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why do dogs lick you ?

Certain canine behaviors are unavoidable. No one is surprised to see a dog barking, nodding his head in curiosity, turning around before lying down or licking those around him. Licking, although common, can be difficult for owners to understand and control. Learning why dogs tend to lick may help you better understand your pet and give you clues to limit this behaviour if it proves to be problematic.

Why do dogs lick themselves and other dogs?

Dogs may lick themselves to clean a wound or remove parasites such as fleas, but also to groom themselves. When your dog licks himself, it is like giving himself a sponge bath. It’s a way for him to relieve an itch or a sensitive area that doesn’t show through his coat, or just to clean himself up a bit. Begin to ask yourself if his compulsive licking causes hair loss or hot spots, or if he only licks his paws, which is a hallmark of allergies.

Then, when dogs lick each other, they do so to socialize. According to Dr. Fran├žois Martin, Purina’s animal behaviour scientist, social grooming begins very early in a dog’s life, when the mother licks her newborn puppies to clean, relieve and comfort them. Later, it’s a way for your dog to politely greet a friend (usually only dogs that know each other lick each other) and show him that he’s not a threat.

Why do dogs lick people?

When your doggie licks you or other humans, it’s usually a friendly and social gesture, like when he greets other dogs. It’s his way of saying “Hello! I love you” or “I’m so happy to see you! Look how well I’m doing” and to bond with you. Of course, if you have food around your mouth or on your hands, your dog might also lick you just to taste it!

How to reduce your dog’s licking

There are ways to limit your dog’s problematic licking, whether he licks himself obsessively or licks your guests with a little too much abandon. The key is to first find the source of this behavior. If your dog has just started licking or is licking much more than before, especially if he’s chewing his hair or licking his paws, he may be suffering from a skin allergy or some other condition. In this case, we recommend that you have him examined to make sure he is in good health.

Once you’ve determined that it’s a behavioural problem, you can address it by following the tips below:

Be consistent. If you let your dog lick you at some times but not at others, he won’t know the difference or understand that you are trying to limit the behaviour. It is therefore important to forbid your dog to lick you every time he tries to do so and to enforce this by leaving the premises or by stopping giving him attention.

Give your dog an acceptable option. A toy filled with treats or a new bone (be sure to ask your veterinarian what products he or she recommends) can help control your dog’s licking by encouraging your dog to adopt another behaviour that is more appropriate instead, such as chewing.
If you are concerned about your dog’s licking, start with a visit to the vet. However, this behaviour is usually not caused by a health problem. Purina has a wealth of resources that can help you better understand your dog’s behaviours and their role in your relationship.

Also read our article on shy dogs: 10 signs your dog loves you

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