Dog Licking and Kissing: Why Does Your Dog Do It?

Dog Licking and Kissing: Why Does Your Dog Do It?

There’s something truly gratifying about how happy your dog is to see you when you get home after a long day of work.  He barks, he jumps, and when you reach down to pet him, he may even lick your hand.

What does this mean?  Is your dog displaying his love and affection, or is he just hungry?  There are actually a number of reasons why dogs might exhibit licking or kissing behaviors.  While it’s hard to say if the motivation is “love” or another emotion, your dog won’t kiss just anyone.  Here’s what you should know about the reasons behind canine licking and kissing behavior.

Nervous Grooming

Many animals exhibit grooming behaviors when they’re nervous or stressed, and this could include grooming themselves, other animals, or even pack members like you and your family.  You may notice that your dog pairs licking your hand with whining in stressful situations, such as visits to the vet or when meeting new people or other animals, just for example.  This is a fairly normal reaction to situations in which your animal is uncomfortable or needs reassurance.

Appeasement/Subservience

Canines tend to be pack animals, and in lieu of a pack of dogs, people fill the role.  Because you are dominant, you become the alpha of the pack, so to speak.  You provide necessities like food, exercise, and companionship, and in return, your dog shows you deference.  Licking and kissing may just be an extension of this, just as your dog might roll over and let you pet his belly.

Eliciting a Reaction

What is your typical response when your dog licks your hand or kisses your face?  Do you smile, laugh, and pet or hug your dog?  Even as you train your pets to sit and stay, they may also train you, to an extent.

If they want you to pet them or pay attention, they may lick or kiss to elicit reactions they’ve gotten in the past through these same behaviors.  If you don’t like this behavior or it becomes to frequent or aggressive, a simple and consistent “no” should help to train your dog to stop unwanted behaviors.

Other Licking Behaviors

Licking and kissing isn’t limited to a dog’s human companions – they often lick other dogs, as well, especially pups.  It’s totally natural for mothers to lick their pups clean following birth to remove fluids and membranes, ensuring that newborns can breathe.

In the days that follow, mothers will continue to lick pups to stimulate urinating and defecating, as they won’t start to do this on their own for at least a couple of weeks.  Licking is also a way for a mother dog to bond with her new pups, keep them warm and clean, and show affection.

Over time, puppies will begin to lick themselves for the purposes of remaining clean, but also as a self-soothing behavior.  They may also lick your furniture, carpeting, or even walls.

If your dog licks himself compulsively, it could signal issues like itchy skin, bug bites, or other physical problems.  He could also be experiencing high levels of anxiety.  Regardless, you should speak with your vet about possible causes and treatments to ease itching or quell anxiety.


We know your dog is a cherished member of your family, so our entire team shares a commitment to provide the best, most compassionate veterinary care for your dog. We offer a variety of dog services to in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock, TX area including vaccinesdental careweight managementsenior care, and more. Call (512) 251-BARK today to learn more!