Why Does Your Dog Lick You?

Love, taste, or subordination? The answer may surprise you.

By Justyne Yuen-Lee

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Don’t you love coming home to your dog?

The best part of the day is the second after the key hits the lock and the dogs come bounding toward the door! A whine and a jump, followed by heavy snuffling along the crack, begs you to hurry up!  Finally, with door open, they hurdle toward you, almost commanding a sit down so that they can better cover you in slobbery kisses. There will be no spot of skin missed! After some tummy rubs and drawn out, squeaky “I missed you,” the exuberance winds downs and they set off to get a toy for you to throw.

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Now, you’ll notice that I called the licks “kissing”, but is it really a “kiss?”

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Why do dogs lick people?

There is no doubt that licking is a big part of being a dog. At the moment of birth, dog mothers lick their babies to clean them and to stimulate breathing, and the behavior is ingrained.

As puppies get older, they too will lick their mother’s mouth. One explanation is that this licking is a form of communication and an action to identify the dominant member of the pack. So, when your dog licks your face, that means you’re the alpha! And it means they adore you.

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Additionally, licking releases endorphins in dogs and can thus become habit-forming.  It’s much like nail biting in humans; the release of endorphins reinforces the behavior.

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You could actually be tasty to your pet

Another explanation, however, could be that you’re super tasty. Your doggy may lay down some extra licks just to get a taste of that salty sweat or even leftover lunch remnants!

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No matter the reason, you actually shouldn’t permit your dog to lick your face because that’s how bacteria transfers! Some bacteria can make you or your pooch sick.

Aside from the mouth kisses, I think I’ll take all of the excitement and love I can get!