What Does it Mean When a Dog Licks Your Face?

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If you have a dog, you’ve surely experienced getting continuously licked on the face. It feels good coming home from work to be greeted with a loving kiss from them!

Licking is a natural dog behavior that they use to communicate with their owners, family members, and other animals.

But what does it mean when a dog licks your face? 

We discuss all the possible reasons for your dog’s licking and look at when dog licking might become a problem.

You can also find out how to stop your dog from licking your face.

dogs lick faces

Why Dogs Lick Your Face

There’s no certain way to know the reason why dogs lick our faces. But there are some possible reasons.

Affection and Greeting

Your dog may be licking your face simply because they love you! Your dog enjoys your company and slurps on your face out of excitement.

Many people think it’s how dogs kiss. We may never know if dog licking is equal to kissing in human language, but we know they do this when they are happy with us.

Not only do they lick humans to show affection, but they also do this to their fellow dogs. 

This natural behavior is said to come from the grooming and affection they received from their mother. 

They remember the feeling of warmth and comfort, so they try to do the same to the humans and animals they love!

They try to reach your face if they can. If they can’t, they reach out to your hands, arms, legs, and feet. 

Instinct

Wolves get meat from the hunt, and they come home to their puppies after eating. Since the little creatures cannot hunt yet, they lick the meat from their mom’s mouth.

Dogs have been domesticated for centuries now yet they still carry this behavior in their DNA.    

When dogs lick our face, it can be because they are trying to lick off whatever we tried to eat that day! 

It’s not necessarily because they’re hungry. They may also be doing this to find out where we’ve been or what we’ve been up to.

You Taste Good

Dogs also lick our faces simply because they enjoy the taste of our flesh! 

When your dog gets used to licking your face, they could start loving the taste and look for it every day!

We, humans, have an intriguing taste that is a bit salty. And our furry friends love anything that has an interesting taste. 

To Gather Information

Your dog also loves to lick to explore their world, and you’re a part of that world! They are trying to find out how you’re feeling and where you have been.

Dogs’ sense of smell is immensely powerful. What you might consider as licking is often their damp nose trying to gather information from your face.

Dogs have special receptors in their noses that help them interpret the scented molecules of your sweat. 

Relieving Stress

Mother dogs licking their children to groom them is a soothing behavior for pups.

Dogs learn to do this to themselves and to others to help relieve stress. It releases endorphins that usually give them a sense of comfort and security. 

When dogs get nervous or anxious when you are away, they will lick you once you come home to calm themselves and reduce their stress level. 

Hunger

Dogs may be licking your face because they are hungry. Your face may still smell like your last meal, which might be why they are trying to taste you!

This is again linked to their instinct of licking their mom’s lips to stimulate a regurgitation reflex so they can eat the food their mother holds. 

Wolves and wild dogs do the same to beg for their mom’s food. 

Your dog may be doing the same when they are hungry, especially if it’s around feeding time.

When Dog Licking Becomes a Problem

Dog licking is natural and harmless. It’s not a form of aggression nor domination. In fact, it’s the opposite!

There is a theory that licking is a sign of submission since puppies lick dominant members of the pack to ask for food.

So, there is nothing wrong with dogs licking your face, unless they’re dirty, doing it to children or sick people, or licking excessively.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs’ mouths are not cleaner than ours. Some dogs who have medical and behavioral issues eat feces, which could cause e. Coli and other infections.

They aren’t as hygiene conscious as us and they don’t care what they put in their mouths. 

Licking can be a symptom of a behavioral problem like separation anxiety or boredom.

Some also do this as a way to tell you that they are in pain

Pay attention to what your dog is trying to tell you when they lick so you can attend to their needs.

Excessive grooming may indicate internal or external pain. 

Another cause of concern for dog licking is allergies. If you are allergic to dogs, you may experience mild to severe symptoms of an allergic reaction like hives and watery eyes. 

Hypoallergenic dogs may shed less than others, although some studies show that they do still have allergens.

How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Your Face

It’s normal for your dog to lick your face. Their ancestors have been doing it for centuries!

But if the behavior has become a problem for you, here are some ways to stop them from licking.

Ignore the Behavior

When your dog licks you, simply ignore it and walk away. Any form of punishment may be mistaken for you wanting more kisses from them.

Even eye contact should be avoided to eliminate all forms of attention.

If the behavior goes unrewarded, they will start doing it less. 

Treat Separation Anxiety

Your dog may be licking your face because they missed you while you were away. 

This is okay, but if the behavior gets frantic, it could be a sign of separation anxiety. 

Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to.

Other signs of separation anxiety include chewing, escaping while you are gone, digging, excessive drooling, and destroying your things.

Treat separation anxiety to get rid of licking and other unwanted behavior.

Get Some Exercise

If your dog licks your face to relieve their stress, it may be because they lack physical and mental stimulation. 

Try taking your dog on a long walk and socialize with other dogs and people. This can reduce their stress, along with their urge to lick your face. 

Make sure to walk at a pace that fits your dog’s size and fitness level. You may need to slow down or speed up a little. If you’re starting with a puppy, a 10-15-minute walk is enough!

Train Your Dog

If your dog likes to lick your face out of habit, the best way to stop this behavior is by training them.

A “stop” command will let your dog pause and understand that their behavior is undesirable. 

When your dog is behaving appropriately, give them attention and rewards. 

Pet 'n Shape Hide Twists – Chicken Wrapped Rawhide Natural Dog Treats, 16 ounces.

Pet ‘n Shape Chik ‘n Hide Twists are the best treats to give your dog since they are made of 100% natural chicken breast and wrapped in a savory rawhide chew. 

These rewards should take place right after the desired behavior for positive association. 

Feed Your Dog

Dogs might be trying to stimulate a regurgitation reflex in you when they lick your face.

It’s their way of saying they are hungry.

Make sure to build a stable routine for feeding your dog. They are largely carnivores who eat some omnivorous foods. 

Royal Canin offers dog foods of all types. They have variants for purebreds, puppies, adults, senior dogs, large breeds, and small breeds. 

Royal Canin Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food, 14 Pounds. Bag

You can even choose from wet and dry food options. 

Change Your Body Scent

If your dog likes the way you smell or taste, consider swapping out your cleanser to a scent that is less appealing to them. 

Citrus-scented skin products repulse most dogs, so dab your face with an orange-flavored moisturizer to keep them from licking your skin!

Sometimes, your sweat is appetizing to them. Don’t forget to wash up after working out or going out so they won’t lick your face out of compulsion.

Try Dog-Appeasing Pheromones

Dog-appeasing pheromones are an effective way to treat your dog’s obsessive behavior, which may include licking your face. 

These chemicals copy the pheromones released by a nursing mother dog, which can calm your anxious or scared dog when you are not around.

ADAPTIL Spray 60 mL – Calms & Comforts Dogs During Travel, Veterinary Visits and Stressful Events - The Original D.A.P. Dog Appeasing Pheromone Spray (60mL Spray, 1-Pack)

Adaptil is one calming solution that helps your dog adjust to difficult situations to curb their stress-related behavior like licking, chewing, and barking. 

It’s clinically proven to reduce anxiety in furry friends!

Once they feel at ease while they are alone, they won’t have to lick your face excessively when you get home. 

Consult Your Vet 

If your dog’s licking behavior does not stop after trying these solutions, talk to your veterinarian about medication for separation anxiety. 

For instance, clomipramine may be prescribed to pets with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder to counteract the licking behavior. 

Your vet may also prescribe Fluoxetine, a medication for pets with anxiety. It treats compulsive disorder with little to no side effects. 

FAQ Dog Licks and Kisses

Is Licking a Dog’s Way of Kissing?

It depends. Dogs may be licking your face to show affection or simply because they want food.

Sometimes, what you interpret as affection might be your pup just wanting you to taste your lunch.

It does not mean your dog can’t show affection! Check out the different ways dogs show their love.

Should I Keep My Dog’s Mouth Clean?

Yes.

You should clean your dog’s whole mouth especially if they have a habit of licking your face. 

It’s not true that dogs do not need dental care because they keep their teeth clean by chewing all the time. 

We don’t know what goes in our dog’s mouth 24/7, so it’s better to build a dental care routine for them every day.

It’s also important to get their teeth cleaned professionally to avoid periodontal disease, a condition that affects almost 80% of dogs.

Does Dog Saliva Cause Allergies?

Yes. 

People who are allergic to dogs may experience a rash, hives, or watery eyes when they are exposed to dog saliva or dog dander.

If you have a family member in the house who is allergic to dogs, make sure they never get licked in the face by your furry friend!

The symptoms may be mild and manageable. But if you’re considering getting a dog when you’re allergic, check out our list of hypoallergenic dog breeds!

So, Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

It depends on you. If you don’t mind a bit of licking here and there, then you can tolerate their behavior.

After all, licking is part of our furry pals’ natural behavior.

However, if you’re scared of what’s been in your dog’s mouth, it’s probably time to give them the stop command.

Dog saliva can cause bacteria, sickness, and allergic reactions!

You also want to check whether their licking is a symptom of an underlying condition. They can be anxious, hungry, in pain, or in need of affection.

If all else fails, train your dog to see you as a pack leader for them to have the best behavior any dog can have! 

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