A typical canine behavior, our pooches often do not seem to need a reason to put their tongue all over our faces. And while most of us have no problem with the behavior, we may still sometimes wonder why our pooches do so. For others who are not huge fans of this behavior and want to know why do dogs lick faces, you're also in the right place. We'll discuss some of the common reasons our pooches do this in this article.
Table of Contents
The Reasons Dogs Lick Faces?
A Form of Communication
A behavior often learned from their mothers, puppies lick themselves and their pack or litter mates for grooming purposes and to also welcome new members of the pack. The behavior helps to improve the bond shared among them.
Adult/fully-aware dogs often lick the pack's "top dog" as a show of submission to the dominant pack member. To fully indicate its submission, you may notice the dog look up to the dominant dog with its body lowered.
On their part, the dog being licked asserts its dominance during the activity by standing tall as they accept the licks. However, they do not return the gesture.
So, why does my dog lick me? Isn't this supposed to be reserved for canines alone? Even with other dominant dogs in the home, you are the top dog or the most dominant one to your dog. And one of the ways it expresses its submission is by licking your face.
In the absence of any other dominant dog, your dog will lick your face every chance it gets to reassure you of its submission. You may also notice this behavior when they're guilty about something they did regardless of whether you're aware of the crime or not
Dogs Lick to Groom
Dogs often view their human family as members of their pack. And just like they would do with other pack members, your canine will lick your face to keep it clean. If your dog does this often, it is probably because he believes that the licks will keep you cleansed.
A Habit From Birth
From birth, most puppies are taught how to lick. Puppy mothers will lick their pups to keep them clean, stimulate feces elimination, and show affection. And because our pups learn quickly from their mothers, they soon become masters at using their mouths. You will often find pups exploring their environment (including your face) with their mouth.
Our pups may also lick their mother's face when they need to stimulate regurgitation. It is a polite and submissive way of asking their mother to regurgitate food for them. It may also be a reason our dogs lick our faces. While you do not have to repeat your meal for your pet, the behavior may help you know when your dog feels hungry, especially after a high-energy activity or when you forget to feed it.
Just like submission, dogs can lick your face to show respect. Like wolves, canines are pack animals, which means they are inclined to follow a long-established social hierarchy. Dogs let you know that they respect and submit to you and other home members as the dominant pack leaders by licking your face.
They Enjoy the Taste of Sweat
Sweat is salty. The saltiness of your skin can sometimes be the main attraction for your pup. So, don't sweat it. The reason your dog licks your face may not be unconnected to the fact that it thinks you taste good.
For Information Gathering
Canines are massive on showing affection to their humans, and of course, this should come as no surprise considering their long and fascinating history as man's best friend. When dogs lick your face, they sometimes do it to know how you feel at a particular time. This behavior is made possible by the special receptors present in the nose and mouth that are efficient at picking and processing specific molecules present in our sweat.
Through this method, they can accurately predict your mood and try to cheer you up if you're unhappy or stressed or partake in your joy if happy.
As a Greeting
Our dogs are always glad to see a member of their pack back with them again. One of the ways they show their joy is by licking you. Our dogs cannot shake us as humans would, but they can move their tongues as much as they want, explaining all the licking that occurs when they see you.
Why don't I just teach them to shake my hands instead? Well, no matter how much they're trained to shake hands, to our canines, it will never be as good as licking you with their tongues. Plus, extending their paws for a handshake isn't very comfortable to do with all the excitement of having you back.
One of the more selfish reasons for licking, our pooches will lick our faces simply because of the fun they derive from doing it. The licking triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins, which create a sense of security and comfort. Put simply, your dog will lick your face only because it feels good.
How Do I Make My Dog Stop Licking Faces?
How do I stop my dog from licking faces? While licking is a harmless behavior, not everyone likes it. And if this is you or you feel your dog might be excessively licking or licking the faces of people who disapprove of it, you may be able to manage the behavior.
However, there is no guarantee that you can completely stop it from happening, considering that licking is part of our canines' many instinctual behaviors. Even curbing the action will take time because of the reasons above.
Again, with the proper training and adequate time invested, you can train some restraint level into your dog. However, before taking that massive step to training out the behavior, remember again that it is one of the ways your pooch communicates. While there are other ways your dog may still communicate its needs, you have to ensure that training out this form of communication will not affect its life or your relationship significantly.
Making Your Dog Stop Licking
Ignore the Behavior
Our canines know they'll get our attention when they lick our faces. And they love attention! Want to get your pooch to stop licking your face or at least keep the behavior minimal? Then ignore him any time he does it. Giving your dog attention any time it licks your face encourages the behavior, especially since it is one you're trying to stop. Keep at it, and they'll cut it out before you know it.
Distract Them With Something in Their Mouth
As said earlier, our pooch will lick our faces out of boredom/needing something to do. In this case, what you can do is reroute that energy by putting something in their mouth. A treat, bone, or a chew toy should work. It will be too distracted to come after your face or others' with any of this in their mouth. This technique is quick, easy, and works almost all the time.
Get Him Some Exercise
All dogs need exercise. And large breed dogs especially. Dogs may lick your face as a way to burn up stored energy. Take your dog outdoors (a walk or the dog park are great ideas) and engage it in physically and mentally stimulating exercises to keep the energy levels in check.
Say a Firm, “No.”
If ignoring your pooch doesn't work or seems inadequate, you can start saying "NO" when it comes to licking your face. However, this has to be expressed in a firm, calm voice so your dog knows that you do not enjoy or appreciate the behavior and should pull away immediately.
Consider Bitter Sprays
Only do this as a last resort. If your dog licks frequently and obsessively and all else have failed, you can almost always count on bitter sprays to curb this behavior. These sprays are harmless, and because they taste bitter to your pooch, they'll discourage it from licking in the future. Just a few uses might be all you need before your dog comes to associate the area with the unpleasant experiences.
Spray on the skin area or any other object you'd want it to stop licking or nibbling on.
Dogs Licking Faces: Conclusion
While our pooches remain some of our best furry friends, they can sometimes behave in ways we disagree with, such as obsessively licking our faces or humping our feet. Again, this is a natural behavior, and we discussed some of the common reasons why dogs do lick faces. I also outlined some of the ways it can be stopped or managed. Again, understand that because the action is mostly instinctual, it may take some time to stop in some cases. Be patient, calm, firm, and consistent with the techniques above, and you should see a difference in the way your canine acts.
About the Author
Kirsten created The Pet Handbook with the aim of sharing her knowledge about pets, pet food, healthy habits, and more. All of her advice is based on years of her own experience with her pets, and feedback that she has received from grateful readers about her tips. If you want to know more please read the About Me page.