Does your dog lick your face or head when you lay down in bed to go to sleep?
Why do they do this?
Let’s find out.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Face When I Lay Down in Bed?
There is no simple answer to why your dog licks your face when you lie down.
Dogs lick their owners for several reasons, including to bond with them, groom them, beg for food, or because their owner’s skin tastes nice.
They may lick your face when you lay down in bed because that is the only time they get close enough to your face to lick it.
Should You be Worried About Your Dog Licking Your Face?
It is up to each dog owner whether or not they let their dog lick their face.
Some people enjoy it, and others find it disgusting.
For people who let their dog lick their face, it is worth noting that it is not risk-free.
Generally speaking, letting a dog lick your skin, unless the skin is broken or damaged (such as a scab or a rash), is not risky.
However, if your dog licks your face, it can be much riskier due to germs and parasites being able to get into the body through the mouth.
Dog’s mouths can contain some nasty bacteria and tiny bugs such as:
- Gut parasites or their eggs.
- Fecal matter.
- Traces of urine.
- Microorganisms and bacteria that can spread disease.
This list is not complete. There may be many other nasty surprises lurking in your dog’s saliva.
So you might want to carefully consider whether letting your dog lick your face before bed (or at any time during the day) is a good idea.
There is a small but real risk of getting parasites or becoming sick if you do so.
You have been warned!
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.
Why Do Dogs Lick People?
- Social grooming.
- Showing affection.
- Expressing empathy.
- Some humans have tasty skin.
- To gain attention.
Before we look at this list in detail, you might also enjoy watching this short video about why dogs lick their owners.
Just click the video to start watching:
NOTE – You may also enjoy this article looking at why dogs chew up their beds.
In the same way, dogs engage in mutual grooming with other dogs. 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).
NOTE – You might also like to read this post, answering the question: why does my dog stare at me while lying down?
How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick Your Face When You Lay Down
When trying to train a dog not to lick, 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 face licking.
- Use distraction and praise to redirect the dog’s attention.
Let’s look at each step more closely:
1. 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 face before bed
Catch them in the act of doing it, say “No” in a firm voice, and physically stop them from doing it.
Push the dog’s face away from yours and say the “No” command clearly and firmly.
Once they understand the “No” command for face 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.
2. Using Distraction and Praise to Encourage A Different Behavior
After successfully using the “No” command to stop the dog from licking your face, you should reward and distract them.
Give them a treat, pet them, or give verbal praise, so they associate stopping with feeling good.
If you keep up with this simple two-step process, you will notice a reduction in the 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 your face in bed, 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.
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).
What If Training or Taking Them to The Vet Doesn’t Work?
If all else fails and you can’t get them to stop trying to lick your face when you get into bed, you might have to make them sleep in another room.
Final Thoughts On Why Your Dog Licks Your Face Before Bed
There are a few different reasons why your dog might lick your face when you lay down in bed to go to sleep.
These could include:
- To bond with you.
- As a way of asking to be fed.
- To let you know that they are feeling stressed or anxious.
- As a form of social grooming.
- Because they think your skin tastes nice.
- When you lay down might be the only time they get close enough to your face to lick it.
Dog’s mouths and saliva can have lots of nasty germs and even parasites, so you should think carefully before letting your dog lick your face before bed or at any time during the day.
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!