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For the Lick of Dogs

Have you ever wondered why dogs lick us? It’s one of those questions that seems silly to say out loud but actually has an extremely interesting answer. There are in fact many reasons why our dogs lick us, and it’s not just to show how much they love us! Different dogs lick at different rate. Some may like to lick at every opportunity, while others may prefer to refrain from licking. Even though ‘licking rates’ vary from dog, if your dog starts to lick excessively and more often than usual, this might be due to an underlying issue and you should consult your vet for advice.

Here are 5 main reasons why your dog licks:


Yes, that’s right. Your dog is licking you and telling you that they love you. This sign of affection originates from the first moment your dog came into the world and their litter mother licked their noses to clear their airway so that your young dog could breathe. Licking also has the effect of stimulating blood flow and many times, the other puppies in the litter will lick each other to show each other that they are part of the litter pack. All this licking as soon as a puppy is born means that licking other dogs and people will come naturally to your dog.


In the wild, young wolves lick their mothers faces to demonstrate to their mother that they are hungry and also as a form of submission. This trait can also be seen in dogs who will often approach another dog and lick their face and mouth as a form of communication and to understand their intentions. It is often for the same reason that dogs will lick people’s faces to let them know that they are submissive or to understand what that person’s intention is.


Dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses making their sense of smell anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 better than ours. This means they can sniff out something smelly or a spec of dirt on our skin and lick it clean, much like an adult might wet their finger and wipe strawberry jam off a child’s cheek!


How many times has your dog licked you and you have stopped doing what you are doing and paid them some attention, either by praising or stroking your dog? It’s a natural human reaction and your clever dog knows this. That’s why they might lick you when they want their tummy tickled!


If your dog is licking the same area of their body, this could point to something a little more worrying. It may mean that they have hurt themselves and are trying to lick it better or that they have sensitive skin for some reason. It could be that your dog is anxious and is trying to self soothe. If you are worried that your dog’s licking is due to some form of discomfort, please consult your vet.

As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs lick. Next time your dog licks you, ask yourself what they are trying to tell you. It may be that they want their ears rubbed or to tell you that they love you. Or it may just be that they are trying to say that you are a bit dirty and need a shower!

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