Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face? 6 Common Reasons

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4 min read
4 min read

Updated - Nov 15th, 2023

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does my dog lick my face?” you’re not alone. It’s a question that’s crossed the minds of countless dog owners and dog lovers alike.

There are many fascinating reasons why dogs lick people. In this article, we delve into them all.

Canine instincts: Why do dogs lick my face?

To truly understand dogs’ face-licking behavior, we have to look at their evolutionary history. Dogs share a common ancestor with wild canids like wolves, who rely on pack bonds for survival. Wolves lick each other’s faces as a sign of submission and affection, and mothers lick their pups to stimulate bodily functions.

Today, domestic dogs have preserved these ancestral instincts. When a dog licks your face, they are expressing affection and creating a bond with you as their pack member.

Reasons for dog licking behavior

Let’s explore a variety of reasons why dogs lick your face.

1. Sign of affection

Above all, licking is your dog’s way of telling you they love you. As their adoring pet owner, they see you as a pack member whom they’ve bonded to.

2. Submission and appeasement

Dog licking can also be a sign of submission. Your dog respects you as the alpha, and this behavior signifies their acceptance of your role.

3. Stress relief

When your dog feels anxious, licking your face can bring them comfort. In fact, studies have shown that licking releases endorphins in dogs’ brains. If you notice that your dog becomes a licker when their separation anxiety kicks in, it could be their way of self soothing.

Blonde Labrador enjoys her delicious treat, licking the goodness out of the kong held by her paw.

4. Grooming

Dogs are natural groomers, so they may lick your face to help clean you, similar to how they clean themselves. They want their pack, including you, to be as pristine as possible.

5. Attention-seeking

If your dog finds that licking your face leads to positive reinforcement, like pets, cuddles, or playtime, they may continue this behavior to get what they desire.

6. You have something on your skin

Ever notice your dog trying to lick you right after you shower? It’s likely because they smell lotion or creams on your skin. Like everything else, dog’s learn through their mouths – so they’ll probably want a taste.

Health benefits of dog licking

In addition to the emotional and social aspects, dog lick behavior can have potential health benefits.

Healing properties

You might be surprised to know that dog saliva contains enzymes with antibacterial properties. In some cases, dogs might lick open wounds or injuries. While it’s not a substitute for proper medical care, it can actually aid in healing.

Stress reduction

Whether you’re enjoying some face licks or simply sharing eye contact, interacting with your dog can reduce stress tremendously. In fact, petting your best friend can trigger the release of endorphins – the body’s natural feel-good hormones.

Little Red Puppy licks a girl.

When to set boundaries with dog licking

While face licking is often heartwarming, there are situations where caution is needed.

Hygiene concerns

It’s essential to be mindful of the bacteria in dogs’ mouths. Excessive licking can lead to eczema symptoms or bacterial infections, especially if your dog’s gobbled up some questionable substances.

Behavioral problems

If your dog’s licking becomes obsessive or compulsive, it might be a sign of an underlying issue. In such cases, consult with your veterinarian or a dog trainer/animal behaviorist for guidance.

Strangers and children

Not everyone is comfortable with dog licks. Always ensure your dog respects others’ personal space, especially when interacting with strangers or children.

The last lick of advice

From ancestral instincts to emotional connection, there are many reasons dogs lick us humans.

Next time you wonder, “Why is my dog licking me?” see which of these answers stick out to you. Your dog’s licks are likely coming from a place of love and devotion – so embrace that canine kiss!

And if you want your dog to stop licking you – that’s okay, too. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, boundaries should always be respected and any signs of compulsive licking should be brought to your vet’s attention.

Liz Ladley

Liz Ladley

Liz is a Content Associate and Editor at Pumpkin. The only thing that rivals her love of words is her love of pets!
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