Everyone knows dogs lick a lot, right? In fact, some of us crazy dog owners even sign cards from our dog with ‘love and licks’. Often even cartoon dogs are often portrayed giving out big sloppy licks, but have you ever wondered why?
There are many reasons that Goldendoodles lick both you, themselves and objects. From a primeval instinct to a show of affection. Some dogs may excessively lick as a release from anxiety. Sometimes they are attempting to clean a wound. They even use their tongues to help take in unusual smells.
Dogs lick many things, us, themselves, toys, inanimate objects, and even sometimes, the air! Whether you find your dogs licking gross or cute all dogs lick and they do so in several different ways and for a variety of reasons. In this article, we are going to look at some of the different types of licking and the reason or meaning behind them.
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Is my Dog Kissing me When he Licks me?
Dogs like to lick humans that’s a fact, but did you know that not all licks are equal? You may even notice your own dog licks you in a few different ways depending on the situation. When you return home after work or a trip to the supermarket your dog is always pleased to see you, of course he is, he’s missed you. This is one of the times he might lick you in a very enthusiastic manner.
You might notice he tries to lick your face and in particular the area closest to your mouth. Is he giving you a kiss to say hello? Well, kind of as this is how a pack of wolves or wild dogs greet their leader when he returns from a hunting trip. However, it is also how pups or cubs greet their mother when she returns to the den.
Rather than just licking her face as a greeting the pups lick their mothers’ mouths to encourage her to regurgitate her food for them! Pretty gross you might say but this is how our dogs’ wild ancestors wean their babies and some domestic dogs still do this today.
One of my own breeding girls, Rosie the Goldendoodle, does this when her pups are ready to be weaned. She will actually wolf down as much food as she can and then cry to be allowed into her pups so that she can regurgitate the food for her babies. Her wolf instincts are still strong!
We as owners tend to reinforce this behavior in our pets as often when we return home we are just as pleased to see them. We will cuddle and even kiss our dogs when they greet us with excited licking and very often reach for the treat box to reward that good behavior while we were out. Hey presto, he licked your face, and you gave him a tasty treat! Ok, so you didn’t regurgitate food for him, but he licked you and food appeared!
Is Licking a Sign of Affection?
Your dog doesn’t only lick you when you return home though and he’s not asking for food every time he licks you. He might come and snuggle next to you when you’re settled down watching tv and start dishing out long slow licks.
Nellie, my Newfypoo is the Queen of this type of lick. She will often pin my foot down with a huge furry paw and lick it very slowly and lovingly. This tickles a lot, and it can be hard not to pull my foot away, but I don’t as I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
This is the way that a mother dog licks her puppies and is indeed her way of caring for me and showing affection. Licking is instinctive to dogs, particularly mother dogs as they lick their puppies to clean them and to stimulate them to eliminate when they are really young. As soon as a puppy is born the mother will lick the puppy clean and this also stimulates the pup to take his first breath.
Does my Skin Taste Nice to my Dog?
Your dog may also lick you when you’ve just finished a workout. You might think he’s showing you some love because you’ve been good. I hate to disappoint you, but he is licking the salt off your skin.
Dogs love salt and human skin is naturally quite salty especially if we are warm and he is licking you quite simply because you taste good to him! This can also be true if you’ve just taken a shower or applied body lotion.
Is Anxiety a Cause?
Dogs may also lick you when they are stressed. Again, there is more than one type of lick used to display stressed behavior. I have a Cockapoo called Doris who is quite a neurotic little character and extremely attached to me.
She will often get on to people’s laps and lick them frantically. In this instance, she is not showing affection but is stressing because she loves being on a lap but as soon as she is on the lap, she starts panicking in case she is asked to get down!
Strange, but it’s the way she is and sometimes it does result in her being removed from her desired position as she is licking too much. So, in this instance, she is her own worst enemy. Luckily, she does understand the command ‘no licking’.
This type of obsessive licking is not always limited to licking people and some dogs develop fixations with licking themselves or objects within the home. If you notice your dog licking excessively you do need to investigate as he may be sore or itchy.
Frantic paw licking often signifies a foreign object between the pads or a sting or bite. If the licking has become a habit, try to stop him by distracting him. Perhaps with a game or a walk, dogs have been known to make themselves sore by compulsively licking a particular area.
Why Does my Dog Lick the Air?
As strange as it sounds you might occasionally notice your dog making licking motions in the air. Again, there is a reason behind this. All dogs have an organ located under the top lip known as the Jacobsens organ and if there is a scent that he doesn’t recognize he might make a licking motion and curl his top lip to try to take in more of the unusual smell.
Be sure to check his mouth if you see him doing this however as it can also be a sign that something is stuck there. Dogs also often make licking and gulping motions if they are feeling nauseous so keep an eye on your furry friend if you see him doing this and always speak to your vet if you are concerned.
There is one more type of ‘air licking’ that I need to mention which is very important and a little sinister. You may have seen this type of licking on dog rescue programs on tv or even wildlife documentaries. This is a particular type of lick that often precedes a bite. A dog that is very frightened and distressed may pull his lips back and glance away while making licking motions. If your dog ever displays these signals back away quickly to avoid being bitten.
Why Does my Dog Lick his Bottom?
Dogs, unlike humans, can’t wash themselves so he has to use his built-in flannel otherwise known as his tongue! Plain and simple he is taking care of his personal hygiene needs. This is something to bear in mind when he wants to lick your face! That tongue has been in many places and not all of them are pleasant.
If he is licking his nether regions more than normal you should get the vet to take a look as this can be a sign that his anal glands need attention. Some dogs do have trouble with their glands and need veterinary help to empty them to avoid them becoming infected.
Are Dogs’ Tongues Antiseptic?
You might have heard that dogs lick wounds (yours or their own) because their tongues have antiseptic properties. I’m afraid that this is a myth and while your dogs’ mouth does contain some ‘good’ bacteria it also contains plenty of unpleasant bacteria (he uses his tongue to clean his bottom after all)
Although licking a wound does help to clean it and remove debris it also spreads germs. So, the licking of wounds is to be discouraged even if it means he has to wear a buster collar as is frequently seen if your dog has to have surgery for any reason.
Is Licking Good for my Dog?
In some cases, licking is a relaxing pass time for your dog and if he is going to be home alone or you need some quiet time it can be a good idea to provide him with something to lick to keep him amused.
A Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter or another tasty treat is great for keeping him occupied and providing mental stimulation for him when you are unable to keep him entertained. You can also buy special ‘licky ’mats which you smear with his favorite treats such as natural yogurt which takes quite some time for him to clean up.
So, you see there is more than one type of lick and each has a different meaning. Dogs can’t speak but they communicate with us in many ways and licking is all part of their language. Next time your dog wants to ‘give you a kiss’ you will hopefully have a better understanding of what he is saying to you.