Dogs do a lot of things that can seem weird to their owners.
From sniffing other dogs’ butts to howling at the moon!
This post will answer the question, “why does my dog lick my head?”
Why Does My Dog Lick My Head?
Your dog licks your head because they like the taste, are attracted to your skin care products, to express affection, to show submission, to groom you, because they are distressed, or they can smell something different about you.
You could also have accidentally trained them into this behavior trait (more on this further down the page).
As a loving dog owner, you need to find out why your dog is licking your head and ensure there is nothing wrong with your dog.
So, let’s look at this in more detail:
- Your head (or hair) tastes nice.
- They are being affectionate.
- They are expressing submissiveness.
- They are trying to groom you.
- Your dog might be sick, stressed, or in pain.
- You accidentally trained your pup to lick your head.
1. Your Head (or Hair) Taste Nice
NOTE – You should check out this post we wrote if you think your dog licks your head because it likes your hair.
As a dog owner, you will know that your dog has very different ideas of what is tasty and lickable to yourself!
To your dog, licking your head could be delicious, perhaps because of the salt from your sweat.
Or it could be that some of the products you use on your head or in your hair are tasty to your dog.
Maybe it is the taste of the shampoo you wash your hair with or the moisturizer you use on your neck and scalp.
Important Note – If you think your dog is licking this area of your body due to them liking the taste of a product you are using, you should stop them from doing so.
A little lick of lotion or shampoo residue is unlikely to hurt your dog, but some products may contain canine toxic chemicals such as xylitol which can be very dangerous to your four-legged friend.
2. 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 fortunate to have them in our lives.
It could be as simple as your dog licks your head to shower you with affection.
NOTE – You may enjoy reading this post looking at the question – why do dogs lay their head on your feet?
3. They Are Expressing Submissiveness
Like humans, dogs live in hierarchies of social status. This is how they live with other dogs and also with humans.
Typically (and ideally), domestic dogs see their owners as more dominant and express their submissiveness through body language and other behaviors.
4. 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 head, it could be because they think you are dirty and need to be cleaned and groomed.
5. 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 head 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).
6. You Accidentally Trained Your Pup to Lick Your Head
While this may sound surprising, it is easy to accidentally train your dog into a behavior pattern.
For example, let’s say your dog randomly licked your head 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 you will be nice to them if they lick your head.
So whenever they want some attention and affection from you, they lick your head and see if it works.
NOTE – While you are here, you might enjoy this short but fascinating video looking at how you can tell if your dog loves you or not.
Just click the video, and it will start to play:
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Head?
Canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, with head 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.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Your Head
The most obvious and easiest way to stop this canine head-licking behavior is to prevent them from being able to get to it.
For example, you could wear a hat or a hoodie or stop them from sleeping in bed with you (when your head is easy for them to get to).
If that isn’t suitable, you can also try training them. Let’s see how…
How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick Your Head
When training a dog not to lick your head 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 the head 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 head – 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 head, 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 head-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 Notes On Why Your Dog Licks Your Head So Much
If your dog licks your head, it is most likely for one of the reasons below:
- Your dog thinks your head tastes nice.
- Your dog is showing you love and affection.
- They are being submissive.
- Your pooch wants to groom you.
- They could be sick, stressed, or in pain.
- Without realizing it, you might have managed to accidentally trained your pet pup to lick your head.
Ok, so that is the end of this blog post answering the question, “why does my dog lick my head so much?”
If you have any questions or comments about canine head licking, please feel free to post them using the form 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!