Dogs are funny and fascinating creatures.
One of the things I love most about living with a dog is watching what they get up to in their day-to-day life.
You might have noticed that your dog has a favorite person, someone they seem to gravitate towards more often than anyone else.
You might be lucky enough to be that person!
You might also have noticed that they seem to lick you more than anyone else.
Why is this? Let’s find out…
Why Does Your Dog Lick You More Than Any Other Person?
Your dog might lick you more than anyone else because you are their favorite person.
Or it could be that your skin tastes really nice.
Or it could be that they think you are sad, sick, or in pain and are trying to comfort you.
But there are other reasons. Here is a list of reasons why a dog may prefer to lick you over other people:
- Your skin is really tasty.
- You are the dog’s favorite.
- They think there is something wrong with you.
- They have learned if they lick you, they get attention.
- They see you as the boss and are expressing submission.
NOTE – You might also enjoy this post about how dogs pick their favorite person.
Should You be Worried if Your Dog Licks You a Lot?
In most cases, there is nothing to worry about if your dog seems to enjoy licking you.
However, the licking could sometimes indicate an underlying physical or psychological condition.
If the dog’s licking seems obsessive, or if the dog appears to be in either physical or emotional distress, you should take them to a vet for a check-up.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this website has some valuable resources for charities that can help you pay your bills.
Why Do Dogs Lick So Much?
Dogs have an instinct to lick, which is part of their nature. In addition, dogs explore the world around them with their noses, mouths, teeth, and tongues.
They lick when grooming, including the social grooming of other dogs and humans. They also use licking to assess if something is edible or not.
NOTE – You might enjoy this video, in which a qualified vet (and his gorgeous pup Tula) talks about why dogs lick their owners.
Just click the image to play:
Why Do Dogs Lick People?
- Social Grooming
- Showing Affection
- Expressing Empathy
- We Have Tasty Skin
- To Gain Attention
In the same way, dogs engage in mutual grooming with other dogs. They also do so with humans.
So, if your dog is licking you, it might be because it thinks you are unclean!
But it could also be a way of bonding with you. You can decide for yourself which it is!
Dogs will lick and nuzzle humans to express affection towards them.
While this may leave you covered in unpleasant and slimy dog saliva, at least it was well-intentioned!
Dogs are very smart. They can often tell when humans are sad, sick, or in pain.
What is even more awesome is they will often try to alleviate the suffering and express empathy by licking the person who is sad or sick.
NOTE – You might enjoy this post asking the question: how do dogs pick their favorite person?
We Have Tasty Skin
Dogs often lick humans because their skin tastes nice.
It might be that the person has just eaten some tasty food, and the dog is looking for leftovers.
Or possibly they have been sweating, and the dog likes the taste of the human’s sweat.
To Gain Attention
Most dogs love getting attention from their owners, and they are clever enough to learn ways to get that attention.
If they try to get your attention by licking you and you respond by stroking them, they will learn to repeat this action in the future when they want to be petted.
Why Do Dogs Lick Other Dogs?
All dogs lick themselves and other dogs, but why do they do this?
- Social Grooming
- Showing Affection
- Expressing Empathy
- A Habit from Puppyhood
Social grooming is when two or more animals (including humans) clean each other’s bodies.
Examples of this could include one dog licking another dog’s ears or one person washing and cutting another person’s hair.
It is a social activity that animals engage in for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, there is a practical benefit of increased cleanliness, particularly for hard-to-reach areas.
For example, a dog can’t lick its ears, but another dog can.
Secondly, to increase social bonding. Social grooming reinforces family and group dynamics.
So, when dogs lick each other, they are often engaging in social grooming and doing so for reasons of cleanliness or bonding.
Dogs often show affection to other dogs by licking them.
In this case, it isn’t an attempt to groom them but to express positive feelings for another dog.
If one dog is hurt or sick, another dog may lick them to express empathy and, in an attempt to alleviate the other dog’s suffering.
This is a lovely fact about dogs and is also a behavior pattern they carry out with humans.
A Habit from Puppyhood
Young puppies lick adult dogs’ mouths to be fed by the adults.
This behavior stems back to their wolf ancestors, who feed their young with regurgitated food.
Some dogs don’t grow out of this habit and lick other dogs’ mouths (even though they don’t expect to be fed from it).
Why Do Dogs Lick Random Objects?
- To Understand What They Are
- To See if They Are Edible
- Hunger or Thirst
- Cognitive Disorders
- Stress, Anxiety, or Boredom
To Understand What They Are
Dogs spend a lot of time using their noses and mouths to explore and understand objects in the world around them.
Dogs can learn a lot about something by smelling, biting, and licking it.
To See if They Are Edible
If a dog is unsure whether something is edible or whether some food might be tasty, it will lick the item before trying to eat it.
This is a habit that most likely comes from their wolf ancestors, who would scavenge dead carrion (as well as hunt for fresh meat).
Hunger or Thirst
If a dog is hungry or thirsty, it may instinctively start licking random objects.
They might do this in an attempt to get your attention or to alleviate their feeling of hunger and thirst.
Some cognitive medical conditions can cause excessive licking in dogs.
These can include brain damage, canine obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and neurological disorders.
Stress, Anxiety, or Boredom
When dogs are stressed, anxious, or bored, they often engage in activities to help them relieve those feelings, similar to a human biting their nails when they suffer from stress.
Obsessive licking is one of the ways dogs will try to feel better in times of stress or boredom.
Final Notes On Why Your Dog Licks You More Than Anyone Else
There are several reasons your dog prefers licking you to anyone else.
These can include the taste of your skin, how close you are to the dog, and the thinking you are sick, sad, or in pain.
Unless you have broken skin, there is minimal risk of any harm being done by your dog licking you.
So, in most cases, it’s OK to let them do it if you don’t mind it.
However, if the licking seems obsessive or the dog shows any signs of sickness, you should take them to the vet for a check-up.
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!