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Why do dogs lick other dogs?

Updated on June 19, 2013

Have you ever wondered why dogs lick other dogs? We often see dogs lick themselves clean.  What can be the reason behind this peculiar behavior of a dog? The dog has a long powerful tongue that can both be used to remove dried up mud from the dog’s fur and at the same time be gentle and soft to give affectionate licks.

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The maternal instinct

Mother dogs lick newborn puppies to protect them from predators. Instinctively, mother dogs knew that a newborn pup’s scent would draw the attention of predators. As soon as the puppies are born they are licked clean by the mother. Genital and anal areas of the puppies are licked by the mother to encourage defecation and urination. And once the puppies have relieved themselves, the mother’s tongue will again serve as baby wipes to clean the puppies.

For affection

At birth, puppies will at once feel maternal affection. The puppies are licked to show the mother’s affection. When puppies lick each other they are starting to bond. Licking to show affection is commonly seen in dogs that live together in one household. Dogs that meet in a park seldom lick each other and if ever they do, licking is done with another purpose and not to show affection.


For food

Puppies wanting to nurse would lick the mother dog’s teats. This will stimulate the flow of milk. In the wild, the first solid food of the puppies is regurgitated food. Puppies would lick the mother dog’s mouth to encourage food regurgitation. Dogs usually live in packs in the wild. The alpha dog decides who gets to eat first. Dogs lower in rank would lick the mouth of the alpha dog to ask for food. It is also a sign of being submissive to the alpha dog.


For cleanliness

Dogs lick each other to clean themselves. Oftentimes you will see a dog licking the head, the back or the ears of another. A dog can not reach these parts of the body with its own tongue. Grooming and cleaning therefore has to be done by another dog.

For healing

Did you know that a dog’s saliva is believed to have antibiotic qualities? A dog would lick the wounds of another dog to clean and to hasten the healing process. Likewise, licking is done to offer comfort to the ailing or wounded dog.

A Dog Licking Another Dog


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      carebear 4 years ago

      hi i just got a new female an she wont stop licking my males face an i hav to stop it cuz i had to get him eye drops cuz he has a bacterial infection in his eyes and the vet said its from her licking him all the time... Please help...

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      Lachness 5 years ago

      My 2 year old Shar Pei licks my eight week old Kelpie puppy.

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      Jennifer 5 years ago

      My dog is very funny. Every time she enters her cage-free doggy daycare she goes to she has to go around the room and lick all the dogs on the mouth. I don't think she knows half of them! Not sure what she's doing. She licks me when she's excited to see me and knows the word 'kiss' but she doesn't kiss other people since she's very people shy. Thoughts as to why she does this with dogs?

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      Ashely 5 years ago

      PLEASE HELP!!!! oK so I have a hound (he) wich is and adult and i just got this new chihuahua and hey like a year old and hes a boy and then when I bring him home my hound starts licking him EVerywhere!!! and they he gets his two front paws and trie to grab him. Then my chihuahua starts growling. can someone please tell me what's going on!? idk if my hound is gay or not!! PLEASE HELP!!!!

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      me 6 years ago

      our 6 year old dogo licks the lower back of our 12 year old shepard mix. The dogo is a katrina pup and when he got to the house he took to the older dog immediately. It's a big brother vibe we have and i think that now that the 12 year old's hips and back are starting to bother him that the 6 year old licks to heal. Or he's just dirty. Either way, we love them with all of our hearts.

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      owner of possibly lesbo dogs 6 years ago

      my dogs are both female, and they lick each others parts. can dogs be lesbians?

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      Chewbacca 7 years ago

      My dog will sit there next to my brothers dog for ages just licking inside his ear & on his cheeks & in his mouth & ive always wondered why...?

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      Jan 7 years ago

      I have two poodle puppies brothers that just turned 1. One had his leg has been ill for a couple of weeks and just had his leg operated on. When I brought him home today, the well brother spent 10 minutes licking the hurt brother's ears front legs and chest. The hurt brother nuzzled into his brother's licking, then returned the licking favor. It was so touching. Then they stopped, and the well brother went off to explore and play. I suppose assured that his hurt brother was okay. A third older, unrelated older poodle in our family ignored both of them. It was fascinating to watch.

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      Colleen 7 years ago

      My dogs look like they are in love and so affectionate together. The male is 10 years old and the female is 4. She is very playful with him and since he is older he dominates and lets her know when he is not in the playful mood.

      But other times she will lay down next to him and they will lick each others mouths. He will lick her ears and head while she licks the tops of his paws.

      They both love me very much too. My female shepard will not let my older dog come near me to be pet. She gets very upset when I show him attention. She forces her way in between us and tries to make him move. But in the end they both get plenty of love. My older dog has been said to look like a bear. He is very big and he has a very large head.

      His mixed breed is Shepard/Rottie and his father was a pure bred husky. He has the rottie body and shepard coloring with the husky ice blue eyes. His eyes seem to make him look even more menacing. But he is the gentlest dog I have ever owned. He has never once snapped at a young child or adult. Let me stop bragging about my dogs.

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      KC 8 years ago

      My puppy will sit there for hours licing my other dogs' ears, very strange, and will lick his chest area!

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      Tones 8 years ago

      a dog licks humans feet and hands as when we sweat we sweat salt which a dog likes and that the reason for this

      a dog sniffs other dogs to get to know them just like us saying hello

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      Ashley  8 years ago

      Useful information about why dogs lick. To correct one comment in your article though-Cats do lick each other as well. I have four cats and I witness this act on a daily basis.