Why do Dogs Lick?

Posted by Eddie Salama on

“There is nothing truer in this world than the love of a good dog”. –Mina Grant

Dogs like to give kisses by licking us, right? As dog lovers, I’m sure we all have unforgettable experiences of being licked by dogs. What’s interesting about it is that they give kisses almost to everyone who holds them. They are truly affectionate creatures! According to researches, dogs lick for various reasons. We will be looking at it in a while.


dogs lick


As much interesting as the reasons behind dogs licking is, facts about dog’s saliva is also absorbing. Here are some facts about dogs’ saliva from PetMD


  • Dog saliva helps prevent canine cavities. The saliva found in the mouths of dogs is better suited to prevent cavities, in comparison to human saliva.
  • The saliva of dogs and carnivores in general is slightly alkaline, around 7.5 to 8. The significance of that difference is that dogs do not get dental cavities nearly as frequently as humans. The slightly alkaline nature of dog saliva buffers the acids that are produced by some bacteria that are the cause of the enamel of the tooth being eroded away.
  • Saliva helps dogs with digestion, but not in the way you think. “There are no digestive enzymes present in the saliva of dogs,” Harvey says. “It is purely designed to get the food down into the stomach so the digestive process can start.
  • Unlike people, dogs don’t have to chew their food to mix in the saliva and start the digestive process. A dog’s stomach and intestines can do all the necessary work. The pure, simple function of dog saliva is to move food down the esophagus.
  • Dog saliva is antibacterial. “Dog saliva does contain chemicals that are antibacterial and it’s very unlikely that saliva by itself would be a direct cause of infection,” says Harvey. “You often see dogs licking wounds and that is a cleansing action and an antibacterial action to promote the healing of a superficial wound.” Of course licking won’t cure all superficial infections in dogs, so veterinary visits are still often necessary.
  • Dog “kisses” may transfer bacteria to humans. Just because dog saliva has antibacterial properties does not mean that dog “kisses” are clean and humans should let their guard down.


Dog saliva may produce allergies in humans. While many people believe that pet fur is the culprit of allergic reactions to dogs, many of these allergies actually stem from proteins found in dog saliva. According to a study published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, dog saliva contains at least 12 different allergy-causing protein bands. When dogs lick their fur, the saliva dries, and these proteins become airborne. Researchers who conducted the study concluded that dog saliva has greater potential as an allergen source than dog dander.


dogs lick


As dog owners and their human parents, we must be knowledgeable enough on things about our dogs such as their saliva. Our dogs play along with every member of the family and awareness is definitely a must. Now that we’re more knowledgeable on their salivation and saliva, It’s time to unravel the many reasons governing dogs’ licking. Does a dog’s lick really mean something? According to Cesar’s Way and Cure Joy, a dogs lick does mean something and this could be one of the following:


1. We taste good. If your dog is licking their bowl, the floor after a spill, or the counter after you’ve been cooking, you might pretty easily come to the conclusion that they simply like the taste. But did you know that the same thing can be true when they’re licking us? Sometimes we have tiny food particles that they can taste, and beyond that, dogs enjoy the salt on our skin.

2. Grooming. You might not think of your pup as particularly concerned with hygiene, but dogs often lick to clean themselves, just like cats. Pay close attention, though, because excessive anal cleaning can indicate that the glands need to be expressed.

3. Healing. Dog saliva has enzymes that kill off bacteria, and when a dog licks himself, it helps to get rid of dead tissue and clean dirt from wounds. Some dogs, however, just can’t stop themselves and may actually reopen wounds or cause other kinds of harm through excessive licking.

4. Compulsion. Speaking of excessive licking, if you notice that your dog is licking the same object or area over and over or that they seem to be doing so whenever they are scared or nervous, it might be time to seek medical help. While licking can be a healthy stress reliever, obsessive licking merely reinforces anxiety and makes the problem worse.

5. Communication. Dogs lick other dogs to tell them all sorts of things: everything from “I’m hungry” to “I submit to you” to “Let’s be friends.” They do this with people as well, but we’re typically not as good at interpreting the message. If your dog is licking you with intensity, take a look around and see if something is amiss. They may be trying to tell you that they want something from you, like some food, water, or a game of fetch. Maybe the water bowl is empty or the doggie door is closed. Chances are your dog needs something. Whatever it is, spend enough time with man’s best friend to learn to interpret what their behavior means.


 dogs lick


6. Affection. This is the most common reason that domestic dogs lick and tends to be the kind of licking most pet parents want to change. Licking is a dog’s way of displaying their love and affection for humans. Dogs are known to be naturally affectionate animals and have many different ways of showing their love. When dogs lick you, their brains release endorphins or happiness hormones, which calms them down and reassures them. It could be compared to the very same feeling and sense of security a child has when their parents hug or kiss them. In some cases, they may lick to cheer you up when you are sick or sad. However, sometimes it can just get to be too much for people. If you want your dog to stop, ignore them and walk into another room whenever it begins. Eventually they will learn that licking causes you to leave, which isn’t what they want.

7. Attention. Do you know what a dog’s motto in life is? Love and be loved. Which is why they always crave your attention and do all kinds of things to get it. This is similar to how kids perform their many crazy antics to receive attention and be liked. Dogs would bark, wag their tails, rub themselves against you, jump on you, and even land their sloppy wet kisses on your unsuspecting face, especially when you pay more attention to something or someone else. So when they feel neglected or less loved, they know what the one thing they have to do is. When they do this, show them your love by patting them, rubbing their bellies, giving them a treat, and showing them how much you love them too. You know that more than anyone else, they deserve that from you!

8. Submission. As with all animals who live in packs or are socially driven, licking can also be considered a submissive gesture toward the dominant member of the pack. Sometimes, the gesture of licking you is to tell you that you have their obedience and respect and that they are directly communicating their subordination to remind you that you’re the leader of their pack. They may do this with other members of the household or even other people who have earned their love and respect.

9. Explorers. Why dogs lick humans can have to do with their natural tendencies as hunters, which go back to their pre-domestication days. There’s nothing to be alarmed, though. When surviving in the wild, they used the superior sense of smell and taste to explore places, identify people, discover or know different objects whether animate or inanimate. Just as we are connected and learn the sensations of the world around us through our senses, dogs use their sense of taste to distinguish and recognize the various things around them and us. Whether it is that skunk running around in the backyard, that new garden gnome you just got, that meatball sub you shouldn’t have kept in their reach, or even that food stain on your cheek.

10. Identifying his Master. Just as how dogs identify you by your distinctive odor, they can also clearly recognize you through the taste of your skin. Based on the taste of the salts released from the pores of your skin when you sweat, they are able to recognize and recall who you are. Once they lick and register those taste markers for different people in their minds, they can accurately identify who each one is and reassert their memories with every fresh bout of licking. Some dogs also lick because they like the salty taste of your skin.


dogs lick


Our dog can talk to us in numerous ways. However, licking us is one of their favorite ways of saying and meaning things. This article talked about the various meanings of a dogs lick. I hope that we get to understand our buddies every time they mean something. Awareness is the secret. Next time you’re licked by a dog, you must know what he/she means!

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