The Language of Licks – Decoding Why Dogs Love to Lick


Licking is an innate behavior deeply ingrained in dogs. From lavish licks on our faces to repetitive grooming of their paws, dogs are renowned for their fondness for licking. But why do dogs engage in this behavior? Let’s explore the reasons behind dogs’ licking tendencies and uncover the different messages they convey through this unique form of communication.

Affection and Social Bonding – One of the primary reasons dogs lick is to express affection and strengthen social bonds. Licking is often seen as a sign of love, as dogs use their tongues to groom and show affection towards their human companions and other dogs in their pack. By showering us with gentle licks, dogs communicate their desire for closeness, acceptance, and social connection.

Grooming and Hygiene – Like cats, dogs instinctively groom themselves to maintain hygiene. When dogs lick their paws or other parts of their bodies, they engage in self-grooming to keep their fur clean, remove dirt or debris, and promote healing by licking their wounds. This behavior helps them maintain their coat’s condition, removes tangles, and offers a soothing and calming effect.

Seeking Attention and Playfulness – Licking can also be a way for dogs to seek attention and initiate play. Dogs quickly learn that licking is an effective way to grab our focus and elicit a response. By licking our hands or faces, dogs communicate their desire for interaction, playtime, or a simple request for attention. It’s their way of saying, “Let’s have fun together!”

Exploration and Taste – Dogs explore the world through their senses, and their tongues play a significant role in this process. Licking objects or surfaces allows dogs to gather information about their environment. They use their sense of taste to analyze unfamiliar scents, assess the edibility of objects, or investigate new and intriguing substances. Licking provides dogs with a means of sensory exploration and helps them gather important information about their surroundings.

Submission and Respect -In the canine world, licking can be a submissive gesture, particularly when directed towards more dominant individuals. Lower-ranking dogs may lick higher-ranking dogs to show respect and deference. Similarly, a dog may lick its owner’s face or body to acknowledge their leadership and demonstrate submission. It’s a non-threatening behavior that conveys respect and establishes social harmony within the pack.

While we may call them simply “puppy kisses,” licking is essential to their happiness, health, and everyday life. Of course, licking the spoon clean of some pet-friendly ice cream is also a great reason for this behaviour!