As all dog owners know, dogs do a lot of very funny and cute things.
Watching how they act is often one of the best things about sharing your life with a dog or two.
In the post, we will answer the question – why do dogs lick you when you are petting them?
We will also examine the potential risks of letting them lick your skin.
Finally, we will look at ways to stop this behavior (if you want to).
Let’s get started…
Why Do Dogs Lick You When You Pet Them?
Dogs lick people when they are being petted to show the person affection, to engage in social grooming, or to help them relax.
Or it could be as simple as the person they are licking tastes nice to the dog.
Let’s look at each of those reasons in more depth so you can figure out which applies to the dog in your life:
- To show you affection.
- They are engaging in social grooming.
- They are relaxing.
- You taste nice to the dog.
1. To Show You Affection
One of the best things about being a dog owner is how much love and affection our pet dogs give us.
They are amazing creatures, and we are fortunate to have them in our lives.
It could be as simple as your dog licking you when you stroke them is a way for them to reciprocate your affection.
2. They Are Engaging In Social Grooming
Lots of animals (including dogs and humans) engage in social grooming.
Dogs do this as a way of bonding but also for practical reasons, for example, a dog can’t lick their own ears, but another dog can.
So… When your dog licks you, it could be because they think you are dirty and need to be cleaned!
3. They Are Relaxing
Licking can work for a dog as a self-soothing mechanism.
When dogs lick things, a collection of endorphins are released in their brains. These endorphins help the dog to feel calm and relaxed.
So when your dog licks you as you pet them, it might be that without knowing it, they are doing so to help themselves relax even more
4. You Taste Nice to the Dog
Sometimes the most straightforward explanations for canine behavior are the best ones.
Your dog could be licking your skin because it tastes nice (possibly due to the salt from your sweat).
The fact that you are petting and stroking them while they lick you could just be a coincidence.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick You When You Pet Them?
Canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, with most licking, there is minimal risk of infection unless your skin is damaged or broken.
If you have a rash or a cut close to where they want to lick, you should not let them do so, but otherwise, it’s very safe and totally up to you if you want them to carry on.
Important Note – Please watch this shocking video if you think the risks of your dog licking damaged skin are overblown.
Infection from dog saliva can cause severe illness and even worse!
Just click the video, and it will start to play:
Should You Worry About This Behavior?
If your dog is happily licking you as you stroke them, then there is most likely nothing to worry about, and you can let them express themselves.
However, with any canine licking behavior, if it is frantic, obsessive, or seems to be an expression of something wrong with your dog, then you should take them to the vet.
Excessive licking can indicate various health conditions, so it is always best to be safe and get them checked out.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this site lists helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills.
(If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country, there is a lot of support out there for dog owners who are in difficulty).
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking You When You Pet Them
The most obvious way to stop this behavior would be to stop petting your dog, but obviously, this isn’t a good solution in most cases.
It could be helpful at certain times of the day.
For example, if you remember not to pet them before you eat, then they won’t lick your hands, so you won’t have to wash them before enjoying your food.
Another partially helpful solution would be to see if stroking them on different parts of their body is more or less likely to stimulate the licking behavior.
For example, if they are more likely to lick you when you stroke their face, you can avoid doing so when you don’t want to be licked.
Apart from these two suggestions, there probably isn’t much you can do to stop this behavior.
Why Dogs Lick You When You Pet Them – Some Final Notes
If your dog licks you when you pet them, it is due to one of the following reasons:
- They are showing you affection.
- They are engaging in social grooming.
- They use the licking to help them relax.
- Your skin may taste nice to your dog.
The only risk to you from your dog licking you is if your skin is damaged in any way, in which case you shouldn’t let them do it.
There is no need to worry about your dog licking you unless it is frantic or obsessive, in which case you should speak to your vet.
That is the end of this blog post looking at why dogs pet you when you stroke them.
We hope that it answers your questions about this topic.
Please use the box directly below if you have any more questions or would like to add your own comments.
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!