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What does it mean when a dog licks your face? 8 explanations

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What does it mean when a dog licks your face

What does it mean when a dog licks your face? Is the dog trying to tell you something?

When weaning their puppies from milk to solid food, wild or feral dogs, as well as certain house dogs, begin by regurgitating chewed-up food for them.

Hungry puppies will lick their mother’s face to induce regurgitation. That is where the face-licking impulse kicks in. However, your dog may not be licking your face for the same purpose. But that early instinct is linked up in a love bond and knowing that humans have taken over the mother’s job of loving, caring, and providing for them. That lick is your dog’s way of showing that they are aware of this and appreciate you for it.

A natural behavior

Licking is a natural canine behavior to communicate with humans and other animals. Dogs lick your face to communicate with you, gather information about you, or simply enjoy the wonderful feeling of licking.

What does it mean when a dog licks your face? Here are 8 possible explanations:

1. Communication

Dogs may lick you to communicate with you.

While friendly licking is generally peaceful, a dog’s licking may become more intense in other conditions.

If your dog is enthusiastic, nervous, or anxious, they may lick more rapidly to express their feelings.

Your dog’s licking can seem out of control at times, especially when you arrive home from work. Your puppy will lick you at first because he is genuinely delighted to see you. 

All of this excitement and happy licking causes a flood of feel-good hormones to be released throughout your dog’s system. When a dog licks, he gets a natural high, which encourages him to lick even more.

When your dog licks you, pay attention to his body language. A dog who is happy or aroused will wag his tail and lick his lips frantically. Maybe you just asked if he wanted to go for a walk.

Suppose your dog is whining, tucking his tail, or otherwise showing indications of distress. In that case, you should try to figure out what is stressing them out and reduce or eliminate the source of stress.

2. Affection

Your canine friend loves you. Puppies learn to lick their mother and littermates as a sign of affection. Family ties among dogs are strengthened by the mother dog licking the puppies or the puppies in the litter licking each other. Licking your face indicates that a dog appreciates you and wants to build a stronger bond with you.

3. Respect

Licking is often an appeasement gesture that indicates social deference. 

Your dog respects you. Dogs are pack animals that adhere to a predetermined social hierarchy. 

Face licking is a way for wild dogs to show respect and submission to the leader of the pack. 

Your dog sometimes licks your face to show that he recognizes you as the pack leader in charge.

4. Hunger

What does it mean when a dog licks your face

Your dog is hungry. Licking is sometimes used by dogs to signal that they are hungry. Puppies kiss their mothers’ lips to induce a regurgitation reflex, allowing them to consume the food that their mothers vomit. 

Wild dogs, like their wolf forebears, lick the pack leader’s face to beg for food. If your dog licks your face around mealtime, he may be communicating to you that he is hungry.

5. Collect Information

Your dog is interested in your emotions. Dogs’ noses and mouths contain special receptors that analyze and interpret the scented molecules contained in human sweat.

Your dog may be able to tell if you are happy or upset by licking your face.

6. Grooming

Your dog is attempting to ensure that you are clean. Dogs lick instinctively to keep themselves and their littermates clean. In the same way, they may lick the face of their human to groom and keep them clean. 

7. Taste

Your dog thinks you’re tasty. Some dogs appreciate the taste of salty skin, especially when you are returning from a workout.

Dogs may lick your face because they enjoy the saltiness of your skin.

8. Pleasure

Your dog enjoys licking. Licking produces happy endorphins in dogs and frequently provides them with a sense of comfort and security. Your dog may lick your face merely for the pleasure of it.

Is dog face-licking dangerous to your health?

Dog saliva poses no health risk to healthy children and adults with intact skin. 

Allowing your dog to lick an open wound on your skin, on the other hand, is not healthy. A dog’s saliva may moisten and open the skin wound, allowing germs to increase and perhaps cause a skin infection. The bacteria can also cause infections in people with a weakened immune system. 

Typically, the dog’s saliva must contact the open wound and contain a high quantity of that particular bacteria. After stroking any dog, it is advisable to wash your hands.

Should you let your dog lick you?

For most healthy humans, a dog licking their faces or other body parts should pose no risk to their health. If you are concerned, do not allow dogs to lick your lips or any open skin wound.

Some people occasionally allow dogs to lick the underside of their chin. However, remember to promptly wash your face or sanitize it with an antibiotic spray or gel. 

Similarly, some people allow dogs to lick their hands and then wash or apply an antibacterial spray or gel on their hands afterward.

What if you don’t like a dog licking your face?

First, understand that you may be rewarding the licking habit. A dog who gets attention when licking the pet parent’s face is more likely to repeat the licking behavior. 

Also, remember not to reward your dog with a piece of your meal if he licks your face or mouth as you eat. Providing a reward will only encourage the licking habit. 

Pet parents who don’t enjoy face licks should redirect their dog to show his love and attention differently while being careful not to encourage the behavior.

How can I stop my dog from licking me?

You can train your dog to express his emotions differently instead of licking you or your guests.

You can either teach the command or demonstrate another greeting like “touch” to your dog, where your dog has to touch your hand with his nose. A high five, shake, or paw can also be used to distract a dog who wants to lick.

There may be occasions where your dog should not be licking someone.

Therapy dogs are an excellent example. You don’t want the therapy dog to lick patients when visiting them in the hospital (especially not excessively).

A dog’s licks are generally safe for healthy people. Still, the dog’s saliva contains bacteria that can be dangerous for people who already have weakened immune systems or are recovering from surgery.

Finally, you cannot allow your dog to lick some individuals while not licking others. 

To stop your dog from licking, you must stick to the rule. Like other restrictions for your dog, such as no jumping or going on the furniture, no licking cannot be a once-in-a-while occurrence.

If you are not consistently enforcing the rule, it becomes difficult to get results, and you risk confusing your dog.

Compulsive licking 

While licking can be a helpful stress reliever for your dog, compulsive licking only reinforces anxiety and worsens the condition. 

Furthermore, compulsive licking could be a sign of underlying problems such as allergies, infections, or pain.

Remember that excessive licking in the same spot indicates a more significant problem; you should show your dog to the vet to understand what’s going on. If necessary, your vet may refer you to an animal behaviorist for further assistance with the issue.