The most loving mark of any animal-lovers’ home is being greeted by their dog, the second they step in. More often than not, even if the other dwellers of your home have a simple, “Hello” or “How was your day?” to spare, when they are not busy doing their own stuff, nothing beats receiving that warm and loving welcome from your dog. With their excited sniffing, to classic tail-wagging, to jumping on you and licking you, they don’t stop or hold back from showing you how much they missed you or are happy to see you home.
By going all out to please and lick you with love till you’re covered in their drool, have you ever wondered why dogs lick humans? Well, one guess is because that’s their way of showing love because they can’t talk, but did you know that wet gesture could be an attempt to convey other things?
So here are 7 possible reasons and meanings behind your loving little doggy’s licking.
1. Showing Affection
As the most obvious reason, licking is a dog’s way of displaying their love for us. Dogs are known to be naturally affectionate animals and have many different ways of showing us their love. When dogs lick us, their brains release endorphins, which calms them down and reassures them. It could be compared to the very same feeling and sense of security a child has when the want their parents to hug or kiss them. Love and affection being a primary motivation behind licking, this is why it’s been listed as reason number 1. So let’s get to the less obvious reasons next.
Communication is often associated with being verbal, involving sound, or some obvious forms of body language, like when dogs wag their tails. Likewise, this leads us to think that a dogs bark means that they are trying to tell us something or warn us of something. However, licking and few other less stereotyped gestures may also be forms of communication. They may be trying to tell us that they want something from us, like some food, water or going for a walk. In some cases they may be trying to cheer us up like when we are sick or sad. Or for all you know, you happened to have some food on your face and they saw a chance to lick it off. Who knows? Whatever it is, we must learn to interpret what our furry friends’ behavior means.
3. Seeking Attention
Dogs are made to love and be loved too. Which is why they always crave for your attention and do all kinds of things to get it. This is similar to how kids perform their many crazy antics to receive attention and be noticed. Likewise, dogs would bark, wag their tails, rub themselves against us, jump on us, and even land their sloppy wet kisses by licking us. This is done even more so when you are paying attention to something else more than them. So when they feel neglected or less loved they know what that’s the one thing they have to do. When they do this, show them your love by patting them, rubbing their bellies, giving them a treat, and showing them how much you love them too. You know they deserve that from you more than anyone else!
4. Submissive Gesture
As with all animals who live in packs or are socially-driven, licking can also be considered a submissive gesture towards the dominant members of the pack. This one gesture shows you that you have their obedience, respect, and that they are directly communicating their subordination to remind you that you’re the leader of their pack. When dogs lick us, it is their way of letting us know that we’re the boss and they may do this with other members of the household or even other people that have earned their love and respect too.
5. Explorative Technique
Dogs are natural hunters, which goes back to their ancestral canine genes. When surviving in the wild, they used the superior sense of their noses and tongues to explore places, identify people, discover or know different objects whether they were animate or inanimate. Just as we are connected and learn the sensations of the world around us through our senses, similarly dogs use their sense of taste to distinguish and recognize the various things around them and us. Whether it is that skunk running around in the backyard, that new garden gnome you just got, or even that meatball sub you shouldn’t have kept in their reach. Whoops…
6. Tasting Us
Just as how dogs identify us and others by our distinctive odor, they can also clearly recognize us through taste. After licking us many times before, they are able to recognize and recall who we are based on the salts released from the pores of our skin, when we sweat. Once they lick and register those taste markers for different people in their minds, they can accurately identify who we are, reassert their memories, and start to like our taste till it becomes a habit.
7. Force Of Habit
If the habit of licking a person is encouraged, the dog assumes that the person enjoys the experience. Therefore, this operative conditioning makes the dog repeat the act of licking over and over again, not just to you but also those around you, until being told otherwise. On the other hand, if a person discourages the dog from licking, then the dog begins to understand that they do not like it and stops that licking behavior soon after. However, that doesn’t mean they may stop doing that to other people. By then, they might understand who likes their licking habit and who doesn’t.
The reasons dogs lick us may be all, some, none, or more reasons than the ones listed above. So, here’s the untold story behind your canine’s licking, whether you enjoy it, simply take it because you love your dog so much or don’t like it at all.