You come home from work and your greeting is a wet face! You may have asked yourself the question, why does my dog lick me? Of course, it’s not just their owners that dogs lick, it can be guests, vets and other dogs.

There isn’t one simple answer to the question of why dogs lick you? Instead there are multiple reasons that lead up to and explain this behaviour.

A mother and its puppy

If you go back to when your dog was a puppy and living with its mother. There was a two-way communication between mother and puppy. This communication was led by licking. Mothers would lick their young to clean them, this licking could in turn encourage urination. The mother’s natural instinct is to ensure any odours are cleaned from her puppy so that potential predators are not attracted.

The mother’s behaviour is borne out of instinct, protection, and ultimately love. The puppy also learns that licking is an effective form of communication with its mother to meet its needs: affection and food. A young puppy licking its mother can help signal to the mother that feeding is required.

Dogs licking other dogs

What about when dogs lick other dogs? You may have observed this behaviour when your dog demonstrates does this with a larger more aggressive dog. Before you panic its worth understanding what this means.

A dog that feels it is lower down in the pack or being faced with a threat (a bigger or aggressive dog) can naturally lick the other dogs face as a sign of respect. This can be an effective way for a more submissive dog to avoid any conflict.

Dogs licking their owner

By now you are probably thinking, this is all very interesting, but you haven’t answered the fundamental question – why does my dog lick me? From what we have described so far you should have picked up on several key threads and potential reasons for why dogs lick you:

  • Happiness and affection
  • Your dog is hungry and wants feeding
  • To sense your mood (dogs can decode our pheromones to understand our mood)
  • They may just enjoy the taste of you, dogs can taste left over food or just salt in your skin

Remember there can be subtle things going on as well, your dog may have run out of water or simply wants to go outside to the loo. Equally it can signal your dog is pleased to see you and wants nothing more than a good hug!