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Why Do Dogs Lick People?
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!
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.
Do you think it's cute when your dog licks you?
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!