What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks You? – 9 Common Reasons

what does it mean when a dog licks you

What does it mean when a dog licks you?

If you’ve ever found yourself on the receiving end of a slobbery canine kiss, you might have wondered about the meaning behind this seemingly affectionate gesture.

Dogs use licking as a form of communication, and while it’s often associated with showing love, there’s more to it than meets the eye – or rather, the tongue.

From conveying emotions to displaying social hierarchy, a dog’s lick can carry a multitude of messages that provide insights into their thoughts and feelings.

So, let’s delve into the fascinating world of dog behavior and decode the various reasons behind their affectionate licks.

9 Reasons Why Dogs Lick People

Does your dog’s licking ever leave you wondering, “What does it mean when a dog licks you?”

Dogs are known for their quirky behaviors, and one of the most common is their penchant for licking.

Whether it’s a quick swipe or a full-on slobbery smooch, dog licking is a communication tool that has intrigued dog owners for ages.

From puppies to adult dogs, domesticated pets to wild canines, licking holds various meanings that extend beyond just cleaning themselves.

1. Why Dogs Lick People

Have you ever wondered what it means when a dog licks people? For many dog owners, the first lick from their furry friend is a heartwarming moment.

Most dog owners interpret this gesture to show affection and get your attention, and a way for their pups to strengthen the bond between them.

Licking releases endorphins in dogs, providing them with a sense of comfort and pleasure, much like a comforting hug does for humans. Dog lick could even mean that he has anxiety or OCD

2. A Multifaceted Communication Tool

Dogs lick for a multitude of reasons, often serving as a versatile mode of communication.

Among puppies, licking behavior is reminiscent of their time with the mother, who would clean them and stimulate them to relieve themselves.

Wild dogs, too, use licking to establish social bonds and convey submission. This behavior persists into adulthood, where it’s not uncommon for dogs to greet their human companions with a welcoming lick.

3. Taste and Exploration

Dogs experience the world through their senses, and licking is one way they explore their environment.

Just as humans use their hands to touch and feel, dogs use their tongues to taste and gather information about objects and people.

If your dog gives you an enthusiastic lick, they might be trying to understand your scent, taste, and even your emotions.

4. Social Hierarchy and Submission

In the wild, where packs of dogs have established hierarchies, licking is a way to show submission and maintain social order.

Puppies often lick the faces of older dogs to display their submission, and older dogs might reciprocate to assert their dominance.

This instinctual behavior occasionally carries over to domesticated dogs, where a lick can be a sign of respect and submission.

5. Health and Grooming

Dogs are inherently clean animals, and licking is a part of their grooming routine. It’s not uncommon for a dog to lick themselves to keep their fur clean and free of debris.

Moreover, a mother dog’s licking of her puppies serves not only to clean them but also to stimulate bodily functions like digestion and elimination.

So, if your dog gives you a gentle lick, it might just be their way of keeping you tidy!

6. Licking for Taste and Curiosity

Dogs are known for their adventurous palates, and licking is one way they satisfy their curiosity. Just as a toddler puts everything in their mouth, dogs use their tongues to explore the world.

The interesting taste and scent of your skin, combined with the unique flavors you might bring home from different places, intrigue them. It’s their way of understanding their surroundings better.

So, when your dog gives you an affectionate lick, remember that they’re not only expressing their love but also indulging in their fascination for new experiences.

7. A Grooming Gesture among Pack Members

In the wild and even in a domestic setting, dogs are social creatures that live in packs, whether human or canine.

Licking among pack members serves a grooming purpose, as dogs groom each other to strengthen social bonds and maintain hygiene.

It’s not unusual for young dogs to mimic this behavior by licking their older companions or even their human family members.

This shared grooming ritual is a testament to the strong bonds that exist within a pack.

8. Addressing Excessive Licking

While occasional licking is normal, excessive licking can raise concerns. Many dog owners become worried when their furry companions can’t seem to stop licking themselves or their owners.

Licking can indicate discomfort, anxiety, or even a medical issue. If your dog’s licking behavior becomes obsessive or compulsive, it’s best to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying problems.

9. When Licking Becomes a Concern: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

While most dog licking is normal and healthy, it’s crucial for dog owners to be vigilant about any changes in behavior.

Excessive licking, particularly of themselves, can be a sign of an underlying issue, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

This behavioral disorder might manifest as repetitive, uncontrollable licking that goes beyond typical grooming.

You might notice your dog not only licking you but himself as well. Sometimes your dog might lick their paws excessively.

If you notice your dog excessively licking their paws, legs, or other areas, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian. Identifying and addressing such issues promptly can ensure your furry friend’s well-being and happiness.


In the dog world, licking is like a special language that tells us a lot. It shows how dogs feel, what they’re thinking, and how they connect with us.

Whether they’re showing love or checking out new things, licking is a way dogs talk to us. It’s a bit like a hug from them!

When puppies copy their mom’s cleaning or dogs give us a sloppy kiss, they’re sharing their feelings.

Understanding these messages makes our friendship with dogs even stronger. So, when your dog licks you, remember, it’s their unique way of saying, “I care about you!”

Read more to find out why your dog loves to lick you here.

FAQs on What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks You

Why do dogs lick people?

Dogs lick people to show affection, bond, and explore. It’s a way they say “I like you” and learn about their surroundings.

Can you get sick from a dog licking you?

Generally, dog licking is safe, but some bacteria can be transmitted. Wash your hands after, especially if you have a weakened immune system.

How do I stop my dog’s excessive licking?

Excessive licking can signal discomfort or stress. Consult a vet to rule out health issues. Training and providing distractions can also help.

Is it okay to let my dog lick my face?

While some germs are transferred, it’s usually harmless. Still, be cautious if your immune system is compromised, and teach boundaries to your dog.

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