Is Your Dog Kissing You?
You either love it or hate it: the wet, warm sensation of a dog licking your face. Many of us seek out this kind of interaction with our dogs (sometimes much to the horror of onlookers) while others try to discourage the behavior. Many dog lovers attribute a lot of meaning to dogs licking us, especially if we’re the sort that enjoy it – we say our dogs are giving us kisses and we interpret that as a sign of affection, but are dog kisses really a sign of affection? Or are they just after the leftovers we forgot to wipe off our chins?
Why do Dogs Lick People?
Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Chair of The Association of Professional Dog Trainers Nick Hof, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, KPA-CTP, CSAT, explains there are a lot of reasons why dogs lick people’s hands, feet or faces. It might mean your dog wants to show you affection, but it could also be because you taste good or that your dog is struggling with compulsive behavior.
If you are wearing sweet-scented lotion, or come home sweaty, your dog might be licking you because you taste good. I know my own dogs are very excited to lick my hands if I’ve been eating something greasy or salty, like potato chips. Hof mentions that dog guardians shouldn’t be alarmed by their dogs finding them delicious – they probably won’t take a bite out of you!
While most of the time dog kisses aren’t anything to be concerned about, Hof warns there are times when the kissing might be a sign of something else going on with your dog. He advises that there might be an underlying health issue “if the licking seems to be compulsive, excessive, or self-destructive; if it is difficult to redirect your dog or they are harming themselves, you should consult with your veterinarian for help addressing this issue.”
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking You
If your dog is prone to kisses and you or your family and guests aren’t fans of it, Hof explains the best thing you can do is to be proactive with training your dog.
“If you see them approaching and you know they’re going to lick you, ask them to sit as they approach, then redirect their affection and energy onto a toy or other activity. If, when you sit down to watch TV, your dog tries to give you a tongue bath, give them a stuffed Kong or a bone to enjoy instead of your sweat or lotion.”
Getting ahead of the behavior is particularly important. “If you wait until they are already licking you to always redirect, you may inadvertently reinforce the licking behavior with a treat or chew,” Hof cautioned. Simply this means your dog may increase his licking in order to get the treats you were using to redirect the licking in the first place.