Have you noticed that sometimes your dog licks your armpits?
Does this seem odd to you?
Would you like to know why they do it?
While there isn’t a definitive, scientific reason why your dog is fond of licking your underarms.
We do know why dogs lick other parts of our bodies, so we can use this information to make an educated guess why they engage in armpit licking behavior.
Why Does Your Dog Your Your Armpits?
Your dog licks your armpits because they like the taste, they are attracted to your deodorant, to express affection, to show submission, to groom you, because they are distressed, or they can smell something different about you.
As a loving dog owner, you need to figure out why your dog is licking your underarms and make sure there is nothing wrong with your dog.
So, let’s look at this in more detail:
- The skin in your armpits tastes nice.
- They are attracted to your deodorant or antiperspirant.
- They are being affectionate.
- They are expressing submissiveness.
- They are trying to groom you.
- Your dog might be sick, stressed, or in pain.
- They can smell an ailment that you might have.
1. The Skin in Your Armpits Tastes Nice
The area under your arms is one of the most sweaty parts of your body, sweat is salty, and dogs often like the taste of salt.
So maybe your dog licks your armpit because it tastes nice.
You might be able to test this one by offering your armpit to your dog right after a shower and seeing if they lick it as enthusiastically as usual.
2. They Are Attracted to Your Deodorant or Antiperspirant
Most people wear either deodorant or antiperspirant under their arms.
Whatever product you use, your dog might find the smell or taste of it enticing.
NOTE – Some skin and hygiene products contain xylitol which is toxic for dogs.
The chances of them getting sick by licking some traces of it from your armpits is very slim, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Try not to let them lick your deodorant or antiperspirant, especially if it contains xylitol.
3. They Are Being Affectionate
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 very lucky to have them in our lives.
It could be as simple as your dog licks your armpits to show you affection, and they happen to prefer that spot on your body.
4. They Are Expressing Submissiveness
Just as humans do, dogs live in hierarchies of social status, which goes for how they live with other dogs and humans.
Often (and ideally), pet dogs will see their owners as more dominant and show their submissiveness through body language and other behaviors.
5. They Are Trying to Groom You
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 ears, but another dog can.
So… yes! When your dog licks your armpits, it could be because they think you are dirty and need to be cleaned and groomed.
You can think of that what you will!
6. Your Dog Might Be Sick, Stressed, Or in Pain
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 times when they are 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 your underarms 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 for dog owners who are in difficulty).
7. They Can Smell an Ailment That You Might Have
Before we talk about this one, it’s important to say, please don’t worry!
It is very unlikely that your dog licks you under your arms because you have some disease.
However, with that said, some dogs do have a remarkable ability to spot ailments in humans.
From licking a rash to sniffing out the onset of Parkinson’s disease, some dogs can spot a wide range of human illnesses.
If you have any symptoms or your dog seems worried or upset when they lick your armpit, it might be worth talking to your doctor.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Armpit?
Canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, with armpit 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.
Why Do Dogs Lick So Much?
Dogs have an instinct to lick, which is part of their nature.
Dogs explore the world around them with their noses, mouths, teeth, and tongues.
They lick when grooming, including as part of the social grooming of other dogs and humans.
They also use licking to assess if something is edible or not.
Dogs also may lick excessively due to boredom, hunger, thirst, stress, or a medical condition.
As dog owners, our job is to figure out what might be causing the licking and, if it is a problem, figure out how to deal with it.
How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick Your Armpits
When training a dog not to lick under your arms or anywhere else, we first need to remember that licking is a perfectly natural behavior for them.
This means it might be hard to eliminate 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 your armpits – 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 your underarms, 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 underarm 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 Thoughts On Why Your Dog Licks Your Armpits
If your dog licks your armpits, the chances are that it is due to one of these reasons:
- Your armpit skin tastes nice.
- Your deodorant or antiperspirant is tasty.
- To show you affection.
- To expressive submission.
- To groom you.
- The dog might be sick, in pain, or anxious
- They can smell an ailment that you might have.
Most of these reasons are nothing to worry about, but you should try to stop them from licking your antiperspirant or deodorant just to be safe.
There is minimal risk to you from this behavior unless you have broken or damaged skin, in which case you shouldn’t let the dog do it, just to prevent any risk of infection.
The easiest way to stop it is not to let them get close enough to your armpits to lick them, but you can also use training to reduce or eliminate this behavior.
If the behavior seems obsessive, you should take the dog to a vet for a check-up.
If you have any pain or signs of a health issue in your underarms, you should get them checked out by your doctor.
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!