Why do dogs lick your face?
Is it a sign of affection? Can dogs licking heal wounds? Or is it a form of dog play? What is behind the gesture? We explore the sentiment behind it...
It’s a primal instinct
Dogs in the wild lick each other’s faces in order to communicate. It might be to let their mother know they're scared or hungry, or to show submission to a dominant animal. Domestic canines, like our pups, still have this basic instinct, despite living very different lives to their wild ancestors!
They’re commanding attention
Whether it's walkies, a treat or some love – whatever it is your dog is after, a lick to the face is a not-so-subtle nod to the fact they want something, and they want it now!
It’s a token of their affection
Dogs learn from an early age that a lick to the face is a way of saying “I ruff you”! When a pup is born, its mother will lick the face to clear nostrils and aid breathing and blood flow. The pup’s siblings will also lick each other to bond.
So, if your pup is licking your face, it could mean they're telling you they love you!
They like our reaction to it
Chances are, if a dog licks your face, they know you'll respond in a positive way. Whether it’s a laugh or squeal, an affectionate hug or a scratch behind the ears, you'll react by showing your dog some happiness and love. Quite simply, your dog enjoys this positive outcome of licking your face!
They love the taste
Our skin is a pleasurable attack on the senses to a dog! It might hold the scent of a meal we’ve eaten, and the salty taste is desirable to our pets, strange as it sounds!
I don't like slobbery dog kisses - What can I do about it?
If you want to keep the dog face licks at bay, here’s what to do:
- Ignore your dog – if they don’t get a reaction, they're less likely to continue with the face licking.
- Put something in their mouth – a treat, a chew toy – it doesn't matter what, the key is to distract your dog!
- Shower. It might sound odd, but if you greet your dog immediately after returning from a run, for example, they’ll be attracted to the scent of sweat.
Keeping clean will make your dog less keen.
Is your dog licking you a problem?
For most canines, no. Your dog licking your face is only a problem if you dislike it!
However, if your pet is licking excessively and the behaviour seems to be unhealthy, it’s always best to check in with your vet to rule out a problem.