Why does my dog lick me? Our pet dogs tend to be one of the closest friends that we have. They are extremely loyal, and whether or not, we are happy or sad, rich or poor, popular or unpopular – These, wagging tailed, hairy friends, are always there to show us love, affection, and make us smile.
But there are many things that these hairy creatures do that leave us scratching our heads; from them drinking out of the toilet bowl, to scratching up our front doors, to leaving big holes in our backyards, to leaving us with a big question – “Why does my dog lick me?”
Now when it comes to drinking out of the toilet boil, we can surmise that they’re thirsty, and their water bowl is probably empty. When it comes to scratching at our front door, we can surmise that they want to go outside, or simply have to use the bathroom. Their digging holes in the back yard can be contributed to;
1. To getting their heads out of the heat when it’s hot outside, and
2. It is in some breeds of dogs genetics to dig for vermin.
Now, to better understand why your dog always licks you, and to find out if it’s good or bad, and how to get them to stop, we’re going to have to dive a little bit deeper and explain things in more detail.
Dogs and humans speak two completely different languages, which makes it that much harder for each us to understand what the other saying, and how they’re saying it.
As humans, we have various ways of speaking and communicating with each other, from verbally talking, to using sign language, to passing notes, to sharing our thoughts and feelings in books, to paintings, to songs, to touching, to eye contact, and so on, and so forth. With dogs, and their communication, according to veterinarians and other dog experts, they do a few things similar, but a lot of things differently.
They bark, they wag their tails, they scratch surfaces, “and they lick.” Now each of these ways that they communicate (like us humans), means multiple things.
For instance, we can sing a song that communicates many things – joy, pain, anger, and aggression, or sadness, while a dog, with their barking, can communicate multiple things as well.
Their barking may mean that there’s trouble on the horizon, that they’re happy to see you, that they’re hungry, that they have to use the bathroom, and believe it or not, can even occur when they’re in heat. And like us, dogs have ways multiple ways of communicating multiple things as well, and the one that leaves us all scratching our heads is “what does it mean when a dog licks you?”
When a dog licks you (like their other ways of communicating), it has multiple meanings, and to determine those meaning, you will need to be aware of the place, the time, and the circumstance.
For instance, if it’s 8 am in the morning, and this is the time that you usually take your dog for a walk, but you’ve overslept, and your dog starts licking your face, over and over, while you’re asleep, then it is safe to say that they are communicating to you, that you need to wake up and take them outside to use the bathroom.
A similar, but different situation, is if you’re asleep, and your dog senses danger, such as an intruder trying to break-in, or smells smoke, or sees fire (they will first start to bark, and if that doesn’t work), like in the previous example, they will lick your face, over and over, until you wake up, to deal with the issue.
Now a completely different situation, where they will lick your face, is if they have not seen you in a few days (Say you went on a business trip or some kind of vacation), and you just walked in the house, they may give you a quick bark or two, and then run and jump on you, and start licking your face.
This instance of licking you, is them showing excitement and joy at how happy they are to see you.
Now a situation, that’s different from any of the ones already listed, is a situation where you just happen to be sick (with say a cold or the flu), and then your dog notices you laying around, feeling down weak, and looking sad – They will see this, and they will start licking your face a lot too, nurture you and, care for you, and comfort you. They will feel your pain, and this is their way of trying to make you feel better.
So as you can see there are many reasons why our dogs lick us, but understand, that with each way that they do, they are just trying to communicate something to you, based on the situation and circumstance. Pay attention, and understand the moment, and know that they are not trying to be annoying, but they are trying to talk to us in the best way that they know-how.
Now that we know the many reasons why our dogs lick us so much, let’s discuss how to get them to stop. When we as human beings need to tell someone something important, once we tell them, and we know that they’ve heard us, and they have responded, we usually do not continue to repeat ourselves, because the other person (or people) have already acknowledged us.
It is the same way with your dog. If its one of those times of day when you usually take them to go for a walk, and you happen to be laying down (whether sleeping or not), and it appears to your dog that you have forgotten about their walk, they will communicate to you, with their licking, that they need to be taken out for a walk, and will not stop licking you until you have acknowledged what they’re trying to communicate to you.
So that’s the way we can get our dogs to stop licking us, just acknowledge what they are trying to tell us, and once we do (for that particular situation/instance) they will stop.
Getting your dog to stop licking you entirely though, is a completely different story. According to veterinarians and other dog experts, it is not possible for them to do so.
They say that it’s one of the ways that they talk to human beings, and for them to lose that form of communication, could spell serious trouble, in a time where we would need them to alert us to a nearing danger or threat.
They will bark, they will lick, they will wag their tail, but it’s all in an effort for them to talk to us in the best way that they know how – These are the ways that they are genetically programmed to.
Some people believe that when your dog licks your face, that nothing negative can happen, while others believe that it can cause harm through the passage of harmful bacteria.
Let’s take a look at both angles. According to William DePaolo, Ph.D., from the Center for Microbiome Sciences, in Washington State, it’s perfectly safe for your dog to lick your face. As a long-time dog owner himself, and a microbiological and bacterial researcher, he says that dogs and humans share a lot of the same bacteria and that he has even tested bacteria from (his dog’s, and his own) feces to prove this hypothesis.
While this is clear and solid evidence, from a scientific researcher, who studies germs and bacteria, there are still others who disagree and say that when a dog licks your face, it can cause a log of damage. Let’s take a look at things from this other perspective.
There are veterinarians and dog specialist that argue to Dr. DePaolo’s point, that dogs have a much greater tolerance for many different types of bacteria, that we simply do not.
This tolerance allows them to pick up all types of bacteria in their mouths, that is harmless to them, but would otherwise cause serious harm to us, if it were to enter our mouths, body, or some type of open wound that we happen to have. There are strong bacteria that can seriously affect our bodies, and cause a lot of damage to our internal organs, which would not cause any such damage or harm to our dogs.
Dog care is important, Your dog’s licking is one of the ways they use to communicate with you. If they are licking you, it means that they are trying to tell you something (Sometimes it may be something that can potentially protect you from danger).
This licking aspect of theirs, is programmed into them genetically, and like barking, it is something that they naturally do to talk, so it is not possible to completely get them to stop. “But,” for each instance when they do happen to lick you if they are acknowledged, and what they are trying to say to you is acted on, then in that moment/situation/instance, the licking will come to an end.
Seeing how dogs bodies are more tolerant to many bacteria, that are potentially dangerous to us, it is first important to make sure that your dog’s shots, and health checks, are up to date, and that your dog is immediately treated if they begin to show any signs of illness.
Next, it is of vital importance that you don’t allow your dog to lick your lips (and if they happen to do so, go and wash your lips off, and mouth out, immediately).
Third, if you have an open wound, and your dog happens to lick it, you may want to go and see a doctor as soon as possible, because they may have transferred some seriously, harmful, bacteria into your open wound.