Why do dogs lick you when you pet them and how can you stop it?

Is there any dog behavior more common than getting a lick on your hands and face as soon as you're within reach? It's generally harmless, but that doesn't mean that everyone likes it. So for those who'd like it to stop, here's how you can stop a dog from licking you.

Why does your dog keep licking you?
Why does your dog keep licking you?  © Unsplash/Ashley Levinson

Dogs like to lick things for all sorts of reasons.

From salty hands, to freshly-washed faces, to stinky feet, there doesn't seem to be anything that puts them off. But just because they don't mind it, doesn't mean you can't find it slightly icky and want it to stop.

First off, licking is not something to be worried about. It is perfectly natural behavior that will continue well into a dog's adulthood.

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Now, you'll be able to train it out of them to a certain extent, but they'll always get back to it from time to time.

Whether you're wondering why dogs do this to begin with, or what you can do to make them quit, TAG24's dog guide has all the answers for you.

Why do dogs lick you so much?

There are many reasons why dogs like to lick you, ranging from compulsive behavior to affection and love. In general, a dog's licking habit comes from a good place, and isn't something to worry about.

Here are a few possible reasons why your dog is licking you:

  • To show affection: Your beloved doggo probably loves you just as much as you love it. These licks may simply be "dog kisses."
  • Because you taste delicious: You're often a little bit salty as a result of residue sweat and other little molecules that settle on your skin. Don't worry, they just enjoy the taste!
  • OCD behavior: It might sound bizarre, but dogs can also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. While it doesn't manifest itself in entirely the same way as in humans, the anxiety it can bring on may cause your dog to obsessively lick you.
  • It might want your attention: It's not so uncommon that your dog just simply wants to be paid attention to. That's right, your dog may be licking the hell out of you simply because it feels left out.
  • Comfort and instinct: Dogs are licked by their mothers when they're puppies. As a result, licking is a very comforting act, causing the release of dopamine and endorphins and also serving to form a bond with humans.

Overall, there's nothing to worry about if a dog licks you, even if it's not yours. It is a sign of friendliness, not aggression or dislike.

Do dogs lick us because they like the salty taste of our hands?
Do dogs lick us because they like the salty taste of our hands?  © IMAGO / Addictive Stock

Why do dogs lick your hands when you pet them?

A dog's habit of licking your hands is quite likely due to them either finding your hands rather tasty, or trying to communicate something with you, such as a desire for more petting. Think about it this way: hands are the avenue through which most interactions occur between a human and a dog. This association will mean that your dog will often try to communicate things by touching or licking your hands.

The habit of a dog licking your hands is often an attempt by them to simply recreate a positive association. This may be due to the fact that you feed them by putting food in a bowl with your hands, that you pat them with your hands, or something else.

Why do dogs lick your face?

A lick to the face is generally a sign of affection. This is a behavior that comes instinctively to them and could even be considered a sort-of "dog kiss." It may get quite uncomfortable, but it's well-meaning behavior and actually quite sweet when you think about it.

Should you let your dog lick your face?

It is generally pretty harmless for a dog to lick your face, but also pretty unsanitary. We'd recommend that you don't allow your dog to lick your face, as they could transfer germs, parasites, and diseases through your lips and eyes.

Sadly, the myth that dog mouths are cleaner than human mouths is complete nonsense, so while it's okay to let them lick your hands (as long as you wash them afterwards), your face is a different matter. They don't brush their teeth every day like you do. It's gross.

How to stop your dog from excessive licking

Dogs like to lick your face when you're lying down.
Dogs like to lick your face when you're lying down.  © Imago / Westend61

The real trick to stopping your dog from licking you constantly is to train it via positive reinforcement. This means not rewarding the dog for that behavior and at the same time providing it with incentives to abandon it.

There are a variety of ways to do this.

Here are some great ways to stop your dog from licking you:

  • Change the activity: If your dog starts licking you excessively, try changing whatever activity is going on. Were you lying down? Then start walking around or stand up, play a game with the dog, or take it for a walk. Change it up whenever your dog licks you and eventually it may realize that you don't like it.
  • Training: Get your dog professionally trained, so that it can follow orders and will stop when you tell it to. It can learn tricks, and will give you a ton of other ways to entertain your pooch.
  • Distract them with a toy: Make sure that you have a toy that you can use to distract your canine companion if they get a little bit too intense.
  • Keep them exercised: It's always a good idea to give your dog a chance to use up all that energy. If you have taken it for long walks and it is tired, it's less likely to start licking your face while you're lying on the couch.
  • Always move away: Simply don't let the dog lick you. Gently push it off and move away. Dogs hate being ignored, so if they begin to associate this with their licking, they'll learn to stop.

Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to getting your dog to stop licking you all the time. Use a combination of these tips and tricks, stick with it, and you should see results within no time.

Warning: If your dog starts licking excessively out of the blue and, you should take them to the veterinarian. There are actually a few illnesses and diseases that can cause this sudden change in behavior.

My dog won't stop licking me!

If your dog doesn't stop licking you, feel free to try some of the tricks we've described to alleviate the annoyance. It's nothing to truly be worried about it, but it can be disgusting and no one can blame you for not being a fan of getting dog slobber all over your face!

The most likely reason for your dog's excessive licking habit, though, is genuine love and affection. Don't get mad at your pooch, just make sure that it's trained to show its love in other ways!

Cover photo: Unsplash/Ashley Levinson

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