hormones called endorphins. Take the licking as a sign of affection. He’s feeling happy and wants you to feel the same way.

    Being Dominant

    Dogs naturally have a social order in the group, so someone has to be the leader. Buster’s licking could be tied to dominance -- he’s trying to make it clear that he is the head honcho in the bunch. If he jumps up on you and tries to lick your face, turn around and ignore him. He’s just aiming to get up as high as possible on you so he feels like the top dog.

    Showing Anxiety

    Obsessive licking is sometimes linked to anxiety. If your furry pal licks everything in sight -- furniture, toys, everyone who comes over and even the air -- he might be stressed. Spend quality time with him and take him out for at least a couple walks each day. The exercise can soothe him and can even burn off some of the added stress from your workday. When you’re away from home or too busy to walk, make sure Buster has plenty of toys to play with; rotate them frequently so the dog doesn't get bored with them all. If he’s food-motivated, get him a treat ball and shove his kibble in there instead of pouring it in a bowl. He’ll focus on working for his entrée instead of whatever was stressing him.

    Photo Credits

    • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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