Imagine you taking your dog out on a walk when they see their best canine friend at the dog park. The dogs would start sniffing and licking their friend’s face all over. Seeing them ‘kiss’ might probably be the cutest thing in the world. So why do dogs lick each other like that? Is there another reason behind this seemingly adorable behavior?

Any dog owner would know too well that dogs love licking. When you’ve just returned home from work, or when you’re about to take them outside, they’d jump and lick your face to show their excitement. If they do this to another dog, is it to also show affection?

why do dogs lick each other

To answer these questions, let’s go through some information about a dog’s behavior and body language with us at HyperFavor.

Why Do Dogs Like To Lick?

Dogs are undoubtedly curious creatures. They see the world around them not just with their eyes, but through their sense of smell and taste also. That’s why you see them putting their tongue on almost anything new they discovered - they’re just that curious!

You might wonder why dogs like to explore the taste of your face, hands or even feet. It’s because they are very interested in the food you ate, the smell of your sweat, or they just want to show a bit of their slobbery love. 

This is a known behavior that has been passed down among many generations of domesticated dogs. Your pup feels that they’re bonded with you better when you let them lick you. And you probably feel the same way about them as well.

But would a lick between two dogs mean something different in their language? Or is it just an act of curiosity? There might be more reasons behind a dog’s tendency to lick us and each other, and we’ll find out now.

What Does It Mean When Dogs Lick Each Other?

Dogs lick each other for a maternal connection

When a mother dog licks her litter of puppies, she is ensuring that the kids are well-groomed. The licking creates an early bond between the mom and the pups. This will help the puppies socialize better in the future.

She’s also encouraging them to nurse by licking them. And after they’re done feeding, the puppy will be licked to help with their bowel movement, since they’re too small to initiate it by themselves.

For the puppies, licking their mother is a way for them to get her attention or to ask for food. In the wild, pups would lick their mother’s nozzle after she returned from the hunt. This is to get her to regurgitate a meal for them, since they obviously can’t hunt yet. 

why do dogs lick each other

So when a puppy licks you in the face, he might be asking you to feed him (or throwing up the burger you just had for him).

Dogs lick each other to bond socially

This behavior can be observed in a litter of puppies. When you see puppies kissing each other, it shows that the emotional connection between them is strong. It’s a loving interaction between siblings and helps establish a reliable relationship among them.

Trust is built during this grooming process of social grooming, and this behavior isn’t limited to only littermates. It can extend to you, your family members, or another pooch in the house. Dogs grooming each other is a display of love and care. 

This is considered a positive interaction, and you should feel privileged to receive the affectionate lick! Why not wear a cute dog T-shirt with your dog's face to let them know that you also love them back?

why do dogs lick each other

Dogs lick each other to relieve stress and pain

Licking acts as a relieving method for a lot of animals, including dogs. When they run into a stressful or embarrassing situation, dogs will try to calm themselves down with self grooming. 

In addition, if they see another dog who is suffering from pain or anxiety, they will lick the pooch as a way of healing. This behavior can be observed if you bring a new pup who has previously been abused back home. Your dog might want to console their friend by licking them.

Licking shows affection and friendliness

As dogs have learned as a puppy that licking is an effective way to show affection, they will do the same with who they like. If they don’t already know the other party, your dog kissing other dogs would be a friendly way to say “I want to get to know you”.

Your dog is possibly trying to engage in a play with the other pooch as well. Licking is like telling the potential friend your dog just met “I’m friendly, let’s go play.” If they proceed to go into the ‘play’ bow – their front legs stretching forward and leaning down, this means the licks work!

why do dogs lick each other

If they happily lick a visiting guest, it also means the same thing. They want the guest to know that they are friendly and want to play.

Licking shows submission and social rank

Regardless of being domestic or wild dogs, canines always have a certain hierarchy among pack members. And it’s the member’s job to show submission to their alpha. This will maintain the group’s peace and good communication between the leader and its subordinates.

When an adult dog acknowledges the leadership of their superior, they might lick the alpha’s face to say “I’m not trying to compete with you” or “you’re in charge and I respect you.” Your pup might be licking your face for the same reason since they think that you’re the leader of the house.

This doesn’t apply to just their own pack, but also to any dogs that they think are stronger. This is especially true if your dog approaches the other dog from under the chin. Their lick now says “I know you’re stronger, and I mean no harm.”

If one dog licks the other dog’s face back, they’re accepting the agreement of submission. They will use licking to say they are friendly and not threatening as well.

Can Licking Cause Problems For Dogs?

Since licking is an amiable form of communication and socialization between dogs, there is mostly nothing you have to worry about. When your dog is licking other dogs, you only need to pay attention and intervene if the interaction between two dogs can turn aggressive.

However, if you feel that your dog’s licking habit has become obsessive, you might want to take a closer look at this behavior. Not only does it annoy the other party, but it might also suggest that your dog is stressed or uncomfortable. 

why do dogs lick each other

Excessive licking in dogs can be a sign of boredom. Because grooming also acts as a way for dogs to stimulate themselves, they will opt for licking if they have nothing else to do. 

Another possibility might be that your dog is having an allergy or injury that’s causing them irritation. They lick themselves to relieve the stress and pain they’re having, and try to make themselves feel better.

How To Stop Your Dog From Over-Licking

If you’re concerned that your dog’s licking habit has become unfavorable, check to see if there are any serious problems. Consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible in order to get the correct diagnosis.

If your dog tend to lick excessively because they’re bored

Spend more time playing with your pooch or let them meet other dogs more regularly.  Make sure that your dog always has proper exercises to reduce the chance of boredom and self-stimulatory licks. 

Be patient with them, and don’t forget to show them lots of love. Check out these awesome customizable dog Hawaiian shirts to always remind yourself to love your dog with all your heart.

why do dogs lick each other

If the problems are more serious

However, if your dog is in pain or stressed, they should be treated immediately. Allergy, skin diseases or mental illness can have many negative effects on your dog’s well-being.

Sometimes excessive licking needs to be stopped not just because it may cause problems for the dog. A lot of people don’t like to be licked due to hygienic reasons, and you certainly don’t want to upset your guests with your dog’s bad behavior. 

Therefore, it’s better to properly train your dog about when it can and cannot lick people.

You can stop the unwanted licks by distracting your dog in the middle of the action. When they start licking, provide a toy or a reward to redirect them away from trying to lick. The continuous positive reinforcements will tell your dog that it’s more beneficial for them if they don’t lick.

why do dogs lick each other

At the same time, you can definitely go for a more effortless method which is the no-licking pet cone. Doctors usually use this to stop dogs from licking and opening up their injuries. The cone might be a little uncomfortable for the dog, so if you only want him to stop licking for a short period of time, then this is a great choice.


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