Dogs and people live and communicate together so well, but sometimes your dog may act in ways that you just might not understand. Your dog will have licked your hands or face in the past, and they’re more than likely to do it again in the future. Here are a few reasons why this may happen:
As dogs have evolved from wolf-like ancestors which lived and hunted in packs, they have developed a large variety of ways to communicate with each other – one of these ways is by licking another dog’s ears, mouth or general facial area. Mother dogs lick their young, and this behaviour continues in these dogs throughout their lives as a friendly signal. As dogs have learnt to live alongside humans, they have used those same methods of communication with us. Dogs often get very excited when you return home and may not be able to contain their excitement – one of the reasons that your dog happily licks your face and hands may be that they are showing you how happy they are to be with you!
Discovering the world
Dogs don’t have hands and, as such, their mouths are the next best thing they can use to learn about the world. Dogs don’t have the best sense of taste – humans have approximately 9000 taste buds, whereas dogs have closer to 1700. Despite this, dogs have five types of taste receptors on their tongue, including salty and acidic. Humans have sweat glands over almost our entire bodies and the main components of sweat are salty and acidic elements. This may explain why your dog may lick you more after you’ve exercised! They are also likely to lick your hands and face after you’ve been touching or eating food.
You may taste really nice, but the behaviour itself can also release pleasurable endorphins in your dog’s brain.
Some dogs may have learnt that if they lick you, they get a response – be it positive attention or a sound of disgust. This behaviour may be a nice gentle way for your dog to communicate with you. Some people don’t like being licked at all by their dog. Combatting this behaviour in a positive manner is tricky, but it can be done. In this situation, simply ignoring your dog won’t work as the action of licking is a reward in itself for your dog. To encourage your dog to stop licking we would suggest removing yourself from the situation – don’t tell them off, as this is giving them the attention they were looking for, and any attention can be rewarding for a dog. The best thing to do is to just get up and leave silently, or move your body-part so that they can no longer lick it.