Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?
Learn about the most common reasons, according to a veterinary expert.
No matter your beloved dog's breed, he likely has a few different ways of getting your attention—whether it is through barking and pawing or jumping and bringing over toys. "Some dogs will even use naughty behaviors such as using the bathroom in the house or tearing apart furniture to get attention if they are severely deprived," Tierra Price, DVM, MPH, Community Medicine Veterinarian and founder of the BlackDVM Network, LLC, adds. While these are all common behaviors among canines, there is another habit she notes that dogs often use to grab your attention: They lick your face. Here, Price breaks down other reasons why dogs use this signal in your relationship.
He is showing affection.
There are many subtle cues that can show that your dog loves being around you, like the fact that they're frequently found snuggling and lounging right next to you. "They will sit nearby to wait for your love," says Price. "They may even stare at you or give you a nudge with their nose or paw." But a simple way they show their affection is simply by licking you. "Licking your face is one sign that your dog adores you!" she adds.
While your canine may show other signs of love, licking can show their relationships with other family members in your household, too. "Licking in wild dogs is also a sign of submission," explains Price. "So, maybe the family member that is being licked the most is the one the dog sees as the most dominant or the 'pack leader.'"
He likes your taste.
If your dog licks you after you wrap up a meal, they may be doing so because of the way you taste. The same can be said when you've worked up a sweat in the gym or simply after a hot day. Price shares that either the salt from the food you eat or the natural salt that your skin produces when your body perspires can give your dog some extra incentive to lick your face. "Whether you just finished a steak or if you just came in from a workout, the taste of your face may be the appeal for some dogs," says Price.
He feels stressed.
Keep an eye on your dog if his licking behavior starts happening more often—it could also be a sign of anxiety and stress, Price says. If you are noticing anxiety in your four-legged family member, she recommends exercise, behavior training, and medication. "Long walks or time outside is enough to reduce anxiousness in some dogs," she shares. "Behavior training, such as crate training and desensitization of certain activities—like leaving the house—helps mainly with separation anxiety. Medications from a veterinarian can help dogs whose anxiety cannot be mediated through other methods."