Why do dogs lick?

Does your dog give you “kisses”? Does he/she spend a good portion of the day grooming? Just why do dogs lick anyway?

pug lick


Mother dogs lick their puppies to clean them, stimulate breathing, and to communicate so licking is something dogs learn early. It can be used to signify respect to a more dominant dog or simply to get the attention of their human or canine friends. It can be used as a means of showing affection as in doggy “kisses”. Often, the dog is rewarded with positive attention for licking so it is a pleasurable activity.

lick kid


Dogs may lick simply because they like the taste of the salt on human skin or because of the lingering scent of food. It’s also a way of investigating a new smell.


Lacking opposable thumbs, dogs have no way to brush themselves. So licking is used to clean fur, paws and other areas.

bulldog paw lick

Injury or Pain

Sometimes licking can indicate an area of pain or a wound. Saliva has bacteria killing enzymes and can aid in wound healing. However, obsessive licking of the area can cause the area to become raw and actually worsen the wound. Please have any areas that your pet is obsessively licking seen by a veterinarian to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Stress Relief

Sometimes our pets get stressed just like we do. Or bored. So licking can become a pleasurable way to pass the time or a self soothing behavior to relieve stress.

pit lick

Want to stop the licking?

Licking is a pleasurable, stress relieving activity that gets attention. So in order to decrease the behavior – ignore it! If your dog licks you, get up and leave the room. Or if petting your dog, the petting stops when the licking begins.

Remember:  Any chronic, obsessive licking could signify an underlying issue. Please always make sure your dog is getting enough attention and stimulation and have allergies, pain or other injury ruled out by your vet.

Otherwise, enjoy those doggy kisses! I do!

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