Why Do Dogs Lick?

Dog licking his lips outside close-up.

Dogs lick our faces, themselves, other things, our hands, the air… But do we really know why dogs lick? Our team at Fetch! Pet Care set out on a mission to find out. Whether you love the affection of a dog’s lick or prefer snuggling with them on the couch, most dog owners know what it’s like to be licked by their pup.

Your dog might be licking you because:

  • They’re showing their affection, like when dogs groom each other or lick their friends faces
  • Maybe they’re trying to avoid getting in trouble or saying they’re sorry after they’ve done something bad, like when they get into the garbage and want to say sorry
  • They might like the taste of the salt and dinner left on your fingers after the burger you just ate.

Your dog might be licking themselves because:

  • Environmental allergies which cause their skin to itch. Paws, armpits, and their groin are all areas where itching commonly occurs, or where their body comes into contact with things they might be allergic to. Most allergies are seasonal in nature. Paw licking is the most commonly reported occurrence of allergies in pets.
  • Hormonal imbalances, food allergies, and even things like the development of “hot spots” can cause significant discomfort and licking on dogs skin. A good rule of thumb is to have your pups examined by a medical professional if they’re itching become compulsive or if they start to show signs of redness/hair loss.

Bottom line: if your pet is displaying unusual behavior, and you haven’t talked to your vet about it before, you should have it checked out.

Dogs also lick the air, couches or carpets, and even walls or physical objects. Typically, there’s a smell, food residue, or salt that they like the taste of and they’re determined to enjoy it for as long as possible. If your dog’s licks become persistent, occur for long periods of time, or the behavior is difficult to redirect, they may have started to develop an obsessive behavior/pattern. Often caused by dogs trying to self-soothe in an uncomfortable environment.

The final thoughts…

Beyond health concerns, dogs lick to communicate and keep things clean. Some dogs even lick out of boredom. Every dog will act differently so don’t be too worried unless it’s abrupt or out of the ordinary for them do act like they do.

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