Why Do Dogs Lick?


In case you own a dog, you might find its habit of licking endearing or gross – depending on your tastes. It is commonly assumed that dogs lick to express their love for owners. However, it does not always lick to show love. A dog uses its tongue to communicate in various ways with humans as well as with other animals. From affection to concern, protection and acceptance, there are various messages expressed by dogs.

Licking Is Innate, and not Learned

The act of licking is not typically a habit. It is ingrained into the gene of dogs. This is an instinctive behavior that can assume varied manifestations. For example, mama dogs lick their pups while grooming them, while pups lick their mama to indicate it is ‘feeding time’. In pack like situations, dogs on the lower end of hierarchy may lick those on the higher order to get a ‘dinner invitation’.

A dog licking the face of a human, especially the owner, might be overjoyed to see him after he has come back from work. However, it might also be indicating that it is getting hungry and wants to have some food.

Health problems Related to Licking

Many people worry whether they can get a bunch of germs in their face when their dogs lick them. Naturally, dog’s licking is often regarded as unhygienic. However, the amount of bacteria from a dog’s tongue is generally not much worse than the bacteria that are passed when humans exchange kisses.

That is no reason to believe that you should allow your dog to lick you every time. You can do simple things like turning your head away or moving away to indicate that you would not like to have your face licked although you appreciate his love and friendship. This will help keep it satisfied while allow you to avoid licking from your pet.

When is Licking Excessive?

Although licking is an instinctive emotion, it can also be excessive at time. When a dog licks the same spot on his body or licks the same object over and over again, it could be indicative that your dog is suffering from a medical problem. Some of the issues could be related to the mentality of the pooch whereas other problems could have a physical cause.

For example, if a dog continuously licks its feet, it could be attempting to get rid of a constant itch resulting from allergies. If your dog persistently licks its rear side, it could need to have the anal glands expressed. Obsessive licking of a specific object could be indicative of obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety. If you feel that the licking habit of your dog could be related to either of these disorders, it is important that you take it to a behavioral specialist or a vet.

However, licking also actually often indicates that your dog likes you, finds your company comfortable and trusts on you to lead it. All that you heard about licking being associated to love is not so wrong either.


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