The Science and Sentiment Behind Why Dogs Lick You

Dog Licking Man While On Phone

Dogs are renowned for their affectionate and sometimes slobbery displays of love, and one of the most common behaviors is licking. If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely experienced the sensation of a wet, raspy tongue on your face or hands. While this behavior might seem simple, there are various reasons why dogs engage in licking, ranging from instinctual behavior to communication and social bonding.

Let’s talk a little more about why dogs lick you and the meaning behind it.


Communication and Social Bonding

In the canine world, licking serves as a form of communication and social bonding. From birth, puppies are groomed and licked by their mothers as a means of cleaning, stimulating bowel movements, and promoting bonding within the litter. This early introduction to licking establishes a lifelong association between the act and positive emotions.

As dogs grow older, they carry this behavior into their interactions with humans. Licking releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones, for both the dog and the recipient. It’s a way for dogs to express affection and reinforce the social bonds they share with their human family members.


Submission and Respect

Licking can also be a submissive gesture in the canine world. When a dog licks a person’s face or hands, they may be acknowledging the person’s authority or showing respect. In a pack structure, submissive behavior helps maintain order, and licking is one way dogs demonstrate their understanding of hierarchy.

By offering this gesture, dogs may be seeking affirmation or reassurance from their human companions. Responding positively to this behavior helps strengthen the bond between the dog and its owner.


Exploration and Taste

Dogs are naturally curious creatures, and licking is one of their ways of exploring their environment. A dog’s sense of taste is highly developed, and by licking surfaces and objects, they can gather information about their surroundings. When your dog licks you, they may be investigating your scent, tasting traces of food, or simply trying to understand more about you.


Health and Well-being

Dogs use licking as a way to maintain their own hygiene. Constant grooming is not only a way to keep clean but also serves as a self-soothing mechanism. If your dog licks you, it could be an extension of this behavior, as they perceive you as part of their social unit.

It’s important to note that excessive licking, beyond normal social behavior, can sometimes be a sign of underlying health issues such as allergies, anxiety, or skin problems. If you observe persistent and abnormal licking, consulting with a veterinarian is recommended.



The act of licking is a multi-faceted behavior deeply rooted in a dog’s biology and social dynamics. Whether it’s a sign of affection, submission, or simply an exploration of the environment, dogs use licking to communicate and strengthen their bonds with their human companions. Understanding and appreciating this behavior can deepen the connection between you and your furry friend, making the slobbery kisses all the more endearing.

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