Why does your dog lick you-

Licking… are they really kisses?

You have probably wondered whether your Banksia Park Puppy licking you is really ‘kisses’ like you have always been told. You will be surprised to learn that there is much more to it than you think!

Lets start with a scenario – You come home from work and your dog hasn’t seen you all day and when you go out to give him a pat he smothers you in licks! Are these kisses because he has missed you? Or something else?

In this blog I will give you a bit more information on why dogs lick and where that action came from. Hopefully by the end you will be able to answer the question yourself!

Licking has always been an instinctive action

Thousands of years ago – before dogs were living with humans – they were licking their mums. The reason for this is primarily because they were hungry and telling mum that they want food! Mum would go out hunting and instead of trying to carry the food back to her litter of puppies she would eat the food and carry it back in her belly. When she saw her puppies they would lick at her face and mouth to get the food, and she would regurgitate it back up for them to eat.

Mum has also used licking to clean her puppies as well as helping their bodies function the way that they should and stimulate movements if required.

Pack order

Dogs also lick to show that they are submissive to another dog/being. You may have seen younger dogs do this to older adult dogs. This also happens in adult dogs i.e. adult dog to adult dog. You will see the submissive dog lower itself and lick either the other dog or in the air in the direction of the dog. The dominant dog will stand tall and not return the lick; this all helps to work out who is the boss.

Dogs today

Our dogs and puppies today live in our houses with us and are a huge part of our families. We teach them through puppy training and usually positive reinforcement to learn mannerisms so that they fit into our lives and we can time together as human and dog. Some ways that we reward our dogs and puppies are through pats, cuddles, kisses back from us, rubs on the belly, throwing the ball for them etc. These all use positive reinforcement training. Do you come home from work and your dog gives you kisses and you think it’s super cute so you pat and cuddle them and kiss them back or perhaps throw them the ball? This is all reinforcement that you like the kisses and your dog is being trained to give you more kisses for all your love in return. This is an example of learned behaviour of domesticated dogs.

So why is your dog licking you?

Now you know where your dog’s instincts come from with licking. So let’s ask the same question

“You come home from work and your dog hasn’t seen you all day and when you go out to give him a pat he smothers you in licks! Are these kisses because he has missed you? Or something else?”

Now you should understand a little more about what he may be trying to tell you i.e.:

  • Is he hungry or thirsty?
  • Has he learned the behaviour from you through positive reinforcement and is wanting kisses and cuddles, a treat, or a ball thrown?
  • Is he (cutely) asking for a treat?
  • Is he saying that you are the dominant one in the pack?

Hopefully we have helped you communicate with your dog a little better and understand what he or she may be trying to say to you!

Does your dog lick you? Let us know when and if we’ve helped you understand your dog more!


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