Dogs lick themselves in nature for several reasons. It helps them with healing, grooming, social interactions and even nurturing their young. Why do dogs lick us though? Are they giving us love or is it for another reason? You may be quite surprised and whilst we can’t read a dog’s mind, so we may never know the answers for sure, but we can make some educated judgements.
In nature, dogs tend to be pack animals. Licking plays a large role in this, as they use it to communicate with one another. They can use their licks to tell each other they’re hungry, hurt, or even just to ask to be friends.
It is natural then that your dog licks you as an attempt at communication sometimes. The problem is we can’t understand those licks as well as other dogs can. If they are using licks to tell you something though, and not their bite, it’s probably safe to assume they’re saying something nice.
When dogs are young, their mothers spend lots of time licking them – it is a nurturing behaviour. Domestic dogs love to lick their owners, because they want to show them their love. It even feels good to your dog to do this; when they lick for affection, pleasurable endorphins are released in their brain.
Often when dogs lick people, this interaction is reciprocated. You might start petting them, scratching them, or even give them some food. This reinforces the behaviour and dogs will lick you more, because they are aware they will get something enjoyable by doing so.
When they lick you, they sometimes are just trying to learn a bit more about you. A dog’s tongue is an incredibly sensitive tool. They can learn a lot more with it than humans can. When dogs lick you, they are taking in sweat from your skin. This contains water, ammonia, sodium, potassium and a whole host of other stuff that dogs can draw information about you from.
It may seem a bit unpleasant to us, but our skin is home to a great many tastes. Particles of food we had for dinner, sweat and even just the grease and bacteria that exist naturally on our skin; this can all taste great to a dog. Sometimes, they’re merely enjoying the flavour they get from you.
So there you have it … next time your dog is trying to lick you, have a little think about what they might be telling you and see if our advice has been useful!