Does your dog often lick your knees or the skin at the back of your knees?
Does this behavior pattern seem interesting or unusual?
Would you like to know why they do it?
Or are you worried there might be something wrong with them doing it?
This post will explain why your dog licks your knees and whether or not you need to worry about it (mostly you don’t, but sometimes you do).
Then we will look at ways of stopping them from doing it if that’s what you want.
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Knee Caps?
Your dog licks your knee because they like the taste, 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 find out why your dog is licking your knees and ensure there is nothing wrong with your dog.
So, let’s look at this in more detail:
- Your knee 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.
- They can smell an ailment you might have.
- You accidentally trained your pup to lick your knees.
1. Your Knee Tastes Nice
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 knee could be a delicious treat.
It may also be some of the skin care products you use on your legs are tasty to your pup.
If you think this is the case, you shouldn’t let them lick you there as some skin products contain chemicals such as Xylitol which can be very toxic to dogs.
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 is licking your knee to show you affection, and they happen to prefer that spot on your body.
3. They Are Expressing Submissiveness
Like humans, dogs live in hierarchies of social status, of how they live with other dogs and humans.
Often (and ideally), pet dogs see their owners as more dominant and show 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 kneecaps or the back of your knees, 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 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 knee 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. They Can Smell an Ailment You Might Have
Before we talk about this one, it’s important to say, please don’t worry!
It is doubtful that your dog licks your knee because you have a 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 knee, it might be worth talking to your doctor.
7. You Accidentally Trained Your Pup to Lick Your Knees
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 knee 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 knees.
So whenever they want some attention and affection from you, they lick your knee and see if it works.
NOTE – Before you read further, you might enjoy this video about why dogs lick their owners.
Just click on the video to start playing:
Why Does Your Dog Lick The Back Of Your Knees?
Your dog licks the back of your knees because that area of skin tastes nice to them.
Often the back of our knees can get sweaty, sweat is salty, and dogs like the taste.
There is very little risk from your dog doing this, but if you have cuts or damaged skin, it is not safe, and you should not let them carry on with it.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Knees?
Canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
However, with knee 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 Knees
The most obvious and easiest way to stop this canine knee-licking behavior is to prevent them from being able to get to it.
For example, you could cover up your legs with clothes or stop them from sleeping in bed with you (when your knee 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 Knee Caps
When training a dog not to lick your knee 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 knee 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 knees – 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 knee, 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 knee-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 Knee So Much
If your dog licks your knee, the chances are that it is due to one of these reasons:
- The skin around your knees tastes nice to your dog.
- They are showing you affection.
- They are being submissive.
- They are grooming you.
- Your dog may be ill, anxious, or in pain.
- They can smell an ailment you might have.
- You might have accidentally trained your pup to lick your knees.
The only reason you should be worried about this behavior is if your skin is damaged, in which case, don’t let your dog do it.
Or if your dog is licking your knees because they are stressed or sick, in which case you should take them to the vet for a checkup.
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!