Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Pet Her? 7 Surprising Reasons

by John Griffith

A couple of months ago, I got my first-ever dog. I named my beautiful Golden Retriever Bella. Since then, this little ball of sunshine has been a constant joy in my life. Well, sometimes she can be a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it. One of our favorite activities to do together is petting time. While I run my fingers through her soft fur, she is constantly giving my approval licks. It always makes me smile. But one day, as she sat there licking my hand, I found myself wondering, “Why does my dog lick me when I pet her?” So, I decided to do some digging and uncover the reasons behind this classic Bella behavior. If you’ve been asking yourself the same question, you’ve come to the right place. Today, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about why dogs lick.

Ever wondered why your dog loves licking you during petting time?

dog licking hand

Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Pet Her?

If you pet your dog, and it enthusiastically licks you back, it may be trying to tell you a lot of things. Those sloppy affectionate canine kisses can mean a variety of things, it all depends on the context. Here are some of the most common reasons why your dog licks you while you pet it:


One of the most common reasons why dogs lick their owners is to express affection. According to Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a canine cognition expert and author of “Inside of a Dog,” licking allows dogs to communicate their love to you and strengthen their bond with their favorite humans.  Your dog kisses you to show her devotion and loyalty, just like wolves in the wild. There are plenty of loyal dog breeds that can show affection in this way.


Dogs frequently use licking as a means of communication. Dr. Stanley Coren, a prominent psychologist and author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,” says that dogs utilize licking to send a variety of messages, including obedience, respect, and a need for attention. When your dog licks you, she may be trying to communicate her wants or urge you to interact with her.


Dogs have heightened senses of taste and smell, and they utilize their tongues to investigate their surroundings. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs may lick their people because they like the taste of their skin. I know it sounds weird, but your skin may have remnants of food, salt, or other intriguing aromas. After eating chicken wings, your hands are the tastiest thing for a dog. This licking habit is a result of their natural curiosity and desire to understand their surroundings.

Seeking attention

If your dog sees that it’s not getting your attention by other means, then it may lick you in an attempt to notice them. If your dog feels neglected or wants to play, she may lick you to get a response. According to Dr. Stanley Coren, dogs soon learn that licking is an effective technique to get their owner’s attention and affection.


Licking is an innate habit that originated when dogs were wild. Puppies lick their moms’ faces to get food and attention. This habit endures throughout adulthood, as dogs continue to lick as a sign of submission and respect within their social structure.

Dogs lick to show you they love you, just like a furry kiss!

grey dog with its tongue out

When Is Licking a Problem?

While licking is a common behavior in dogs, there are times when it can be problematic. It’s important to be able to differentiate between when licking crosses the line into a concerning behavior and when it’s completely normal. Here are some instances in which licking can indicate problems:

Excessive Licking

Excessive licking can indicate your dog is feeling stressed or anxious. The licking can be a way for them to cope with these feelings. Dr. Karen Becker, a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian, states that “compulsive licking is often a self-soothing behavior that dogs develop in response to stress or anxiety.” “Identifying the root cause is critical.” Your dog may also be licking themselves excessively in specific places. This may suggest allergies, infections, or other medical issues. Dogs may lick areas that are painful or itchy due to conditions like hot spots, arthritis, or skin infections.

Behavioral Problems

Did you know dogs can have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Licking that disrupts your dog’s regular life could be an indication of OCD. According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and emeritus professor at Tufts University, excessive licking can be indicative of OCD, often triggered by environmental stressors and requiring a comprehensive treatment approach.

Physical Issues

When examining your dog’s licking behavior, pay special attention to the regions where they usually lick. Check for signs of redness, swelling, hair loss, or sores. These physical symptoms can indicate a number of underlying health conditions that may necessitate medical intervention.

Sometimes licking can mean stress or health issues

french bulldog licking its nose

How To Fix Problematic Licking Behavior

If your dog’s licking has become an issue, there are numerous ways you can address the issue.  It is critical to begin by identifying and treating the underlying cause of excessive licking. Here’s how you can effectively approach this issue:

  • Visit the vet: Consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. This will help fix the problem and ensure your dog lives longer.
  • Try behavioral modification techniques: Reward your dog for not licking and direct their attention to suitable actions like playing with toys or performing tricks.
  • Enrich their environment: Provide mental and physical activities to keep your dog engaged, decreasing boredom and anxiety.
  • Make your dog feel safe: Make your dog feel secure and comfortable by creating a safe environment for them.
  • Use medication: Your veterinarian may recommend drugs to treat severe anxiety or OCD in addition to behavioral treatment.

Let’s get your dog’s licking under control

dog licking his nose

Specific Licking Behaviors

Morning Licks

A frequent habit that many dog owners observe is their dog’s tendency to lick them more in the morning. There are two possible causes for this. First of all, your dog is probably glad to see you again after spending the night apart. Like a human hug or kiss, your dog can greet you and express affection by licking you. This behavior can also be connected to a dog’s innate pack instincts, in which greetings in the morning play a big role in social relations.

Licking Preferences

It’s possible that certain folks get more licks from your dog than others. There are various explanations for this choice. Dogs and specific people frequently develop closer relationships. So, this could be because of the quantity of time they spend together, how they interact, or even the scent of the human. Expert in dog cognition, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz notes that dogs have an acute sense of smell and may be drawn to certain odors that they recognize or find pleasant. Your dog probably has a greater affinity and affection for you if they lick you more than other people.

Post-Eating Licks

The act of dogs licking their owners after they have eaten is another fun behavior. This may be especially apparent if your dog is itching to be near you after a meal. The American Kennel Club (AKC) states that dogs may be attracted to lingering tastes and scents on your skin, particularly if there are food remnants. Due to their natural tendency to scavenge, dogs would frequently pick up bits and crumbs left by other members of their pack in the wild. It combines adoration for them with interest about the various flavors and scents they are able to identify.

Some people just taste better to your dog

person hugging their dog

Unusual Licking Behaviors

Licking Your Feet

It may seem strange if your dog licks your feet a lot, but this behavior is actually rooted in exploration and submission. Given that your feet are frequently the parts of your body that come into contact with the environment the most, they have a variety of distinctive smells. In general, dogs may be drawn to the natural oils and salts on your skin, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Dogs can also demonstrate their submission and respect by licking your feet, which strengthens the link between them and you.

Licking Your Hands and Arms

A typical action that expresses affection and a need for attention is licking one’s hands and arms. Because your hands and arms frequently have the strongest scents, especially if you’ve been handling food or other fascinating objects, dogs may lick these areas. Dogs may use this behavior as a means of expressing their need for interaction or just their affection and commitment to their owner, according to Dr. Alexandra Horowitz.

Licking Your Ears and Face

Dogs that lick your face and ears do it out of pure affection and a strong sense of social connection. Pheromones and other scents that dogs are drawn to are abundant in these regions. Licking the face and ears can also resemble the grooming habit of wolves and wild dogs, when pack members lick one another to preserve cleanliness and fortify social ties.

Licking Their Paws

Paw licking is fine in moderation, especially when it’s done for grooming. However, excessive licking may be a sign of trouble. Dogs may lick their paws as a result of pain, allergies, or irritations. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers warnings that excessive paw licking may indicate underlying conditions like anxiety or arthritis, or it may result in infections. It’s crucial to keep an eye on this behavior and see a veterinarian if it starts to get out of control.

Licking The Air, Floor, or Objects

Although licking the floor, air, or objects can appear weird, there are usually good reasons behind it. Dogs may lick the air if they are experiencing digestive distress or if they are reacting to a particular scent. Odd smells or food remnants are frequently the reason for licking floors or other items. Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman points out that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or other behavioral problems may be indicated by persistent or compulsive licking of these surfaces, necessitating medical treatment.

Exploring the world one lick at a time!

dog licking its nose

Potential Health and Hygiene Issues

Although dog licks are frequently interpreted as a show of affection, there are some safety and hygienic issues with them. Humans can become infected with bacteria and parasites found in dog mouths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that bacteria often found in dogs’ mouths, like Salmonella and E. coli, can infect humans, particularly those with weakened immune systems or open wounds. Furthermore, parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium that cause gastrointestinal problems can be carried by dog saliva. It’s critical to uphold proper hygiene habits, such as preventing your dog from licking your face or open wounds and washing your hands after being licked.

Dog licks can carry germs, so wash up!

woman with her two dogs

After investigating the reasons behind Bella’s affectionate licks, I finally had a better understanding of her behavior. And since then, our friendship has only grown stronger. Through my research, I discovered that her licking is not just a random act but a complex mix of affection, communication, and natural instincts. And now you know too! We finally have all the answers to the question, “Why does my dog lick me when I pet her?” I hope you found this article useful. Now you know what licking is normal and what behaviors to watch out for. Understanding these behaviors will help you develop your bond and maintain a happy, healthy relationship with your beloved pet!

Now you know why your dog licks you

why does my dog lick me when i pet her dog licking itself


Should I let my dog lick my face?

Well, it’s up to you when it comes to deciding whether you let your dog lick your face or not. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Dog licks are a sign of affection and bonding, and they show that your pet trusts you and feels connected to you. However, there are some hygiene concerns. Dogs’ mouths can store bacteria and parasites that are potentially harmful to humans, especially if you have open wounds or a weaker immune system. This includes bacteria, like Salmonella and E. coli. Letting your dog lick your face can also diminish any boundaries you are trying to set with them. Allowing your dog to lick your face may result in behavioral difficulties.

How do I tell if my dog loves me?

Dogs express their love in a variety of unusual ways. There are many ways your dog says “I love you.” One of the most visible indications is tail wagging, which is especially noticeable when accompanied with a relaxed posture. This represents happiness and affection. Another clue is when your dog follows you around. This is their way of showing you their loyalty. Prolonged eye contact releases oxytocin, the “love hormone,” in both you and your dog, which is also a strong indicator of trust and affection. And last but not least – licking! Dogs will lick you as a way to express their affection.

Are dog licks kissed?

We can totally consider dog licks to be the canine equivalent of kisses. When your dog licks you, it’s a gesture of affection and a way for them to bond this you. This is quite similar to why people kiss. It’s usually to express love and affection. So, licking is indeed something like a kiss, it’s just a sloppier one.

Dog licks are their version of a kiss

dog licking human on face

John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.