Why Do Dogs Lick People?

We've all seen it a million times.

A dog runs up to a perfect stranger and begins licking them like an ice cream cone
on a warm summer's day. Why do dogs lick people - even people they don't know?

Research suggests - and experience further suggests - that it is a way for the dog to
show us love and affection.

In other words, licking is a dog's way of telling its owner how much it cares.

You see, when a puppy is born, the first thing its mother does is to lick its tummy, which helps to stimulate the puppy's blood flow. Puppies in turn, lick their mothers when they are hungry and want to be breastfed. Later, when puppies have grown a bit, they lick their mother's mouth to show her that they want mom to share the food with them. Of course, all this licking is also a sign of affection (humans use their mouths to display non verbal affection through the act of kissing).

When a dog is adopted and goes into a new home, the first thing it does is smell everything in sight. Dogs do this to get a lay of the land - it's there way of exploring and understanding their new surroundings.

Dogs also lick people when they are bored or lonely - it's a way of getting some attention. Interestingly, the intensity of a dog's licking routine depends upon the owner - if the owner shows that they enjoy being licked, the dog will do it more (after all, your pleasure is often the dogs pleasure, your sadness is his sadness). The opposite is also true - if the person being licked displays displeasure at being licked, then the dog will usually stop.

If a dog licks another pet, this often indicates that it accepts the pet as a part of the family and will be ready to take care of it, if needed.

Continuous licking, however, might signal a problem. This might mean that your dog is not happy and/or it misses your attention - so when it has it, doesn't want to let it go. This is usually observed with dogs that are alone at home for most of the day and only get to see their owner in the evening.

Lastly a word of advice - if you don't like the licking, don't get angry at your dog. Doing so will only confuse it. Let it lick you, but don't stroke it or pet it while it is doing it. In this way your dog will understand that those "kisses" are not pleasant for you and will eventually stop on its own.

Remember, if nothing else, licking is a symptom of love and affection!