Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

For years, dog licks have been thought of as kisses from pup to owner! however, is this really the reason why? We found ourselves questioning why do dogs lick your face? There are in fact many different reasons why dogs may do so. Environmental circumstances along with their personality can influence it all.

Some dogs will regularly lick your face, whereas others may rarely do so. This does not necessarily mean a dog does not love you because they don’t lick you. If you find your dog licking your face and want to know why, how to stop it, and even whether it is safe to do so, we’ve got you covered right here.

Once you are finished reading this article, learn about why dogs have a wet nose!

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

There are five main reasons that your dog may lick your face. Most well-known is licking for affection, or also known as kissing their owner. Here we will explain how these purposes influence this action.

Affection

The most well-known reason for a dog to lick your face is to show affection. Mother dogs will lick their puppies to clean them from the moment of birth through their growth. This action can be considered as a form of care. It will often be used between dogs to show trust and care between one another. It can be essentially interpreted as one dog caring or looking after another. This behavior can also be implemented to us, licking our faces in excitement or comfort to show care towards us. It is the same for them licking our hands or even arms.

Dogs can also lick young dogs or humans because they are aware of their vulnerability. They will do this as an act of care and affection. To put the young family member at ease and to keep them clean as well.

Submission

A dog licking your face can be a sign of submission towards you, strangers, and other dogs. If you have a particularly nervous dog, they may often lick your face to display their submission. Pack theory has been disproved in dogs and wild wolves. However, that does not mean that levels of dominance and submission are completely eliminated in dogs. It all depends on households and circumstances. Although their view of us will always be more like a family than a hierarchical pack.

Submission can also often been applied to strangers. When a dog meets a new person or dog, they may want to display submission to keep the situation calm and keep themselves safe. Dogs with nervous personalities will often result to this route because of their traits and underlying anxiety. Therefore, evaluate your dog’s personality, who they are licking, and the circumstances to see if this is the cause.

why dogs lick your face
Your dog could simply like the way you taste!

Taste

It may seem obvious, but quite often a dog may lick your face purely because you taste good. This can be applied to two different main situations. After you have exercised or when you have just put your hands in something a dog considers tasty and the wiped your face.

During and after exercise you will sweat. It’s rather gross but dogs love the taste of sweat because it is salty. Therefore, if you find your dog licking your face during a hot day or after a workout, this is the most likely cause. Your dog may also lick your hands and face if you have a substance on them that they consider tasty. They will often be able to smell the material first and then approach you to decide if they want to lick you. Soon your face, hands, and even clothes will be covered in slobber!

Grooming

In the same manner that mother dogs will lick their pups to remove dirt or even amniotic fluid after birth, dogs will lick you to clean you. They do so by removing, what they consider, external debris, or dirt.

You may find them looking at areas of your body or clothes and sniffing them first. This is often them judging the situation to see if they feel you need grooming. Then, if they deem you need grooming, they will proceed to lick the area. Quite often your dog will branch out and end up licking your whole face or from your hands to arms. It will not be as frenzied as other purpose-motivated causes for licking such as affection or submission. This is because once they feel they are done cleaning you, they will leave and therefore have a task to complete.

Indicating Meal Times

Nearly every dog adores treats and meal times. Not many owners know that your dog licking you can be a sign they know it is time for food soon. Dogs have an internal clock, similar to us. It is one of the reasons that routine is so important to them.

Therefore, if you feed your dog at the same time every day, they soon become aware of when food time is. You can be five minutes away from getting up to give their food and they will know food time is soon. This may cause them to become excitable and start to salivate. This combination may lead to them coming over and licking your face. Partly to get out their energy but also to alert you in case you have forgotten. A deep worry for our furry friends to be fed five minutes late!

Is it Safe to Let Your Dog Lick Your Face

If you are not immunocompromised, nor are you of a vulnerable age group, then dog saliva does not pose much of a risk to your health. Dog saliva has bacteria in it, but to those that are healthy, it is not able to cause significant risk. Although it is unlikely, dogs can pass worm eggs from their saliva to you through direct contact. Therefore, this is something to be aware of.

However, you should avoid letting your dog lick your face if you are ill, have a compromised immune system, or of a vulnerable age group. This study in the 1989 Canadian Journal depicts the possible hazards when you allow a dog to lick your face. Especially for those classified as vulnerable. If you are immunocompromised, it may mean that the bacteria from a dog’s saliva could affect you negatively as your body is already weakened. This is the same concern for those that are very young or very old as they do not have a strong enough immune system to be fighting against some types of bacteria. Once again, if you are ill your immune system will be weaker and this can make you more susceptible to types of bacteria.

It can also be concerning if a dog licks your wound as this is an entry way in for the bacteria. This can lead to an infection of the wound which will require antibiotics.

licking for attention
Your dog may be asking for affection when it licks your face.

How to Stop a Dog From Licking Your Face

A dog licking our faces can be quite unpleasant for some, especially if they will not stop even with a firm no. The main ways to stop a dog from licking you is to ignore them, place something bitter or poor tasting on your skin, and to positively reinforce them to not do so.

Some dogs may lick your face for attention and therefore when they receive this attention, they will continue to do so. By ignoring this behavior it will start to discourage the repetition and they should start to do so less and less. For some dogs, it is much better to train them that this is a behavior you do not want them to do. You can do so with a firm no, a click of a clicker, and encouraging your dog to sit down with a treat. Repeat this every time your dog goes to lick you and they will begin to prevent themselves naturally.

A final option to consider is to put something on your skin that will naturally deter your dog from wanting to lick your skin. However, make sure this is not from a toxic ingredient. You can consider putting a bit of citrus juice on your skin before your dog licks you. After a while, they will be deterred. Always remember though that a deterrent is not always a good nor a long-term solution.

Why Dogs Lick Your Face – FAQs

We have answered a further four questions to make sure you know everything you need to about dogs licking your face.

Why Does My Dog Always Want to Lick my Face?

This can be to show affection, because your face tastes good to them, or perhaps to display submission. It all depends on your dog and the situation. Firstly, gauge your dog’s temperament. If they are more nervous and anxious than other dogs, it may be likely that they are being submissive towards you. Submission may also be seen if you recently bought or rehomed your dog as they are still adjusting to their new home and life.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

If you are of a vulnerable age group, immunocompromised, ill, or have an open wound, you should not. However, if you do not fall into these categories, this is ultimately your choice. Dogs always have the chance of passing bacteria onto a human by licking them, although, this is unlikely. One factor you need to be aware of if you let your dog lick your face is the possibility of you contracting worms. If your dog has licked their anus while they have worms, licked another infected dog’s anus, or eaten an infected dog’s feces, their saliva can pass on worm eggs to you. So be sure to be cautious.

Are Dog Licks Really Kisses?

Dog licks can have the motives of affection, however, there are also many other reasons that your dog may lick you. Affectionate licks often originate from you arriving home or meeting a confident dog. When you meet a new dog, they may submissively lick you as well, it all depends on their personality and comfort in the moment.

affectionate licks from dogs
Licking your face could be your dog’s way of showing affection.

What Happens When a Dog Licks You on Your Face?

This all depends on why they are licking your face. If your dog licks your face out of affection, or perhaps submission, these licks can be quite frenzied and this can lead to you being covered in saliva and jumped on. Whereas a dog grooming you or licking you because you taste good will often focus on one area and do so calmly and without necessarily leaning on you.

Now you should feel comfortable knowing all the answers you need to about dogs licking your face. Whether you let them do so is your choice.