My Dog Won’t Stop Licking Me – Causes of Excessive Licking. Dogs lick their humans as a sign of love and affection. It is a demonstration of attachment, highlighting their security in your presence and suggesting a strong bond between the two of you.
As with any behavior, compulsive or excessive licking by the dog might indicate there is an issue. To understand, we need to look at this issue from a clinical and ethological point of view.
In this AnimalWised article on my dog won’t stop licking me, we look at the causes of excessive licking and what you can do about it. We do so in order to help you figure out what might be going on with your dog if they have taken to licking you excessively.
Why does my dog lick me so much?
Licking is a behavior that originates from wolves, the ancestors of domestic dogs. It usually starts when they are young pups. Licking plays an important role in communication between members of a pack and can help with many different aspects of their lives, such as hunting.
Hunting is one of the most important things that wolves do and adult wolves will pass this knowledge on to their offspring.
Wolves are usually hunt in packs and will travel long distances to do so. This often takes them far away from the den where their young stay.
When a wolf returns to the den, the pups are always very excited. They exit the den and run to the hunters, jumping and eagerly anticipating food. You will also see them licking the snouts of the adult wolves.
This incessant licking isn’t just a display of hunger – there’s a biological process at work here. The licking stimulates a reflex in the adult wolf, causing them to regurgitate some food for the young. It’s believed that this ancestral trait has been passed down to domestic dogs as well.
When we question why our dog won’t stop licking us, the first thing we need to consider is whether they are doing so excessively. It’s possible that our dog licks us a lot, but they could simply be very affectionate with us.
In these cases, we need to be careful. We don’t want to scold our dog for simply enacting a healthy behavior or prevent them from doing so.
We also need to look at other reasons why a dog won’t stop licking us and whether it is healthy behavior. Before we do, you might want to check our related article on signs your dog loves you.
Reasons why dogs lick us
For the reasons explained above, we want to understand why a dog might be licking us all the time. Whether a healthy or unhealthy expression, we need to know what they are trying to say to us. It could be due to:
It’s no secret that dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do. In fact, their sense of smell is thousands of times more acute than ours. So, if you notice your dog coming up to lick you when or after you’re eating, it’s possible they want to experience some of the deliciousness they may think is on offer.
They may still do this even when they have enough of their own food. If they do it excessively, it is worth checking to see if they are receiving the correct nutrition and amount of food.
Dogs may lick our faces because they want food or anything else, just like wolf pups licking the snouts of their pack members. This can become a problem if they’re never satiated.
Boredom can also lead dogs to excessively lick our faces. Each dog is an individual with specific needs in terms of exercise and engagement. If these needs are not met, they may lick us excessively as a way to distract themselves. When they do not have sufficient engagement, the result is negative behaviors in various forms.
Licking excessively can be a sign of serious mental stress. This is especially so when we see them licking things they normally shouldn’t. This is explained further in our article on why my dog is licking metal.
Why does my dog lick my feet, hands, mouth or face?
A dog might lick a human’s body for any of the reasons listed above, but there are some specific things to consider. For example:
- – If a dog licks your face, it might be because they’re trying to show you affection or because they want something from you.
- – If a dog licks your hand, it could be because they smells something on you that they’re interested in, or because they want to show submission.
- – If a dog licks your feet, it might be because they like the taste of your skin, or because they want to get your attention.
- For further information about why a dog licks different body parts, take a look at our video on why does my dog lick me?:
How to stop a dog licking you
Firstly, we need to decide whether the licking is normal behavior or one which is excessive or compulsive. Licking us a little as part of their communication is not something which usually needs to be rectified, even if we need to discourage them from licking our mouths.
In cases when the dog’s licking implies they have a problem, we need to determine what it is. We should look at the context and see if there are any reasons why they may be stressed or anxious.
Have we done something different to the home? Have there been any changes to the family dynamic? The presence of a new child or pet can be particularly disruptive. Often the dog will lick us out of a fear they will be abandoned in these cases.
Excessive licking is a natural behavior for dogs, even if it’s inconvenient for us. Scolding them will only confuse them and, most likely, make the situation worse. We need to educate them and train them not to do this by removing ourselves when they start to lick us.
This’ll help them know that it’s something we don’t like. When they stop licking, we can reward them with positive reinforcement such as petting and positive words. This benefits both you and your dog by improving your bond. Offering a toy as an alternative to licking can also be helpful.
Dogs lick their humans for many reasons – boredom, hunger, anxiety, and more. If we want to discourage our dogs from licking us excessively, we need to make sure their needs are being met.
Take them out for longer walks, engage in exercise with them, or even ask someone else to walk them if we don’t have the time. Games and toys will also help to encourage cognitive function. The result is usually a more content dog which will not feel the need to lick us as much.
If we cannot work out why the dog is licking us so much, especially if it happens all of a sudden, we need to take them to the veterinarian.
Should I let my dog lick me?
Finally, we’ll answer the question of whether or not it’s safe to let a dog lick us. Some people may see it as being socially unacceptable, but that’s not a good enough reason to stop doing it. The real reason to stop is for hygiene purposes. Dogs can handle bacteria in their mouths that would otherwise make us very sick.
For example, dogs greet each other by sniffing each other’s glands near their rectums. They may also lick the urine of other dogs to get information from them. Canine fecal matter can be very harmful to humans, so it’s best to avoid contact with it altogether.
We can let a dog lick our hands or feet, but it’s important to always wash afterwards. If we don’t, we’re promoting poor hygiene for the household. Microbes which promote disease may not cause us a direct problem, but we need to be careful of anyone in the home who may be vulnerable, such as pregnant women, children or seniors.