Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 31, 2018

We all know that delightful, slobbery sensation of a smooch from dog. Do you ever wonder, as you’re wiping that sticky slobber off your face (or leg, or arm…), just why your dog is such an amorous kisser? Well, your pup’s tongue is just one of the many ways they have of communicating with us, picking up sensory info, and getting something they want. Let’s take a look at what they’re thinking!

Overall, here are 7 of the most common reasons your dog licks you!

    Licking has a positive, nurturing association to your dog because they learned it from their mama.
    You’ve encourage licking through positive reinforcement and encouragement.
    It might be a gesture of submission
    Licking releases endorphins which means dog gets a feeling of comfort and pleasure from the action
    Your dog might be trying to get your attention so you’ll play!
    You might have salt on your skin
    They like ya!

Some of the main reasons your dog might be licking you all the time:

They learned it from Mom!

A mother licks her newborn puppies for grooming and cleaning. This nurturing use of licking makes it one of the earliest behaviors introduced to your dog… and one with a very positive association. “My mama licked me, so I lick you! It’s the ciiiiircle of liiiiiiife!”

They learned it from their other Mom!

If you’re like me, you kinda love it when your dog licks you. It’s a kiss from your fave! It’s totally understandable if you’ve rewarded your dog for licking you—with happy pets, and gleeful, sing-song words of encouragement. And so it makes sense that your dog has learned that licking you means that they get rewarded: more love, more attention. The power of positive reinforcement, folks!

It’s their way of bowing to you!

Your pup’s lick might be a gesture of submission. Lower-ranking pack pups lick higher-ranking pups, and you’re the top dog! It might even be a way of your dog asking for food. In the wild, puppies lick their mother’s mouths as a way of asking them for food and showing submission. Somewhere in your dog’s genes, they’ve kept the same instinct.

It’s all about that brain chemistry.

When a dog licks, it releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormone. Which means your dog gets a feeling of comfort and pleasure just from licking on you. Licking becomes a pleasant, soothing, stress-relieving experience for the pup. And who better to lick on than their favorite person?

They want to play.

Licking can be one of the ways a dog gets your attention. And if they’re playing or play-fighting with you, they may have learned—with good reason!—that it’s better to lick than to use their teeth.

They like your taste.

Honestly, your sweaty, salty skin tastes pretty good to dogs! Maybe that sounds gross, but hey, salt is awesome. Anybody who enjoys a bag of potato chips can kinda see where a dog is coming from, right?
Also, let’s be clear: you taste like their favorite person on earth. This zest for the comforting taste and smell of their personal M.V.P. is behind your dog’s notorious sock & underwear theft, too.

They just plum love you!

Dogs lick you just ‘cuz they like you! A pup doesn’t have as many ways to communicate as we do; they gotta use the tools available to them. And a wagging tail, a big smile, and a gentle tongue lappin’ are some of the ways they say, “you know what, Dad? You’re pretty cool.”

Those are just some of the reasons your dog might be licking you. If you suspect that your dog might be giving you *too* much attention, in a way that seems repetitive or weirdly automatic, you can ask your vet for guidance on if there’s something deeper going on. But keep in mind that licking is simply in your dog’s nature, and in most cases, it’s probably fine.

So, that’s what’s going on in your pup’s head when they’re giving you those kisses. Food for thought the next time you see ‘em puckering up!

Want to tell your pup you love them back in a way they’ll understand? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Our treats are made in the USA and Canada, and our recipes never contain any wheat, soy, or corn. Because we want #BarkBoxDay to be incredible for pups AND their parents, every box is wrapped in a fun surprise theme that changes monthly. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $108 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

Dog GIfts

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 31, 2018

Nutritionist-crafted food for your dog's breed or mix.

Recipes designed for dogs' individuality



A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.