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Why Do Dogs Lick Everything in Sight?

Dog licking boy

If you’ve ever owned a dog, you don’t need to be told that they LOVE smothering you with wet kisses. They also like to lick their own fur, their favorite toys, other doggos, and even your feet!

Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s just plain annoying.

So – what’s up with dogs licking everything anyway?

Well, turns out that licking is normal behavior for most dogs. Mama dogs love to lick their puppies, and puppies love to lick their brothers and sisters as they bounce and roll around in their litter. Wolves, our canines’ ancestors, also lick one other to respectfully petition the pack’s alpha members to join in on a meal.

There are a number of reasons our four-legged friends lick. Here are just a few signs to consider…

1. They may itch

Allergies, flea bites, or other skin problems are prominent reasons why dogs lick. Licking can help stop or reduce the scratchy feeling. If they lick around the base of their tail or drag their backside across the carpet, it’s probably a sign that their anal gland has a problem.

2. They might hurt

Irritated skin, which may be caused by some sort of skin issue, allergic reaction or injury, is often the reason why dogs lick. Licking soothes their irritation. It could also be their way of dealing with pain caused by conditions such as arthritis.

All this licking can potentially serve to increase skin irritation and could lead to infections such as hot spots.

3. They groom

Although canines don’t have the same grooming capabilities as cats, their tongues can be useful for a speedy bath. But over-grooming, which could be the result of frustration or boredom, may cause irritated skin or bald patches.

4. They could be hungry

Dog licking

If Fido is licking his empty bowl or smacking his lips, you can probably bet he’s hungry. If he’s licking with excitement, he probably knows his next meal is headed his way.

5. They’re thirsty

beagle licking

If your dog is dehydrated or thirsty, she may just be licking to curb a dry mouth or throat. Licking can help facilitate stimulation of the salivary glands, and it might be a signal to you that their water bowl is empty.

6. They may have mouth problems

dog with mouth problems

Dogs with a gum injury or a chipped tooth may be inclined to lick that spot. Pain caused by dental disease or gingivitis may also be a reason for licking. Preventative measures dog parents can take to avoid these issues include regular brushing and annual cleaning at the vet’s office.   

7. They might be nauseous

nauseous dog licking

An upset stomach caused by eating something harmful or from an illness can cause a dog’s mouth to water and leave a disgusting taste in his mouth. He may lick to try and spit out some of the extra saliva or eliminate the terrible taste.

8. They could have cognitive issues

senior dog licking

Inordinate licking could be a sign that an older dog has some type of cognitive disorder. Other symptoms might include becoming withdrawn, sleeping more than usual or pacing around the house.

If your dog is exhibiting these types of behavior, have your vet examine him as soon as possible for analysis and appropriate treatment.

9. They may be bored or stressed

bored dog licking

Dogs will sometimes lick if they’re anxious, which could be the result of separation anxiety, a change in their daily routine or the addition of a new pet in the family. If boredom is to blame, try spending some extra play time with your fur friend, and leave her with a treat filled toy when you’re away to keep them entertained.

If anxiety issues persist, try seeking the advice of your veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist.

10. They want to explore

exploring dog licking

Licking, like chewing, is one way dogs explore their environment. Just like human infants, adolescent puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them.

11. They want attention

dog licking for attention

If you’ve trained your bestie that her licking gets positive attention from you, no wonder she loves it!  If her licking has become a problem, some retraining might be in order.

Whenever she goes to lick you, make sure to keep your face away from her tongue, because you never know where her tongue has been. Just pause a few seconds until she settles down. It’s also a good idea to ensure that everyone in the house knows about the new face licking, or she’ll get confused.

12. They love to play

puppies playing

As puppies mature, they’re taught to not bite when roughhousing with people or other dogs. Instead, some dogs might try licking their “rival” instead of biting with their teeth.

13. They’re expressing their love

dog expressing love

A dog’s licking is typically their way of expressing love. And, you’ll have to admit, a barrage of wet kisses does have the potential of brightening your day! It might also be a dog’s way of showing respect and trust for you as the pack leader.

14. Just because

happy dog licking

Do doggos always have to have a reason? Maybe not…licking is just their nature!

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You may also enjoy:  What Is Your Dog’s Tail Telling You?

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