Does your dog really enjoy licking your hair?
Why would they do this? What’s behind this behavior?
Let’s find out…
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Hair So Much?
Your dog licks your hair for several reasons: your hair tastes nice, your dog wants to bond with you, you accidentally trained them into it, they are grooming you, they are sick or distressed, they want to show submissiveness, or they are bored.
Let’s take a closer look at this list so you can determine the most likely reason your dog licks your hair.
- Your hair smells or tastes nice to your dog.
- Your dog is bonding with you.
- You have accidentally trained them to lick your hair.
- Your dog is grooming you.
- Your dog is distressed or sick.
- They are showing submissiveness.
- They are bored and want your attention.
1. Your Hair Smells or Tastes Nice to Your Dog
As any dog owner knows, humans and dogs have different ideas and standards for what smells and tastes nice enough to lick!
Even if humans think someone’s hair smells nice, they are highly unlikely to want to lick it.
This is different for dogs. They have a strong instinct to lick things, especially if they smell or taste nice.
Your hair might seems really tasty to your dog. It could be your natural scent or one of the hair products you use that they are attracted to.
(Check this post out if your dog licks your head).
NOTE – Some hair products may be toxic to dogs, so you should be careful about letting them lick your hair after applying any product.
2. Your Dog is Bonding With You
Dogs are social animals who love being part of a pack (of dogs, humans, or both).
They like to maintain this social pack dynamic by bonding.
The pack bonds are maintained and strengthened by sleeping together, playing together, and grooming each other.
3. You Have Accidentally Trained Them to Lick Your Hair
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 hair one day, maybe at bedtime or when you got out of the shower.
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 hair at bedtime or after you shower, you will be nice to them.
So whenever they want some attention and affection from you, they lick your hair and see if it works.
You could, of course, look at this the other way around.
That your dog has trained you to pet them when they lick your hair! Perhaps our dogs are a lot smarter than we realize.
4. Your Dog is Grooming You
If you watch dogs interact, you will notice that they often groom each other.
As well as a way of bonding, there is also a practical purpose.
For example, a dog can’t reach their ears to lick them clean, but another dog can.
Dogs also engage in this sort of behavior with humans, especially the ones they live with.
So, if you think about it for a second, your dog might be licking your hair because it thinks it is dirty and needs to be cleaned!
(You can make of that what you will).
5. Your Dog is Distressed Or Sick
Licking releases feel-good hormones in a dog’s brain that can help them to relax.
If your dog is anxious, sick, or in pain, they might lick your hair as a way of self-soothing.
Or they could be trying to let you know something is wrong and they need your help.
If your dog shows any signs of stress, pain, or sickness, you should keep a close eye on them and consider a trip to the vet.
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. They Are Showing Submissiveness
Like humans, dogs live in social hierarchies with a pecking order of dominance.
There are many ways that dogs figure out who is where in the social order and how that status is managed and expressed.
One way that a dog will express submission is by licking and grooming another dog or person.
7. They Are Bored and Want Your Attention
When a dog gets bored, it will often look to its owner for attention and entertainment.
This can come from whining, instigating playtime, mouthing, or licking.
Watch the next time your dog starts licking your hair.
Did they seem bored before they did it? Do you get the feeling they want your attention?
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Hair at Bedtime?
There are a few reasons your dog might like your hair when you get into bed.
It could be their way of relaxing and bonding with you as they relax and get ready to sleep.
Or it could be that this is one of the few times they get close enough to lick it, so they are making the most of it.
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Hair After a Shower
Your dog might lick your hair after you have had a shower because it tastes nice, or they want to bond with you or groom you.
We wrote a separate blog about why your dog licks you after a shower that you might enjoy reading.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Hair?
Unless you have lots of hair spray or a similar product on your hair, there is minimal risk to your dog from licking your hair.
If you use hair products, you shouldn’t let your dog lick your hair as they could be chemicals such as xylitol which is very dangerous for dogs.
For your health, it’s worth noting that canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, with hair 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 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. 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 Hair
The most effective way to stop your dog from licking your hair is to cover it up or not let them get close enough to lick it.
For example, if your dog likes licking your hair after a shower, you could wrap it with a towel.
Or, if your dog licks your hair at bedtime, you could stop them from sleeping in your bed at night.
However, if neither of these methods is suitable, you can train them not to do it (or at least to do it less).
How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick Your Hair
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 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 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 Hair So Much
Your dog licks your hair because of one of these reasons:
- It smells or tastes nice.
- They are bonding with you.
- You have accidentally trained them to do it.
- They are grooming you.
- Your dog is sick, in pain, or anxious.
- To show submissiveness.
- They are bored.
If you use lots of products in your hair, such as hair spray, you shouldn’t let your dog lick it. Apart from that, there is very little risk to the dog.
The only risk to you from your dog licking your hair is if your skin is damaged, in which case, don’t let them do it.
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!