Why Do Dogs Lick You?
Why Do Dogs Lick You?
When dogs lick their owners, it is usually to show affection. This is a sign of loyalty and can be a positive behavior that you should reward with treats and praise.
However, excessive licking can be problematic and should be addressed. To do this, you must first identify the cause. This can include anything from a sense of smell to high levels of stress.
When a dog licks you, they're likely thinking about how much they love you. This is an instinctive behaviour that's linked to the comfort they felt when their mother licked them as puppies.
It's also thought that licking releases dopamine and endorphins that calm dogs down and help them bond with their owner. However, it's important to note that licking can become an annoyance if it's getting out of hand, so it's best to teach your dog an alternative positive response.
Another reason dogs lick you is to try and detect your mood. Their tongues have millions of sensory cells, so they can use this to understand how you're feeling.
They may also be trying to groom themselves or just like the taste of you! It's also possible that they feel lonely and need some attention. If your dog licks you excessively, this could be a sign of open wounds or stress, so it's best to check with your vet.
Sense of Smell
The sense of smell is one of the oldest and most important of our five basic senses. Like taste, it consists of tiny molecules that enter the body and bind to receptor cells in our noses and mouths.
When we breathe in an odor, it travels to the olfactory epithelium, or tissue, which sits deep within the nasal cavity. This cell contains cilia that trap odour molecules and relay their information to olfactory neurons.
Olfactory neurons then send the signal directly to our brains, where it's processed and experienced. Smell has a wide range of uses, including alerting us when food is spoiled or ripe, helping us recognize familiar and strangers, and telling us whether we're feeling at ease or stressed.
The olfactory system is incredibly complex and involves about 400 different types of odor receptors. These receptors jiggle with different molecules to help our brains determine which odours are pleasant, unpleasant or nauseating.
Some dogs may lick you when they are nervous, anxious or in pain. This is usually done as a way to calm themselves and provide comfort, although excessive licking can also indicate an underlying medical condition or anxiety disorder.
If you suspect your dog is licking you because they are stressed, take them for a walk to help reduce their stress levels. This can also help deter them from licking your face in the future.
The same goes for young puppies. Blackwell says that a puppy's mouth is full of bacteria and it can be tempting for them to lick your lips or nose when they are bored or anxious, but it's important not to reward this behavior in the long run.
If you think your dog is licking you because they're bored or anxious, try to spend more time with them and leave a puzzle toy for them to play with when you're not around. You can also give them some treats to eat while you're away.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Licking is an instinctive behavior that dogs use to self-groom themselves. It's also a sign of love and affection.
But if your dog begins to lick excessively, this may indicate they have obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. These disorders can be very serious, affecting your daily life.
If you think your dog has OCD, talk to your veterinarian about treatment. Medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help control the obsessions and compulsions.
Behavioral therapy can also help. Desensitization and counter conditioning, for example, can teach your dog to substitute a less intense or more desired behavior for the obsessive one.
Once a diagnosis is made, you and your vet will develop a treatment plan that will address both the obsessive compulsive behavior and any underlying medical problems that may be contributing to it. The veterinary team will need to know when the behavior started, how much it is occurring, what triggers it and any other information you can provide about the situation.