A big, sloppy lick (or canine kiss!) to the face is nothing unusual for most dog owners! But what’s 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 still have this basic instinct, despite living very different lives to their wild ancestors!
They’re commanding attention
Walkies, a treat, some love – whatever it is your pooch 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.
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!
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!
Slobbery dog kisses aren’t for me – what can I do?
If you want to keep the 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 behaviour
- Put something in their mouth – a treat, a chew toy – it doesn’t matter what, the key is to distract them!
- 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!
Can licking be a problem?
For most canines, no, but 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.