Why Does He Want to Lick My Face?

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It can mean a lot of different things when a dog licks. Licking is not only a form of communication for dogs, they also use licking for eating and grooming. So it serves them for multiple purposes. That’s  why it can be complicated and difficult to figure out, sometimes.


Licking, as well as many of the behaviors that your dog displays, starts when they are a puppy.  A mother dog will lick her puppies to stimulate them as they are born.  The licking will encourage circulation, rouse them, stimulate them to nurse and remove the membrane covering them at birth.  Then, the mother dog will lick the pups to encourage bowel movements and to wash them. On the other, to someone that is observing, it looks like a mother taking care of her puppies and would be considered maternal love. It is possible that it is but it still serves several purposes.

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When puppies get a little older, they will lick their mothers around the lips in order to get them to regurgitate food that is partially digested. This is normal for wild dogs and wolves however a domesticated dog can do it as well. This type of behavior may be held onto and used later in life.  Maybe this is why dogs attempt to lick people around the face?  In some instances it is possible.


Puppies will often lick around the faces of elder dogs as a sign of submission.  It is possible that a dog will lick their owner’s face for this same reason.


Dogs may also use licking behavior because they are nervous or because they may feel anxious.  It’s possible that licking may help to relieve his nervousness.  A dog may lick as a form of appeasement to someone higher in his “pack” and the pack may include the dog’s owner.  If your dog is anxious or nervous or thinks he has made you angry they he may try to lick your face as a form of making up.


Dogs will also lick a person, to try and get attention.  Similar to other behaviors, licking can be a learned behavior and will become a habit if it’s enforced.  As an example, if your dog licks you and you think it’s charming, then you may pet your dog or laugh.  Because your dog is getting positive attention he will be encouraged to repeat the licking behavior. If your dog is bold socially, he may become rather pushy about this type of behavior and attempt to lick your face whenever he desires. It can be a difficult habit to break him from.

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Some dogs will compulsively lick.  This type of licking is usually with their own grooming however, it can also include carpet or furniture.  In certain cases it may also include their owner.  Dogs can lick feet, toes, faces and hands compulsively. In some circumstances you may need to talk to your vet about medication to help eliminate these compulsions and then you would need to work on behavioral changes for your dog.


Depending on the dog, he may lick someone’s face for many different reasons. If you would like the behavior to stop, try to figure out your dog’s motivation. Is he nervous about something?  Is the licking habitual?  Is he seeking attention?  When you figure out why your dog could be licking you, then you will be able to work on his behavior.


By:  Jennifer Fiorentino


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