Why do dogs lick humans?


Dogs are known for their affectionate and sometimes slobbery behavior. One common behavior that many dog owners have experienced is their furry friend licking them. While it may seem like a simple act, there are actually several reasons why dogs lick humans. In this article, we will explore the various reasons behind this behavior and delve into the science and psychology behind it.

The instinctual nature of licking

Before we delve into the specific reasons why dogs lick humans, it is important to understand that licking is an instinctual behavior for dogs. Dogs are born with the instinct to lick themselves and their littermates as a way of bonding and grooming. This instinct carries over into their interactions with humans as well.

Social bonding

One of the primary reasons why dogs lick humans is to establish and strengthen social bonds. Dogs are pack animals by nature, and licking is a way for them to show affection and reinforce their bond with their human family members. When a dog licks a person, it releases endorphins in both the dog and the person, creating a sense of pleasure and attachment.

Grooming behavior

Another reason why dogs lick humans is to exhibit grooming behavior. In the wild, dogs lick each other to keep their coats clean and free from parasites. When a dog licks a human, it may be trying to groom them in a similar way. This behavior is particularly common in dogs that have a strong bond with their owners and see them as part of their pack.

Showing submission and respect

In addition to bonding and grooming, licking can also be a way for dogs to show submission and respect. In a dog pack, lower-ranking members will often lick the more dominant members as a sign of deference. When a dog licks a human, it may be displaying this submissive behavior, acknowledging the human as the leader of the pack.

Sensory exploration

Licking is also a way for dogs to explore and gather information about their environment. Dogs have an incredibly powerful sense of smell, and by licking objects or people, they can collect scent molecules that provide them with valuable information. When a dog licks a person, it is essentially “tasting” them to learn more about their scent and potentially gain a better understanding of them.

In some cases, dogs may lick humans due to health-related reasons. For example, dogs have an innate ability to detect changes in our skin, such as wounds or infections. They may lick these areas as a way of trying to clean them or provide comfort. Additionally, certain medical conditions, such as allergies or gastrointestinal issues, can cause excessive licking in dogs. If you notice that your dog is licking you excessively or obsessively, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

Addressing excessive licking

While occasional licking is generally considered normal and harmless, excessive licking can be a cause for concern. If your dog’s licking becomes obsessive or interferes with their daily activities, it is important to address the behavior. Excessive licking can be a sign of anxiety, boredom, or underlying health issues. Working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can help identify the underlying cause of the excessive licking and develop a plan to address it.


In conclusion, dogs lick humans for various reasons, including social bonding, grooming behavior, submission, sensory exploration, and health-related concerns. It is important for dog owners to understand and interpret their dog’s licking behavior in order to strengthen their bond and provide the necessary care and attention. If you have concerns about your dog’s licking behavior, it is always best to consult with a professional to ensure the well-being of your furry friend.

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