Have you ever wished your dog could talk? We’ve got a secret to share with you…your dog is already talking to you. That’s right, your dog may not be ‘talking’ as such, but dogs are communicating with you all the time, by using body language and specific parts of their body. The most well-known is their wagging tail but there’s another which is less well-known…their tongue! Today we’re exploring 6 reasons why dogs lick and what your dog might be trying to communicate with you. Are you ready to crack their code? Read on…

1. Greeting

When we see someone we know, we may wave to say ‘hello.’ Dogs have similar greetings when they want to say ‘hello’ to fellow hounds or even humans. A lick around the mouth or on the hand is a classic greeting from dogs, along with a wagging tail! This is particularly common amongst puppies. When dogs are greeting other dogs, they may also lick their own lips as a sign of submission. They may want to demonstrate they’re not a threat.

If you’ve been out of the house without your dog, they will also want to know where you’ve been, and they use licking as a way to find out! As well as using their sense of smell, licking our hands can also reveal some much-needed information to dogs too. So, don’t lie to them, as they make great detectives!

2. Comfort

One of the most well-known reasons why dogs lick is when they’ve hurt their paw or other parts of their body (e.g. a cut, allergies etc). Licking is a natural reaction for them when they’re in discomfort as they’re trying to self-soothe and comfort themselves. Noticing changes to dog licking patterns can be a great way for us humans to gain awareness about changes to our dog’s health, so keep your eyes peeled for any unusual licking by your dog. Be particularly mindful if your dog is obsessively licking, as this can make poorly areas even worse. If concerned, always consult your Vet.

At Dorwest Herbs our customer services team are always on hand too if your dog is struggling with seasonal allergies, which can lead to dogs excessive licking. Our team can provide advice on our natural allergy relief for dogs to help any itchiness and hopefully minimise any excessive licking. Our soothing natural paw balms and skin balms (which are lick-safe) can also be a good addition for cracked paws or irritated skin.

3. Keeping clean

It’s true many of our dog’s love nothing more than finding something disgusting to roll in but generally speaking, dogs do actually like to keep themselves clean. This is another reason why dogs lick! The tongue of a dog is a fantastic accessory for them to use to clean their fur and paws.

This is particularly noticeable if you’ve become caught in the rain during a dog walk. Not only will they often roll around to become dry, but they will also lick themselves to remove any excess water. Keep an eye out the next time you get caught in a rain shower…

4. Affection

If you share your home with multiple dogs, you may notice they sometimes give each other a good old wash and brush-up! It’s a common reason why dogs lick as it can be a wonderful bonding experience for them. One of the first experiences in your dog’s life is likely to have been when they were licked clean by their mum when they were puppies. They often like to recreate this with those they consider part of their pack e.g. fellow dogs or even us humans!

When dogs lick this also has an impact on their hormones. These are known as endorphins and they flood your dog’s body, making them feel good. Obviously the more they lick, the more endorphins are released. We can understand why it can be so tempting to them now! It gives them a good reason to show affection to others!

5. Attention seeking

‘Puppy dog eyes’ is a classic way dogs demand attention from their humans. Believe it or not, licking is another and provides an additional explanation for why dogs lick! If your dog fancies some interaction from you, they’ll often use their tongue to lick, with the aim of it prompting us to stroke them. For example, a common human reaction to being licked on the hand is to move the hand away from your dog’s mouth but where does it end up? That’s right, it nearly always leads to stroking your dog! If your dog recognises this, it can become a habit. These dogs of ours are very clever, aren’t they?

*Should this type of licking become too much, seek advice from a behaviourist to help with your dog’s excessive licking.  

6. Anxiety

If your dog is feeling anxious, he or she may lick themselves. As we’ve described above, some licking is absolutely normal e.g. self-soothing and cleaning. Wondering why your dog is licking the carpet and other objects in the house? However, if your dog is extremely anxious, this may lead to excessive and even obsessive licking of themselves or objects found in the home.

There can be any number of factors why your dog may be anxious so it’s important to get professional help from a vet or behaviourist if this becomes a negative habit.

*Our Scullcap & Valerian Tablets and Valerian Compound can also be a good calming aid if you have a dog with anxiety.

Why dogs lick

So, there you have it! Isn’t it amazing how one action can have so many different meanings? Will you be looking at your dog’s actions a little more closely now to discover what they’re trying to say? We’d love to hear if you’ve noticed anything different with your dog’s licking. In the meantime, as we’ve been speaking about tongues, we hope to see your #TongueOutTuesday posts over on Instagram. Tag us and we can say hello!

Dorwest Herbs are experts in herbal remedies for dogs and have been helping dogs meet their health and nutritional needs for almost 70 years. To learn more about out our herbal remedies for dogs, get in touch with one of our friendly advisors on 01308 897272 or use our contact form. Plus, get free UK delivery on orders over £50.

Please remember, you should always consult a vet if you are concerned about your pet’s health.

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