Have you noticed that your dog seems to like licking your elbows?
Would you like to know why they do this? And is it safe to let them lick your skin?
Let’s find out…
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Elbow So Much?
The most likely reasons your dog licks your elbow are that the skin tastes nice, they are grooming you, you have a skin condition or ailment, they are being affectionate, they are in pain, or you have accidentally trained them into doing it.
Here is a complete list of reasons. Next, we will look at each reason in more detail so you can figure out which is the most likely reason your dog licks you on the elbow:
- The skin on your elbow is tasty.
- When licking your elbow, your dog is grooming you.
- You have a skin condition or other ailment.
- They are showing you affection.
- They are sick, in pain, or feeling stressed.
- You accidentally trained your dog to lick your elbows.
1. The Skin On Your Elbow is Tasty
If you think about the outside of your elbows, the skin is often a little bit dry and flaky.
If you think of the skin inside your elbows, it is softer and can get sweaty.
While neither of these might sound very tasty to you, they could be a delicacy to your dog.
The dry, flaky skin or the salty skin from your sweat may just be so tasty that your dog can’t resist licking you.
2. When Licking Your Elbow, Your Dog is Grooming You
Many animals, including dogs and even humans, engage in the process of mutual cleaning called social grooming.
It has various benefits, including increased cleanliness, cementing social hierarchies, and social bonding.
When your dog licks your elbow, it could be that it just happens to be where they choose to lick you as part of their social grooming.
3. You Have a Skin Condition Or Other Ailment
If you have a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, this could be attracting your dog’s attention.
Some dogs have a fantastic ability to notice and try to help when their humans are sick or in pain.
There are many recorded cases of this happening. Some dogs can even smell cancer in their owners.
If you have any symptoms such as pain, a rash, lumps, or bumps on your arm and, in particular, your elbow, you should get checked out by your doctor.
4. They Are Showing You Affection
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 your elbow as a good place to lick when they show you affection and love.
5. They Are Sick In Pain Or Feeling Stressed
In an ideal world, our pet dogs would be able to talk to us and let us know when they feel sad, scared, sick, or in pain.
Sadly they can’t do that, but they can use non-verbal methods to let us know how they are feeling and try to tell us what is wrong.
They can use various ways of communicating with us, including crying, growling, barking, body language, nuzzling, and licking.
When your dog licks your elbow, it could be that they have decided this is a good place to lick when they are trying to communicate with you.
Keep an eye out for any other signs of pain or distress and if you think something might be wrong with your dog, consider taking them to the vet to get checked out.
If you are struggling financially and worried about vet bills, this website lists places you can contact for help.
(If you do not live in the USA, you can use Google to search for similar help near you, there is a lot of support out there for dog owners in difficulty).
6. You Accidentally Trained Your Dog to Lick Your Elbows
While this might sound surprising, it is easy to train your dog into a behavior pattern accidentally.
For example, let’s say your dog randomly licked your arm or elbow 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 your elbows, you will be nice to them.
So whenever they want some attention and affection from you, they lick your elbow and see if it works.
You could, of course, look at this the other way around.
Your dog has trained you to pet them when they lick your elbows!
Perhaps our dogs are a lot smarter than we realize.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Elbow?
Unless you have put some skin products or medications on the skin on your elbows, there is no risk to your dog from licking you there.
But canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, elbow licking has 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 safe and up to you if you want them to carry on.
Why Do Dogs Lick People?
- Social grooming.
- Showing affection.
- Expressing empathy.
- Some humans have tasty skin.
- To gain attention.
In the same way, dogs engage in mutual grooming with other dogs. Of course, they also do so with humans.
So, yes. 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.
Some Humans Have Tasty Skin
Dogs often lick humans because their skin tastes nice.
It might be that the person has just eaten some tasty food, or possibly that they have been sweating, and the dog likes the taste of the salty 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.
(You might not realize it, but your dog is training you to behave in certain ways, just like you teach them).
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Your Elbow
The simplest and most effective way to stop your dog from licking your elbow so much is to prevent them from being able to get access to it.
For example, you could wear long sleeves to cover your elbow. In most cases, this will stop the behavior.
Or if they lick your elbow when you are in bed, you could stop them from sleeping with you.
Just remove the temptation and the possibility of them licking it.
However, if those suggestions don’t work or are unsuitable, you can try to train them out of this behavior.
How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick Your Elbow
When training a dog not to lick your elbow (or anywhere else on your body), 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, arm and elbow licking – 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 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 their 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 Elbow So Much
If your dog licks your elbow, the chances are it is because of one of these reasons:
- Your elbow is tasty.
- The dog is grooming you.
- You have a skin condition on your elbows or arms.
- They are expressing affection towards you.
- They are sick, in pain, or feeling distressed.
- You unknowingly trained your dog to lick your elbows.
There is no risk to your dog from this behavior; it is only risky for you if your skin is damaged or broken.
So, it is up to you if you want to let them carry on doing it.
OK, that is the end of this post answering the question – why does my dog lick my elbow so much?
If you have any more questions or comments, please feel free to post them using the box directly below.
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!