Why You Should Never Stop Your Dog From Licking You
No one wants to get slobbered on, but there are reasons not to push your pup away.
Almost every dog owner knows the experience of having their dog lick them, sometimes for minutes on end. While it's happening, a range of thoughts might run through your head: Do I taste good? Does my dog want to eat me? Why the heck is this happening? It's a weird sensation, and you might be tempted to redirect your dog to something else, like a bone or toy.
But according to Instagram user and dog owner Amy James Aguiñaga, that might not be the best approach. Read on to learn why she says you should never stop your dog from licking you, as well as what experts have to say about the subject.
An Instagram user posted about the meaning of dog licking.
In a recent Instagram post that's gotten more than 861,000 likes, Amy James Aguiñaga (@olliemeetworld) shared a video of her dachshund, Ollie, licking her while she drives. She included the following text: "Before you get irritated at your dog for licking you… just remember this releases hormones that soothes and relaxes them, giving them a sense of security and helps them bond with you."
In an interview with Newsweek, Aguiñaga shared that Ollie wasn't a fan of car rides when he was young, and that he used to lick her in the car, but not in the house.
"It clicked for me that he was just looking for some security," she told the outlet. "Ollie grew out of this habit pretty quickly and now just licks us as a greeting or sign of affection."
She shared that she thought the information could be helpful for other dog owners.
Commenters had mixed feelings about the post.
People in the video's comments had a range of thoughts about the advice.
"When a dog licks you, it can be a sign of affection and bonding. Dogs often lick their owners to show love, seek attention, or communicate their happiness," wrote one person who agreed.
"My dog licks my legs when I get out of the shower. I think it's sweet," said another.
One person even joked, "This whole time I was thinking that they knew I had bones under my skin…."
However, some people noted that the behavior isn't always benign. "Excessive licking is a sign of stress and anxiety. Yes this is a way of self soothing but the bigger picture is your dog is struggling," said one commenter.
Another pointed out that the behavior could even be dangerous for owners: "I love dogs but when I was a wound care nurse I took care of a patient who got capnocytophaga from letting a dog lick her. She had a break in the skin and the bacteria entered her blood stream."
Here's what experts have to say about the meaning of licking.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), licking can indeed be a sign of affection.
"Some wild species in the dog family will lick pack members just to welcome them home," they write. "So, those daily slobbers really might just be a sign that your dog is happy to see you."
They also say it can give dogs feelings of security, just as the dogs had when their mom licked them as a pup.
However, dogs may just like the way you taste. The AKC notes that our skin is slightly salty, especially after exercise, and dogs have a taste for salty foods. Yum!
This is how to know it's a problem.
Unfortunately, the commenters on Aguiñaga's video were right: Licking isn't always harmless. According to WebMD, it can be a sign of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder if done excessively. If you find your dog's licking has increased out of nowhere or is a problem for you or your pup, you'll want to contact your veterinarian.
For more pet advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.