When you cuddle with your furry best friend and they start to lick you, it’s easy to assume that they are just showing affection. However, there might be more to this behavior than meets the eye.
Dogs can communicate with us in many ways, but licking is one of the most common ones. As humans, we tend to think of licking as a way of kissing or showing love. But for dogs, it can mean something entirely different.
“Dogs lick for various reasons: to show affection, to clean themselves, and to communicate with their owners.” -Stanley Coren
In this article, we explore some of the surprising reasons behind why your dog licks you when you cuddle. From grooming behaviors to social cues, understanding your pup’s tongue language can help strengthen the bond between you two.
So whether you’re a new dog owner or a seasoned pup parent, dive into these fascinating insights to find out what your canine companion might be trying to tell you during those quiet moments of cuddling.
The Lick of Affection
Showing Love and Care
If you own a dog, you must have experienced the joy of getting licked by your furry friend while cuddling. While it might seem disgusting to some people, this gesture carries various meanings.
The first and foremost reason why dogs lick their owners when cuddling is to show affection towards them. It’s their way of telling you that they love you. Dogs are known for being man’s best friends, and licking is just one of the ways they express their friendship. Dogs also lick other dogs as a sign of submission and respect. Hence, when they lick humans, it shows their loyalty and obedience towards them.
You might have noticed that when you come back home from work after a long day, your dog runs up to you and starts licking you. It makes them feel happy and content to see you again. They want to welcome you and show you how much they missed you.
Bonding with Your Pet
Dogs communicate through body language, but we don’t always understand what they are trying to convey. However, licking can be interpreted as a way of bonding between pet and owner. When a dog licks its owner, it releases oxytocin, which is also called the ‘love hormone’. This hormone is responsible for emotional bonding, trust-building, and social attachment in humans and animals alike.
Oxytocin release in both the dog and the owner strengthens their bond by making the dog associate good feelings with the person they are licking. Therefore, the more a dog licks its owner, the more attached they become. Moreover, it creates a positive reinforcement loop in which the dog continuously seeks out its owner’s attention, which leads to a stronger relationship over time.
Another aspect of bonding that licking can help with is training. When you reward your dog for licking, it associates the behavior positively and becomes more obedient to you.
When Does Licking Become a Concern?
While licking is mostly harmless and adorable, there are certain instances when you should be concerned about excessive licking by your furry friend. If your dog suddenly starts licking you excessively, it might indicate an underlying medical issue or behavioral problem.
Sometimes dogs lick as a way to relieve anxiety and stress. If they start doing it in excess, then it could be a sign that something is bothering them. They may require professional help from a veterinarian.
In some cases, your dog’s licking might cause skin problems such as allergies or infections. It’s important to keep an eye on any signs of irritation or redness around the area where your dog licks.
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” -Orhan Pamuk
The Bottom Line
Your furry companion’s licking habit during cuddles is nothing to be worried about. In fact, it shows their love and affection towards you, helping to strengthen your bond even further. However, if the licking becomes excessive, it might require attention, so make sure to monitor your dog’s behavior regularly and seek professional help if needed.
A Sign of Submission
One of the reasons why dogs lick their owners while cuddling is because it is a sign of submission. Dogs are pack animals that live in social hierarchies, and they have instincts to follow rules set by the alpha dog or leader of the pack.
When your dog licks you during cuddling sessions, they are showing you respect and indicating that you are the alpha dog or pack leader in their eyes. It’s important for them to show this kind of behavior because it ensures the survival of the pack.
“Dogs use licking as a submissive gesture to indicate to other dogs and people that they accept higher social rank.” -Dr. Carlo Siracusa
Respect and Obedience
In addition to submission, your dog may also lick you when cuddling as a way of showing respect and obedience. This behavior is especially common among dogs who receive regular training and discipline from their owners.
Dogs rely on verbal cues, tone of voice, and body language to understand human commands and expectations. When you train your furry friend with positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, they learn what behaviors get rewarded and strive to repeat those actions.
Licking you during cuddles can be seen as an act of obedience because your dog understands that it pleases you, and they want to continue building a strong bond with you based on trust and mutual respect.
“Obedience is not servitude; it is cooperation which rests on mutual respect and love.” -A.A. Milne
Dogs are naturally loyal creatures that form close emotional bonds with their owners. One way they demonstrate this loyalty is through licking during moments of intimacy, like cuddling.
Licking is a gentle and intimate way for dogs to express their love and affection towards you. It shows that they enjoy your company and value the time you spend together. Moreover, it solidifies the bond between you two and helps them feel more secure in their relationship with you.
“Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” -Woodrow Wilson
Dogs are social animals that rely on hierarchy to maintain order and survival. This hierarchical structure is not just found within dog packs but also in relationships between dogs and humans.
Your dog may lick you during cuddles as a way of establishing this hierarchy and letting you know where you stand in your relationship with them. By acknowledging you as the pack leader, they hope to earn your respect and love and create a more stable, harmonious environment for both of you to live in.
When your dog licks you while cuddling, it’s a sign of submission, respect, obedience, loyalty, and an attempt to establish a clear hierarchy. These behaviors are all rooted in the natural instincts of dogs and reflect their desire to connect with their owners in meaningful ways that strengthen their bond.
A Way of Communicating
It’s not uncommon for dogs to lick their human companions during cuddling. Although it can be a sign of affection, licking serves as a way of communicating with humans and other pets. Here are some reasons why your furry friend may lick you:
Expressing Needs and Desires
Dogs may use licking as a way of expressing their needs or desires to humans. If they want to play or go outside, they may try to get our attention by giving us some licks on the face or hands. Additionally, if they’re feeling anxious or stressed, they might use licking as a self-soothing behavior.
“Dogs who receive positive reinforcement when interacting with people through licking (i.e., being rewarded with pats, treats, toys) will continue the behaviour.” – Katie Hettinger, DVM
Sending Social Signals
Licking is also a social behavior that dogs use to send signals to their owners or other animals. Dogs often use very subtle cues to communicate, and licking can be one of them. Licking another dog’s mouth or muzzle is one way of showing submissiveness. Similarly, licking a person’s face may be interpreted as a gesture of friendship or submission.
“Communicating through licking is normal canine behavior, but it can become a problem if it becomes excessive, obsessive or puzzling, in which case discussing it with your veterinarian is recommended.” – Dr. Sophia Yin
Building Trust and Connection
Licking can also help dogs build trust and connection with their human guardians. This natural method of bonding allows the dog to form an emotional bond with his or her owner while building confidence in themselves. The act of licking stimulates endorphins in both dogs and humans, making us feel good. In fact, it has been suggested that the hormonal effects of licking can produce a calming effect on people.
“Licking in general releases endorphins too, so it’s possible that your dog is using you for emotional support or comfort.” – Dr. Ryan Llera
Indicating Mood and Emotions
Licking can also be an indicator of mood and emotions in dogs. When they’re feeling happy and content, your pooch might lick you more often than usual. Conversely, if they’re anxious or fearful, they might resort to excessive licking as a means of self-soothing. If your dog suddenly starts licking more frequently than usual, take note. It could be an indication that something is wrong with them!
“Be aware of changes in your dog’s behaviour around licking; any sudden increases or decreases should be considered a potential cause for concern.” – Dr Joanna WoodnuttIn conclusion, there could be various reasons why your dog licks you when you cuddle. However, regardless of their motives, chances are it’s just their way of communicating with you and building a stronger bond. Keep in mind, though, that excessive licking may be a sign of underlying health problems that need attention. So always pay attention to any unusual behavior from your furry friend and contact a veterinarian if needed.
A Natural Grooming Instinct
As a pet parent, you may have experienced your dog licking you when cuddling with them. This is because dogs have a natural grooming instinct that involves licking their owners as an expression of affection and care.
Dogs are known to lick their pups to keep them clean and to bond with them, and this behavior is often carried over into adulthood. When your furry friend licks you, it is also their way of showing their devotion to you and strengthening the bond between the two of you.
In addition to bonding and grooming, researchers suggest that dogs also use licking as a form of communication. Just like tail wagging and barking, licking can convey different messages depending on the context and situation.
“Dogs use licking as a language of love,” says Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM.
Maintaining Cleanliness and Hygiene
Besides showing affection, dogs may also lick their owners in an attempt to clean themselves or their human companion. Dogs have very sensitive noses and tongues, which allow them to detect even the slightest odor or residue on the skin.
If you are sweating or wearing perfume, your canine pal will be able to tell. They may try to lick the sweat off your skin or remove any foreign scents they perceive as a threat. Additionally, dogs may lick wounds or injuries to help clean and disinfect them.
“The enzymes found in dog saliva have antibacterial properties, and the constant washing motion of a dog’s tongue can hasten the healing process,” explains veterinarian Jim Humphries, DVM.
Bonding with Other Animals
It’s not just humans that dogs enjoy cuddling and licking. Dogs also lick other animals, including their own kind and even cats. This behavior helps them build relationships and establish trust with other animals in the household or social circle.
If you have multiple pets, you may notice your dogs licking each other during playtime or while relaxing together. It’s a sign that they are comfortable and happy in each other’s company. And if your pooch licks your cat or vice versa, it’s a clear indication that the two have formed a bond and consider each other friends.
“Licking is often a submissive gesture, showing deference to another member of the group,” says dog trainer Victoria Stilwell.
Relaxing and Reducing Stress
In addition to all the above reasons, some researchers suggest that licking also has a calming effect on both dogs and their owners. When dogs lick, it releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone) for both parties involved.
This explains why many people find comfort in cuddling with their furry friends or allowing them to lick their face and hands. The repetitive motion of licking can be soothing and help reduce stress levels.
“The rhythmic sound of licking can mimic the steady heartbeat that puppies hear when nursing on their mother, which can create a sense of calm,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM.
If you ever wondered why your dog licks you when you cuddle, now you know that there are several reasons behind this adorable behavior. From bonding and grooming to relaxation and hygiene, dogs use licking as a multifunctional tool for both themselves and their human companions.
An Expression of Anxiety
If your dog licks you while cuddling, it could be a sign of anxiety. Dogs can become anxious for various reasons such as separation anxiety, fear of loud noises or unfamiliar situations.
Dogs often express their anxiety through licking. It’s a way for them to self-soothe and cope with their stress. When dogs lick, their bodies release endorphins, which help to calm them down.
“Dogs will use licking as a calming signal or appeasement gesture when they are feeling nervous or insecure.” -Dr. Rachel Barrack
Feeling Nervous or Insecure
When your dog is feeling nervous or insecure, he may turn to you for comfort. Licking is a way for him to show his affection and love towards you while also seeking reassurance that everything is okay.
Your dog may only exhibit this behavior during stressful situations or after experiencing something new or unsettling.
Acknowledging and comforting your dog during these times can help to alleviate his anxiety and strengthen the bond between you both.
“If your dog licks you, particularly around your face, take it as an expression of his affection for you.” -Tanya Barden, Manager of Behavior Counseling at the ASPCA
Seeking Reassurance and Comfort
Besides soothing themselves, dogs also seek physical touch from their owners to feel secure and loved. They crave human attention and affection, and licking is one way for them to communicate their need for it.
The act of cuddling releases oxytocin in both humans and dogs, which creates feelings of happiness and strengthens the emotional connection between owner and pet.
“Dogs who frequently cuddle and lick their owners have been shown to have lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.” -Dr. Kendra Pope
Reacting to New or Unfamiliar Situations
If your dog starts licking you more than usual during a new experience, it could be a sign that he’s overwhelmed or unsure of what to do.
For example, if you bring your dog to a new park with unfamiliar sights and smells, he may start licking you as a way to seek comfort and reassurance in an otherwise overwhelming situation.
Overtime, as your dog adjusts to new situations or experiences, he may exhibit less licking behavior towards you.
“Dogs can sometimes seem anxious when exposed to stimuli they might not understand or are fearful of…” -Dr. Anthony Pilny, Clinical Associate Professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical SciencesIn conclusion, dogs display various behaviors to communicate their needs and emotions. Licking is one way for them to cope with anxiety and express affection towards their owners. If you notice excessive licking, it’s important to pay attention to your dog’s surroundings and emotional state, as it could indicate an underlying issue that requires attention from a veterinarian or trained professional. Ultimately, understanding and providing comfort to your furry best friend can help to strengthen the bond between owner and pet.
A Taste for Salt
It is common for dogs to lick their owners, especially when cuddling. One of the reasons behind this behavior is due to a dog’s taste for salt. Dogs need sodium in their diet like humans do and will crave it if they are lacking in it. This craving can lead to them licking anything that has salt residue on it, including our skin.
Another reason why dogs want sodium is that they lose it through sweating. Unlike humans who sweat all over the body, dogs only sweat through their paw pads. When their bodies become overheated or stressed, they produce more sweat through their paws, leading to a loss of salt. Licking your skin helps replenish this necessary mineral for them.
- If your dog excessively licks you, make sure to check their diet for proper sodium intake.
- Make sure to provide enough water, so they don’t get overly dehydrated and start excessively salivating and licking you.
- Always keep fresh water available at all times to ensure proper hydration levels.
Getting Essential Minerals
Licking isn’t just for getting essential minerals; it is also a way of showing affection and bonding with their owner. When you cuddle with your furry friend, they may lick your face as a sign of affection. The scent and salty taste of your skin help them feel closer to you. Dogs have an excellent sense of smell and use it to identify each other, and licking helps reinforce those bonds between dogs and people.
Nonetheless, while most dogs love licking their pet parent’s faces, others avoid it altogether. If your dog doesn’t seem to show any interest, it might be because of your perfume or other products you put on your skin that smells strange to them. Don’t take it personally and respect their boundaries.
“The dog’s tongue is packed with characteristics that make them the perfect kissing machine.” -Sally Morgan, Psychologist
Dogs use their sense of smell to communicate with other dogs. They can detect who has been in an area before and where they went. In addition, when they lick you, they leave behind their scent as a way of marking their territory. Licking serves as an act of intimacy between two individuals, creating bonding opportunities and reducing stress levels for both dogs and humans.
This explains why some dogs may be more prone to mark you than others. High-strung dogs or those with poor breeding– such as fighting breeds, rescue dogs with unknown history, etc.–may fall back on ingrained instincts easier and feel like they have to claim their space. Others might do this due to anxiety or insecurity problems. If your dog marks excessively, consult with a veterinarian or specialist to help correct behavior concerns; positive reinforcement training can alleviate separation anxiety, fear, and other causes for concern.
- If your dog persists in licking even after you’ve offered plenty of enrichment or tries to mount you without invitation, these could all be signs of trouble, demanding immediate action from a pet expert.
- Dog ownership involves educating yourself about common pup habits, including licking and what those behaviors indicate. Knowing your pet helps grasp how they’re feeling so you can respond appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do dogs lick their owners?
Dogs lick their owners for a variety of reasons, including showing affection, seeking attention, and communicating with their owners. Licking can also be a sign of submission or a way for dogs to explore their environment through taste. Additionally, dogs may lick their owners as a way to release stress or anxiety.
Is licking a sign of affection in dogs?
Yes, licking is often a sign of affection in dogs. Dogs will often lick their owners as a way to show their love and affection, and to seek attention and affection in return. However, it is important to note that excessive licking can also be a sign of stress or anxiety, so it is important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior and body language.
What does it mean when a dog licks your face?
When a dog licks your face, it can be a sign of affection, but it can also be a sign of dominance or submission. Dogs may also lick their owners’ faces as a way to communicate, or to seek attention or food. However, it is important to train your dog not to lick your face if you are uncomfortable with this behavior.
Can excessive licking be a sign of anxiety in dogs?
Yes, excessive licking can be a sign of anxiety in dogs. Dogs may lick excessively as a way to self-soothe or to release stress, and this behavior can become compulsive over time. If your dog is licking excessively, it is important to consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.
Should you discourage your dog from licking you?
It depends on your personal preferences and your dog’s behavior. If your dog’s licking is causing you discomfort or annoyance, or if your dog is licking excessively or inappropriately, it may be necessary to discourage this behavior through training and positive reinforcement. However, if you are comfortable with your dog’s licking and it is not causing any issues, there is no need to discourage this behavior.