Doggie behavior doesn't directly mirror that of human beings, even if it seems to parallel it. Although an enthusiastic licking session from your pooch might seem sweet and kiss-like, its meaning isn't always necessarily the same or even close. Your cuddly canine licking you can often even indicate obedience and reverence.
Licking courtesy of dogs can indeed be a tender act. It is especially common if your dog hasn't seen you for a while, whether that "while" is a couple of hours or a couple of weeks. Your dog licking your face or hand can be as simple as that he is bursting with excitement about seeing you, and can't contain it. Canine licking also can point to the desire for your love, in turn. Your dog works hard for your approbation, and licking is his way of conveying that to you.
One extremely common reason that dogs lick people is modesty. Dogs are naturally accustomed to the social systems of packs. In these pack units, the alpha dogs run the show and the beta and omega dogs peacefully accept how things are. If your dog considers you to be his leader, he might communicate that to you by licking the lower half of your face, or the human version of the canine "muzzle." Muzzle licking in the canine world means something similar to "I appreciate and acknowledge your leadership. I go meekly in front of you." If you ever notice a dog licking another pooch's muzzle, it is similarly a display of the utmost respect.
If you're minding your business only to feel your pet's wet tongue slathering your arm out of nowhere, then it might be his way if requesting your fixed attention. When dogs are wee puppies, they lick their mother dog's mouth as a way of requesting food time. Your pooch could just be doing the same thing with you, whether it's play or dinner he's soliciting.
Your dog licking you could also be his way of pacifying himself amid periods of strain, nervousness and uncertainty -- a type of displacement behavior along the lines of tail chasing and immoderate barking. Many people turn to nervous behaviors as a means of calming down and cooling off in disagreeable, pressure-packed situations, and dogs aren't too different in this respect.
In some cases, dog licking can point to health issues, especially if it's focused not only on people, but also on random objects and furnishings throughout the home. Some canines resort to licking as a way of managing physical discomfort and pain, often due to dental woes or tummy distress. If you have an inkling that your dog's licking could be a way of handling these kinds of problems, call the veterinarian to schedule a checkup as soon as possible.