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Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Wednesday, Jun 15 2011

Why do dogs lick people?

Dogs lick stuff. It’s a fact. They gobble up bits of food off the floor and give themselves baths. They also lick humans and even though, technically, it may be a little gross for some people it can also be very endearing. It is pretty well known and accepted that dogs lick people because they like them and are comfortable, but there is more to it than that. To understand the instinctual drive behind the licking process it is necessary to take a look at why dogs lick in the first place.

Why do dogs lick at all?

When a puppy is born, one of the first things it experiences is the soothing comfort of its mother. The mother dog uses licking as a means to clean and encourage but also as a way to convey affection and protection. While puppies are nursing the mother will take this time of relative tranquility to bathe her offspring. From the minute they enter the world, dogs are taught the importance of licking.

As puppies mature they learn to lick just like their mothers. A young dog will often lick the faces of older dogs as a way of greeting and to show admiration and respect. Puppies also tend to turn to licking when they get hungry to indicate to their mother that it’s time to eat. The older a dog gets, the less they tend to lick other dogs, but this action never stops completely. Normally at an older age, licking is used more for grooming themselves and each other.

OK, so why do dogs lick people?

We have briefly gone over why dogs lick in the first place but why do dogs lick people? It is not really because they like the taste of our skin. Dogs tend to turn toward licking because they think of their owners as their parents or leaders. Even older dogs that have given up constant playful licking still view themselves as our “children” and licking is a way to show their loyalty.

A dog’s personality will also determine the amount of licking they unleash. Some dogs are more sociable and seek constant approval. These dogs will lick on a regular basis and will not be picky about who they lick. Other dogs can be very self assured and independent which gives them less incentive to win the affection of every human they meet.

Dog owners do a lot to encourage licking as well. What do we normally do when a cute pup gives us a lick on the hand or cheek? We immediately melt inside and start scratching behind those ears or rubbing that furry belly. So although licking is a result of instinct and evolution it certainly is promoted by our response as owners.

Why Do Dogs Lick People?People tend to have different feelings about being licked by their own or other dogs. Some of us think it is cute and endearing, while others can only be slightly disgusted while worrying about where exactly that tongue has been. It is important to keep in mind that a dog’s “kisses” are not as unsanitary as most people imagine. Some studies have shown that a human handshake is much less hygienic and that a dog’s lick might even be good for you!

After getting his face slobbered on by his parent's Shih Zhu "Rudy" on many occasions, Russ Barker tends to wonder why do dogs lick people and what is the meaning behind it all? Russ is a remarkable wordsmith and resident blog master for, a company whose vision is to aid in the education of pet owners about the importance for pets to have up-to-date pet ID tags. Offering a way to make pet identification more hip and cool, their site features hundreds of fun and colorful personalized pet tags allowing pet owners to display their creativity while keeping their furry friends safe.
Russ Barker

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