Licking is an instinctive canine behavior that dogs use to communicate with people and other animals. When your dog licks your face, he could be trying to send you a message, gather information about you, keep you clean, or he may simply enjoy the pleasurable sensation of licking.
Your dog loves you. Licking to show affection is a functional behavior that puppies learn from their mother and littermates. Maternal licking and licking among littermates helps strengthen family bonds. A dog licking your face is expressing his affection for you and trying to strengthen the familial bond he has with you.
Your dog respects you. Dogs are innately pack animals that follow an established social order. Wild dogs use face licking to communicate respect for and submission to their pack leader. When your dog licks your face, he may be communicating that he acknowledges you as the dominant pack leader.
Your dog is hungry. Dogs sometimes use licking to communicate that they are hungry. Puppies lick their mothers’ lips to stimulate a regurgitation reflex so they can eat the food their mothers vomit. Like their wolf ancestors, wild dogs lick the pack leader’s face as a way of begging for food. If your dog licks your face around feeding time, he may be letting you know that he is ready to eat.
Your dog is curious about how you are feeling. Dogs have special receptors in the nose and mouth which they use to process and interpret the scented molecules found in human sweat. By licking your face, your dog may be able to determine whether you are happy or feeling stressed.
Your dog wants to make sure you are clean. Dogs naturally lick to clean themselves or their littermates. If your dog licks your face often, he may be grooming you to help keep you clean.
Your dog thinks you taste good. Human sweat has a salty taste that some dogs enjoy. When your dog licks your face, he may simply be enjoying the saltiness of your skin.
Your dog likes to lick. The act of licking releases pleasurable endorphins in dogs and often gives them a sense of comfort and security. Your dog may lick your face simply because it feels good.
While many dog lovers don’t mind and may even enjoy having dogs lick their faces, some dogs can get carried away with face licking. Determine how you feel about your dog licking human faces and then train him to stay within the limits you set.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.