Is that face slurping your dog gives you an expression of his love or something else? There are many possible explanations for this behavior, and they appear to vary for different dogs and under various circumstances.
Biological Reasons for Dog Licking
Dogs lick for many reasons, some of which are purely biological. When a female dog has a litter, she licks them to remove the afterbirth from the pups and to stimulate them to breathe. After that is complete, she will lick to encourage them to eliminate urine and feces until they start doing it on their own.
Pups will lick their mothers to establish a bond with her and to stimulate their mental development. Licking can also be a sign of submission in their body language communication system.
Both adult and young dogs use licking to groom themselves. Besides the hygienic aspects, it is part of a survival-oriented behavior. They use licking to remove traces of anything that smells so they can remain invisible to their prey. While unnecessary for domestic dogs, many retain these instincts and practice regular grooming.
Psychological Reasons for Dog Licking
Like people, dogs engage in many behaviors when nervous or stressed. Some dogs find comfort in licking themselves when they are experiencing environmental stresses such as separation anxiety or a house full of visitors. It becomes a problem if they go so far as to create a lick granuloma, or open sore from compulsive licking, which could require them to take a Calming supplement or anti-anxiety medication.
Others take to nervous licking when they experience external stressors. If going to the vet makes them anxious, for example, they may begin to lick their lips when they enter the clinic or nibble their feet in the waiting room.
Licking can also be used as a sign of goodwill or gesture of making up for something they’ve done wrong. This is very close to forms of human kissing, so the interpretation might be closer to showing love.
On the flip side, dogs may use face kissing to establish boundaries. A dominant dog may use face licking when he meets a new person to demand attention and gauge how much leverage he has. He will require a “No Lick!” command to set limitations.
Other Reasons for Licking
Dogs can use licking as a learned response if their owners respond positively. So, whether the initial reason for licking stems from maternal lip smacking, anxiety, the owner’s face tasting salty or true affection … if the owner’s response is to hug them, rub their belly or give them a treat, that dog will surely add face licking in their arsenal of tricks to get what they want.
Do Dogs Lick to Show Love?
Many scientists don’t believe dogs lick to show love at all. Others believe that a strong bond between owner and dog could create such profound feelings of awe for their owner that they have an unstoppable need to engage in face licking as often as possible. Whether it is truly showing romantic love or some sign of a dog’s affection or respect, most pet parents will categorize it as puppy love, hands down.
This blog is brought to you by Under the Weather®, makers of a line of award-winning freeze-dried bland diets for dogs and supplements for both dogs and cats. If licking or self-grooming become a compulsive behavior, you might try our Calming supplement for dogs.
Under the Weather is also an avid participant in the pet overpopulation cause. A portion of every sale is channeled to the Ruffy Rescue Transport Fund which finances the transportation of pets from overpopulated shelters around the U.S.A. to Vermont for adoption. The fund also covers the cost of spaying and neutering these animals. Get to know more about Ruffy and the inspiration for our company.
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