10 surprising reasons dogs lick people

Dogs are known for their undying loyalty and affection towards their human companions. One of the most common ways they express their love and communicate with us is through licking. While many people think that a dog’s lick is simply their way of giving a kiss, there are actually several surprising reasons behind this behavior that go beyond just showing affection.
People often wonder why their four-legged friends are so keen on licking them, and sometimes it’s not for the reasons one might expect. Understanding the motivations behind this licking can help improve the bond between humans and their canine buddies, as well as ensuring that we respond appropriately to their needs and desires. Let’s explore some surprising reasons behind why dogs might lick people.
1. To Show Submission
Licking can be a sign of respect and submission in the canine world. When a dog licks a person, it may be communicating that it sees the person as higher in the social hierarchy, effectively saying, “You are the boss.”
2. As a Greeting
Just as humans shake hands or hug when they meet, dogs might lick people as a friendly greeting to say hello. This behavior is often accompanied by tail wagging and excitement.
3. To Get Attention
Sometimes a dog will lick their owner to capture their attention. It can be a way to prompt you to engage with them, whether they want to play, go outside, or merely desire your love.
4. To Express Love
Of course, affection is one of the primary reasons dogs lick humans. Dogs have learned that licking is often received positively by people, and it is their way of showing love and strengthening the bond with their owners.
5. To Taste Something
Dogs experience the world through their senses, and taste is no exception. If you have remnants of food or an interesting scent on your skin, your dog might lick you to taste whatever they’re detecting.
6. As a Stress Reliever
Licking can be a self-soothing behavior for dogs. If they are feeling anxious or stressed, they may lick in an attempt to calm themselves down, just as some people bite their nails or fidget.
7. To Understand Your Scent
Dogs have a keen sense of smell, and by licking a person, they can learn a lot from the scent that is left on their tongue. It helps them understand where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing.
8. To Encourage Healing
In the wild, dogs lick their wounds to clean them and encourage healing. They may extend this nurturing behavior to their human companions by licking them where they detect an injury or weakness.
9. Because of a Learned Behavior
If a dog receives positive reinforcement from licking—such as petting or cooing—they are likely to repeat the behavior. Over time, licking can become a learned behavior, reinforced by the dog’s interactions with humans.
10. As an Evolutionary Trait
From their wolf ancestors, dogs may have inherited the behavior of licking adults’ mouths to encourage the regurgitation of food. Puppies do this to receive pre-digested food, and while domestic dogs don’t need such feeding, the behavior may persist as a remnant of their evolutionary past.
Understanding these reasons can help dog owners respond more knowledgeably to their pets’ licks, whether it’s rewarding the behavior with affection when appropriate or gently discouraging it when necessary. Remember, while licking is typically a sign of love and affiliation, observing the context is crucial to decipher the right message your canine friend is trying to convey.