There is one thing for certain, dogs love to lick. They lick each other, lick themselves and lick you. You might be wondering why does my dog lick my face? For dogs, licking is a just one way they communicate. Dogs use their sense of smell and taste for communicating, self grooming as well as eating. Licking serves many purposes, more than we as humans understand.
In this article we explore the many theories of why dogs lick their owners face with the following topics;
Mothers and Pups.
Licking begins at the first moments of life, the mother dog licks her pups to stimulate blood circulation and encourage respiration. It is a natural instinctual thing the mother dog does to ensure her babies begin to breathe and will in a few minutes they will begin to feed and nurse on her.
If you have ever seen a mother dog give birth to a puppy that is still born, you will notice she will start licking them slowly at first and then more vigorously, trying to stimulate blood flow in an effort to bring the lifeless pup back to life.
A few hours after the birth the mother will then instinctively lick the puppies to encourage their bowel movements. Although we may feel uncomfortable to see this type of behavior, it serves an important purpose. The mother dog will also lick her puppies to clean them.
Puppies graduate to licking.
As puppies get older they will lick at their mother’s face in an effort to encourage regurgitation of partially digested food. This type of behavior is more frequently seen in wild dogs and wolf packs, but domestic dogs do it too. Some dogs may keep this behavior later in life and perhaps that’s why even older dogs have the irresistible urge to lick human faces.
If you have ever watched a mother dog and her pups as they get a little older, you will see as the puppies get more active her behavior will change. You might notice the mother dog getting annoyed with the pups, the pups respond by rolling over on their backs and lick their mother in a submissive way, showing her passive playfulness. Maybe they lick their owner’s face for this same purpose, to show submission to authority.
Stress and anxiety.
You might have noticed your dog getting close to you and licking at your hands if there is some reason to be fearful, a larger dog approaching, stormy weather or when in unfamiliar surroundings. Dogs also engage in licking behavior out of nervousness, stress or because of feelings of anxiety.
Licking may help to sooth the dog and relieve the anxiety. A dog may lick as a way to try to look for support from someone higher in their pack, which is just another way of saying family. If your dog is nervous or anxious, or fears that he has made you angry, he may try to lick around your face as a way to make up with you.
Attention seeking behavior.
Dogs can also lick people as a way of getting attention. Like other behaviors, licking can be learned and become a habit if you reinforce it. For example, if your dog licks you and you think it’s cute, you may laugh or pet your dog. This will encourage your dog to lick you again in the future because he’s getting positive attention (or any attention) for performing this behavior.
If your dog is very confident in his relationship with you and you allow this behavior, he may become very pushy and might try to lick your face whenever he feels like it. It can be difficult to break this habit once it gets started.
Some dogs can lick things compulsively. This licking is usually directed at their own grooming but it can also include things such as woodwork or furniture. In some cases it may also include the owner. Dogs may lick toes, feet, hands and faces in a compulsive way. You may need to talk to your veterinarian about medication to help with these compulsions and you will need to work on changing your dog’s behavior.
Final thoughts about dogs who lick.
Dogs may lick someone’s face for a lot of different reasons depending on the individual dog, his first few weeks of life, his socialization with other dogs and people and his training. If you want to train this type of behavior out of your dog, you will need to be consistent. You will need to discover what it is that motivates your dog to lick.
So, be totally honest and ask the questions, is he nervous? Is the licking a habit? Is he trying to get attention? Did I encourage this behavior? Once you know why your dog is licking you, then you can work on what to do about the behavior.