August 12th •
Dogs love to give people plenty of love, which often comes in the form of licks. But why do dogs lick, and can a dog lick too much?
Although regular licking is a healthy way for a dog to show affection to people, it can become excessive at times.
Here, we’ll walk you through all you need to know about dog licking, as well as how you can train your dog to keep their tongue to themselves.
Dogs don’t have hands to explore the world, so they often turn to their nose and mouth. Dogs use licking for a wide range of different reasons, from showing affection to getting your attention.
1. Showing Affection
Many people wonder if a dog’s kisses are really a sign of affection. Although researchers don’t know all of the reasons why dogs lick, it does appear that they do give out kisses as a sign of affection.
Puppies likely lick as an instinct. But they could also learn it from their mothers, who lick as a way of grooming their puppies and showing affection.
Since a puppy often looks up to you as a parent, they take this behavior they learned when they were young and use it to show you affection.
Dogs prefer to lick faces, although they’ll kiss just about anything they can get their mouth on, from your arms and legs to your back.
Although many dogs lick as a sign of affection, not all will. That doesn’t mean that you puppy doesn’t love you.
2. Getting Your Attention
Dogs will also use licking to get your attention. When they give you affection, you also give it back with petting and praise.
Since dogs know that when they lick you’ll give them love back, they may start doing it as a way of getting your attention.
If you’re getting tired of your dog’s licking, try to not give them attention when they kiss you. Pushing them away may actually encourage them even more.
3. They Taste Something
Dogs will also start licking if they think you taste good. They use their sense of taste to explore and learn more about the world.
This is part of the reason why dogs like to lick other animals as well. They use it as a way of socializing and getting a taste of other dogs.
4. Licking Out Of Instinct
Dogs are descended from wolves, and they have a lot of the same licking behaviors. When a mother wolf comes back from a hunt, she shares some of the food with her pups, who will lick around her mouth to try to get a scrap or two of food.
Dogs may still have some of these same behaviors, built in through instinct. Even though they’re not wolves, they still use their tongue to explore the world.
5. Obsessive Licking
In some cases, excess licking may be a sign of a serious behavioral issue. Dogs may lick obsessively, even though there is no real reason for them to be doing so.
This could mean that your dog has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a serious behavioral problem that can cause them a lot of stress and anxiety if not treated.
If you notice that your dog is licking too much, you should speak to your vet. They can diagnose the problem and discuss treatment options.
The best way to treat obsessive licking in a dog is with training. You may need to reach out to a pro to help you structure the training and use the right kinds of exercises.
In more serious cases, you may also have to supplement training with medication. It can help them manage the anxiety as you train them to control their licking. Your vet can recommend medication that is right for your dog.
In general, it’s safe when a dog licks a human. However, you should keep in mind that your dog’s mouth is a pretty dirty place. There are a lot of bacteria swimming around in there, and these will be left behind after every lick.
The good news is that there is little safety risk to letting your dog lick you. Although there saliva has a lot of bacteria, they are unlikely to cause an infection unless you have any open cuts on your face.
If you’ve had enough of your dog’s licking, there are a few easy ways to make them stop. Remember, dogs often lick as a way of getting attention. The best way to stop them is to not give them attention.
When your dog is licking, get up and walk away without giving them any attention. When they stop licking, give them plenty of praise and treats. Slowly, they’ll start to learn that not licking you is a great way of getting a reward.
You can also train your dog to only kiss on command. Only give them a reward when they kiss after you give them a cue word.
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