When your pup licks you, his body releases endorphins, hormones that make them feel happy. It’s similar to the feeling we all experience when kissing with another person.

And you surely want to keep your four-legged friend happy because a happy puppy equals a happy dog owner. But dog licks aren’t just kisses, at least not in a sense we think about them. It’s believed that they can mean all sorts of different things.

Actually, there are many theories where does this habit come from and what does it mean. This question has puzzled zoologists for ages and no one can still say for certain what the right answer is. However, there is a consensus that dog licks are much more than just a sign of affection. If your dog is licking you, it can mean some of the following things!

The Dog is Saying Hello

Dogs evolved from wolves a long time ago, but there are still some genes that they share with their ancestors. When they lived in the wild, dogs needed to stay quiet in order to catch prey or stay unnoticed by other predators. Barking was a sort of an alarm for announcing that there’s something wrong. They used other methods for communicating within the pack and one of those was licking.

Even though your pup lives with you in a safe and friendly environment, he’s nevertheless very cautious about potential dangers. So, he is not going to bark all the time; he’s only going to bark when something’s out of the ordinary, e.g. someone has entered your home, there’s another dog nearby, you forgot to feed him, etc.

For your dog, you’re the leader of the pack. Even if the pack is made only of you and your dog, it is still a real pack in his eyes. And he has no intention of alarming the leader of his pack by barking loudly. Instead, he’s gonna say “what’s up?” by giving your hand a lick.

He’s Being Your Bodyguard

You’re not just the leader of his pack; for your dog, you’re the most important person in the world. And just like a mother dog licks her puppies to show them everything is okay, your dog might give you a lick to tell you he’s got everything in control.

Dogs are very compassionate creatures, so don’t be surprised if your dog starts licking you more than usual if he notices that you’re feeling sad or depressed.

Need a Helping Paw with Grooming?

You’ve seen them sniffing each other’s behind, eating off the ground, playing in dirt. And that might have made you think your dog isn’t too much of a hygiene freak. Well, you are right, he’s not. But, that doesn’t mean dogs are dirty.

On the contrary, dogs pay a lot of attention to grooming, but in a different way than humans. Licking their fur is a way of keeping themselves nice and neat. At one point, he might decide to give you a helping hand (or better say a helping paw). Of course, this doesn’t mean your pup thinks you are dirty; he’s just a good guy who wants to help out!

‘Me Hungry’

In dog universe, food plays an extremely important role. The rule of thumb is that if you see your dog behaving strangely, the chances are that it has something to do with food. He might be hungry or the food he ate is causing a belly ache.

So, if your dog is licking you more vigorously than usual, it might have something to do with food. Maybe he’s using his charm to make you give him an additional portion.

He’s Asking for Help

In some cases, licking is a cry for help. How can your dog tell you that there’s something wrong? They can’t speak, so they need to use other methods to get your attention. And licking is definitely one of them.

If you notice that your dog has been licking you more often than usual, you need to pay attention to other symptoms. Does he seem low on energy? Is his nose dry? Is he walking slowly or struggling to run? All of these are signs that the dog is looking for help.

Furthermore, some dogs that have problems with anxiety and fear tend to lick and bite their fur, thus creating problems like hot spots. As these things can be really painful, the dog may try to keep himself away from the wound by licking you. This way, he can forget about the pain until you figure out that he’s in need of a medicine for hot spots.

Your Dog is Bored

Your pup might be seeking attention and a way to show it is by licking your hand. This way, he’s telling you ‘please stay with me’. Or, if you two had some playing time together, he might give your hand a lick as a way of saying thank you.

He is Being Your Personal Doctor

Did you know that dog saliva has enzymes that kill germs? If not, it doesn’t matter, your dog did know this. And that’s why he’s been licking you! He wants his owner to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible. He is doing his part in ensuring your wellbeing by killing off bacteria through licking you.

You Taste Good

Sometimes the right answer is the most obvious one. Have you eaten something before getting to play with your dog? If so, the chances are that he can smell traces of food on your hands and wants to give them a try.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick You?

Well, yes and no. Letting your dog lick you will make both of you feel good. But despite doing well for you emotionally, it can cause some physical problems.

The thing is that even though dog saliva kills some germs, in some cases it also contains certain germs that live freely in that environment. Unfortunately, some of those bacteria and parasites are very dangerous for human health.

We are talking about things like E. coli and salmonella, types of bacteria that are zoonotic, which means that they can be transmitted from dogs to humans.

The worst thing is that even if your dog is perfectly healthy, he can still serve as a stopping point for these parasites on their way to you. The good news is that the bacteria can’t get inside your system that easily. In fact, the chances that it would go from dog’s saliva through your skin and into your body are super-slim. Especially if saliva is only on your hands, where the skin is pretty thick.

Although the chances you will catch a serious disease from your dog are slim, we do advise playing it safe. Licking your face should never be permitted because the dangerous germs can get into your system through your nose or mouth.

Instead of letting your dog lick your face, why not find a middle ground? You can let him lick your hands and once you’re done with playing with him, make sure to wash the hands properly. And by that, we mean to scrub them vigorously and use antibacterial soap.


About the Author: Lisa Smith is a passionate dog trainer whose interest in taking care of animals continues to grow with each passing day. She started out working as a volunteer in different pet shops where she gained more experience and knowledge about pet training. But now, Lisa does not only enjoy her private training classes with pets. She happily shares most of her tips on pettrainingtip.com