As all dog owners know, most dogs like to lick and kiss their owner’s faces, mouths, and ears. Some people find this cute and endearing, whereas others find it dirty and unpleasant.
Some dogs even lick their owner’s faces when crying as if trying to comfort the person or stop them from crying.
In this article, we will answer the question – why do dogs lick people’s faces? Also, should you be worried about your dog licking your face?
Why Does My Dog Lick My Face?
Dogs lick people’s faces because it is a leftover behavior trait from their ancient wolf ancestors. Young wolf puppies lick adult wolves’ faces to be fed regurgitated food. Domestic dogs have inherited this habit. Dogs also lick people to express affection toward them and for social bonding.
When considering any domestic dog behavior, it is always worth looking back to how their ancestors would have behaved in the wild.
And while domestic dogs are not directly evolved from the wolves, we have in the wild today. Instead, they have evolved from a now extinct but very similar species.
So, we can look at how wolves in the wild interact with each other and learn why our pet dogs act the way they do.
As already mentioned, wolf puppies lick the faces and mouths of adult wolves.
This helps to promote the regurgitation of food from the adult’s stomach.
This is necessary because the young wolf puppies can’t yet fully digest their food, but they can digest the partially digested food that the adult regurgitates.
Face licking can also be a form of bonding, as one dog lets another dog know where they both lie in the pecking order.
(The dog doing the licking is deferring social status to the dog being licked).
Wolves (and dogs) also use licking as part of their general mutual grooming. This doesn’t just include the face but certainly can do.
Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face When You Cry?
Dogs are often very good at picking up on people’s emotions and tend not to like it if you are upset or crying.
Again, this comes from the pack instinct inherited from their wolf ancestors.
So, if you cry, your dog may lick your face to try to comfort you and change your mood.
Just pause and think about that for a second.
This is why we love dogs so much because they love us and care enough to try and make us feel better when we are sad!
NOTE – You might like to read this post about why dogs lick you when you cry.
Why Do Dogs Lick Some People’s Faces and Not Others?
Dogs lick some people’s faces and not others because they prefer the person they lick more or because there is something tasty on that person’s face.
Some dogs have a favorite human. A person that they love more than anyone else.
When this happens, the dog will exhibit more signs of affection to this favorite person, including face licking.
Or it might be as simple as the person that gets licked on the face just has delicious skin.
Maybe they sweat a lot, and the dog likes the taste of their salty sweat.
Are Dog Licks the Same as Human Kisses?
It is common for people to refer to dogs licking their faces as the dog kissing them. However, it isn’t possible to say if this is perfectly accurate.
We can say that in the same way humans kiss each other’s faces to show affection, dogs certainly do that to other dogs and humans.
So, it seems close enough to call this behavior kissing without being too wide of the mark, even if it might not be strictly true from a scientific perspective.
Is it a Problem if Your Dog Licks Your Face?
There is minimal risk of canine saliva causing health problems in healthy children or adults – assuming that the skin is intact and not damaged.
However, it would be best if you did not dog let a dog lick skin that has an open wound or in any way damaged, as this can cause issues.
If a dog licks an open wound, there is a risk of bacteria passing from the dog’s saliva to the wound and causing an infection.
So always avoid letting a dog lick your skin if it is damaged, and it is always advisable to wash your skin after being licked by a dog.
Should I Let My Dog Lick My Face?
If you like your dog licking your face, and as long as you don’t have any open cuts or sores on the area.
There is no reason you can’t let the dog lick your face, so feel free to do so.
If you let them do it, it’s always best to wash your face afterward, just to ensure you don’t pick up any nasty germs from the dog’s mouth.
As already mentioned, the risk of catching anything from your dog’s saliva is low, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
An Interesting Video About Dogs Licking Human Faces
This short video shares some interesting facts about why your dog might lick your face (it also has some adorable animation).
Just click the video, and it will start to play:
Final Thoughts on Why Some Dogs Like to Lick People’s Faces
The motivations behind this licking are stimulating, feeding, grooming, bonding, and deference to a higher status pack member.
They can also be thought of as dog kisses as the dog uses them to express affection and bond, similar to human kisses.
Dogs lick people’s faces when they are crying to try and comfort the person, to make them feel better so that they stop crying.
Dogs are awesome for this!
Letting a dog lick your face, mouth, and ears shouldn’t be dangerous unless your skin is damaged or broken, in which case you shouldn’t let it happen.
Finally, it is best to wash your face after it has been licked to be safe, as some bacteria in dogs’ mouths can cause sickness in humans.
This is rare, but it can happen, so washing your skin after being licked by a dog is recommended.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!