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Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Updated on March 10, 2014

Your dog follows you around, whines a bit, jumps on you and licks your face, your nose, your ears; sometimes he'll sneak around down there and he even licks your feet. When friends come to visit, the dog starts licking them too. You might find yourself wondering, Why do dogs lick humans? Glad you asked.

There are a variety of reasons that dogs lick people. Some of it is social, some of it is learning and educational (for them, believe it or not), some of it is communication and it goes back to when they were in the wild and when they were in the nest. Some of it is just plain fun.

Let's look at the reasons why dogs lick people.

Dogs Lick People to Show Affection

It's friendly. Some people call it kissing. They are showing that they accept you. In the nest, when the dog was a puppy, there was lots of licking and grooming going on. His mother licked him when he was a pup to make sure he was breathing and doing alright and, in doing so, taught him to lick those he is close to or wants to give affection. It's all a part of how a dog bonds with other dogs and with people that they like, including you, your mate and your friends and family.

They just love you all that much!

Look out! He's coming at ya with that tongue!
Look out! He's coming at ya with that tongue! | Source

Your Dog is Showing They Are Not a Threat

This is how a dog shows he's being friendly. He goes up to your friends and licks them too, so that he doesn't appear as a threat to them and so they won't attack him. It is the same thing dogs do with each other when they are family, with other dogs that help them out growing up and all that.

They truly are appreciative and friendly.

He Wants Something

In the wild, puppies lick the mouths of adult dogs who have returned to the nest so that the elders will regurgitate food for the pups to eat. You are just like Mom and Dad to your dog and they sure know where the food comes from!

Fortunately, though, you don't have to regurgitate food for them. You got their food in a bag and it comes from the grocery store.

Aren't they cute with their wet, sloppy kisses?!
Aren't they cute with their wet, sloppy kisses?! | Source

Do you think it's cute when your dog licks you?

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He's Trying to Get Information

Dogs are very sensitive to scents and smelling scents is how they gather information. Their noses and mouths are very sensitive and have receptor cells that can read pheromones that are in your sweat, on your ears, lips and forehead.

Your body releases pheromones from your body hair, chest and, yes, your face and upper lip. Your apocrine gland releases them from your ears and your Eccrine glands (sweat glands) release them from your forehead and there is salt in these secretions--which makes your dog want to lick you even more so because he likes the taste of your salty, sweaty skin. Glands near your hair folicles, called Sebaceous glands, release sebum; this substance combined with your sweat contains information about your mood; whether you're happy, stressed or frightened. The dog licks you, takes that information being secreted from your body up into his mouth and it goes to his vomeronasal organ which allows him to read what's going on with you.

And he's wise to what you're up to, so watch out!

He Enjoys It

When your dog licks you, the act releases endorphins which makes him feel good. Not only does he like the taste of your salty, sweaty, pheromone-covered skin, and he enjoys your company and giving you attention and doing things with you and getting your attention--but he seems to get a natural high off of licking you too.

So, it's safe to say that your dog--or your friend's dog or some strange dog or a family member's dog-- licking you is a friendly gesture. They are showing affection, being loving, showing they are friendly, trying to learn about you and it's their way of just being part of the family. They've been doing it since they were a puppy and you are family and need their attention and they want your attention too.

Doggies are just loving and lovable creatures.

And you gotta love that!



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    • NathaNater profile image

      NathaNater 3 years ago

      Thanks, Barabara. Yes, I've noticed some dogs don't lick people at all. Some of them are also very mellow and also some are well-trained. I worked for a guy years ago who had a disability and he had a working dog that did like to have fun but was also very well-trained and pretty disciplined. He didn't do any of the licking at all.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 3 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed reading this. Our 2 dogs don't lick. I think they were trained not to before we got them.

    • NathaNater profile image

      NathaNater 3 years ago

      I know what you mean, ologsinquito. I like dogs, but I don't really like to be licked by them, especially not in the face. But like you said, I've also known a lot of people who don't mind at all.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      I like my dog, but I've never enjoyed his licks. But I know a lot of people don't mind dog licks.

    • NathaNater profile image

      NathaNater 4 years ago

      Oh, I know, Mona. Dogs are rascals and full of energy. I never like it when they lick my mouth either.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 4 years ago from Philippines

      My dog always licks me, but knows I don't like her licking me on the mouth. So she licks me on the cheek, etc. However, when I bug her, she licks me on the mouth deliberately.

    • NathaNater profile image

      NathaNater 4 years ago

      Thanks, Brenda. I'm glad you stopped by glad you liked the article.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 4 years ago from New York

      Not only was this informative but I love the pictures, too! Voted up!