Have you noticed that after eating, your dog will often come over to you and lick your skin?
This post will explain why your dog licks you after they have eaten.
We will also look at whether it is a good idea or not for you to let your dog do this.
Finally, you can get tips on stopping them from this licking behavior if you want to train them out of it.
Why Does My Dog Lick Me After Eating?
Your dog licks you after eating to communicate with you, to bond with you, or you may have accidentally trained them to act this way.
Let’s look at these reasons in more detail:
- Your dog is asking for more food or water.
- They are bonding with you after focusing on their food.
- You accidentally trained them to lick you after they have eaten.
- They are stressed or unwell.
- Canine behavior is complicated!
1. Your Dog is Asking for More Food or Water
This is a throwback to your dog’s wolf ancestors.
All domestic dogs evolved from an ancient species of wolf (most probably from the Late Pleistocene wolf).
Young wolf cubs can’t digest the meat their parents eat (this is also why we feed young puppies different food than adult dogs).
So wolf parents eat the food and partially digest it. Next, the wolf puppy licks the adult’s mouth, which stimulates regurgitation.
The adult regurgitates partially digested food which the puppy can then eat and digest.
Even though domestic dogs have been selectively bred for thousands of years, they still have many behavior traits left over from their wolf ancestors.
Licking you after your dog has eaten to see if you give them more food or some water could be one of these leftover traits.
NOTE – You might also be interested in this post asking the question: Why is my dog eating slower than usual?
2. They are Bonding With You After Focusing on Their Food
One of the best things about being a dog owner is how much love and affection our dogs give us.
Dogs use various methods to express affection, including proximity, nuzzling, and licking.
So, your dog might have randomly chosen after they have eaten as a good time to lick to show you affection and love.
NOTE – You might also like to read this post if you are interested in the question: why does my dog lick me after drinking water?
3. You Accidentally Train Them to Lick You When They Have Eaten
While this might sound surprising, it is easy to accidentally train your dog into a behavior pattern.
For example, let’s say your dog randomly licked you after eating one day, and without thinking, you laughed and stroked them.
The dog felt good because you reacted warmly and gave them some attention.
They repeated the behavior, and you gave them a nice cuddle this time.
They have learned that if they lick you after eating, you will be nice to them, so they repeat the behavior pattern.
NOTE – You may also enjoy reading this blog post answering the question: why are dogs greedy?
4. They are Stressed or Unwell
Sadly our pet dogs can’t talk to us, but they can communicate in other ways, including licking, nuzzling, and nibbling.
Also, dogs can lick people, other dogs, or random household items when sick or stressed as a way of self-soothing.
If you think about it in the same way that some people bite their nails when they are nervous, it should make sense that your dog might do something similar.
If your pooch shows any signs of emotional or physical issues, or if the way they lick you is frantic or obsessive, you should get them checked out with your vet.
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 online for dog owners who are in difficulty).
5. Canine Behavior is Complicated!
When examining the behavior traits of domestic dogs, we must remember that a combination of complicated factors drives them.
To keep it simple, the following principles can sum up these factors:
- Domestic dogs evolved from an ancient species of wolf.
- Humans have selectively bred dogs for thousands of years.
- Every dog is different.
- A dog’s upbringing has an impact on its behavior.
So as you try to understand why your dog does what it does, you can see there are many things to consider.
This means that it might not be possible to say with 100% certainty why your dog licks you after eating.
The best you might get is an educated guess by taking into account the factors in this list that affect all of your dog’s behavior.
Note – You might enjoy this short video. It has an explanation from a vet about why dogs lick their owners.
(And you also get to meet the charming Tula, who is adorable).
Just click the video to start playing.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick You After They Have Been Eating?
Canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, there is minimal risk of infection unless your skin is damaged or broken.
If you have a scab, rash, or cut close to where they want to lick, you should not let them do so, but otherwise, it’s considered safe, and therefore, it is up to you if you want to let them carry on.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking You After they Have Eaten?
The most obvious and easiest way to stop this canine licking behavior is to prevent them from being able to lick you after they have eaten.
For example, you could feed them in a separate room and leave them with the door closed for 15-30 minutes.
Doing this might break their habit and desire to lick you.
If that isn’t suitable, you can also try training them not to do it.
Let’s see how…
How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick You After Eating
When training a dog not to lick your, we first need to remember that licking is a perfectly natural behavior for them.
This means it might be hard to eliminate the licking entirely, and you should only try to do so with good reason.
With that said, there is a simple two-step process that should be very effective with most dogs:
- Use the “No” command to stop the licking.
- Use distraction and praise to redirect the dog’s attention.
Let’s look at each step more closely:
Training and Using the “No” Command
If you have not already trained your dog to obey the no command, you should prioritize it.
Select a behavior you want them to stop doing – in this case, licking you after food – you need to catch them in the act of doing it, say “No” in a firm voice, and physically stop them from doing it.
For example, if your dog was licking your hand, you would pull your hand away and say the “No” command clearly and firmly.
Once they understand the “No” command for hand licking, it will be much easier to train them to understand it in a different context, such as barking or jumping up at people.
So you should work through a few different behaviors until they understand that “No” means stop what they are doing, whatever it is.
Using Distraction and Praise to Encourage A Different Behavior
After successfully using the “No” command to stop the dog from licking you, you should reward and distract them.
Give them a treat, pet them, or give verbal praise so they associate stopping with feeling good.
Then play with them, let them go outside, move them around the house, or do something similar to distract them from returning to the licking.
If you keep up with this simple two-step process, you will notice a reduction in this post-food licking behavior.
Not only that, but if they do carry on with the licking, you will be able to stop them much more quickly.
Please note that if you struggle to stop your dog from licking, it may be because they are doing so due to stress, boredom, or a medical condition.
If this might be the case, you should do your best to fix the underlying cause and, if need be, take the dog to the vet to get checked out.
Final Notes On Why Your Dog Licks You After Eating
These are the most likely answers to your question about why your dog licks you after they have eaten their food:
- The dog wants more food or a drink of water.
- They are being affectionate.
- Without realizing it, you trained them to lick you after they eat.
- They might be sick, stressed, or in pain.
- Canine behavior is complicated! Lots of factors can come into play.
If your skin is damaged or broken, there is a risk of infection if you let your dog lick your skin, but otherwise, it’s considered safe.
The easiest way to stop this behavior is to stop your dog from being close to you immediately after they eat.
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!