If your dog is anything like mine, it might seem like there is nothing that she does not find delicious. Almost as if everything in the world tastes amazing and we have been missing out on the great undiscovered flavors. So why do they lick?
When dogs lick, their brain releases endorphins which in return makes them feel happy and secure. The act of licking is self rewarding, which means that positive reinforcement is at play. The dog or puppy licks, the brain releases hormones, the puppy or dog feels happy, the dog or puppy licks. The circle then continues on. Licking is also a learned behavior from puppyhood. Puppy’s mom usually licks them to clean them and help them calm down. Many people also enjoy getting licked by their dog and will reward the dog or puppy by petting them or giving them attention.
A dog might lick her or his buddy because their mom used to lick them, so they have carried it into their adulthood. It is a learned behavior that could be shown out of love to the other dog. Many dogs lick other dogs out of respect. Dogs who live together or who are buddies, may lick each other to groom or provide affection. There is some speculation that dogs can feel when the other dog is not feeling well and will try to comfort him or her. Keep an eye out for any other behaviors that might point to your dog not feeling well.
Your dog is bored or stressed out. Remember when we talked about endorphins? This is the same concept. Your dog is bored or stressed out so he or she will start licking other objects to release the hormones to make herself feel better. There is something comforting to them about the act of licking that is self soothing. Try to stimulate your dog with mind games (proper dog toys!). Try to isolate the stressor and do some counter conditioning to the stressor. There is a small chance your dog might have some neurological disorder like compulsive obsession. It might be a good idea to check in with your vet.
Why does my dog lick people?
Dogs lick people usually because that is how they show affection for us. Their mom did this to them as a show of caring and your pup is returning the favor now. Licking makes the dog or puppy happy. It is soothing and calming. As stated above, when a dog licks he or she releases endorphins that make them happier. Most people encourage licking by making a big fuss out of it and rewarding the dog with attention. Dogs also lick people because they like the person’s salty skin. Especially after a good workout! Or perhaps there is some food left over in a beard
Dogs lick faces usually out of respect to the older dog. Sometimes it could be because the younger pup is just hungry. Puppies lick their mothers’ lips to stimulate a regurgitation reflex so they can eat the food their mothers vomit. There are also a lot of scents around the mouth so the younger dog can get information about where the other dog has been and what they have been up to. Just keep an eye out on your pup as some older dogs do not like getting their faces “washed”.
Dogs lick their paws if there is something that is bothering their paws. Look over the paw for any irritations, blisters or anything stuck in their paws. Sometimes flees can get between the paws or on the inside of the leg. Look for black spots that turn red when wet. Licking paws can be a sign of an allergic reaction to the food or the environment. Check in with your vet if hot spots are forming or blisters are showing up. Dogs also lick their paws out of boredom (so exercise your puppy!!) or out of obsessive compulsive behavior or anxiety. Talk to your vet or a certified animal behaviorist about these behaviors.