Licking….yes, I said licking. Not ALL dogs are ‘lickers’, but if you’ve had a dog who’s a licker, you’ll know it can be incredibly sweet, or incredibly annoying! Personal choice plays a big part in your dogs licking behaviour, do you mind it? Do you have children? Do you like it? Hate it?
Dogs don’t just like our faces either. Faces, hands, legs, feet….it’s all fair game to a dog. Personally, I don’t have an issue with it, in fact I laugh hysterically when my dog licks me, hence further reinforcing it. It just doesn’t bother me. I should add, I have taught my dog an ‘off’, so if for any reason I need her to leave me alone, she will. However, if I had a baby, or a toddler running about, or if I had planned to have, I may have taught my dog differently. As with most areas of dog training, I truly believe it’s different for every dog and every owner, no two dogs or owners are the same, nor want the same things.
So, licking, why do puppies/dogs do it?? Actually, there’s quite a few reasons as to why a dog may lick. It’s definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of behaviour.
Here’s some possibilities:
- Born to lick! – puppies are born into licking, and experience a lot of it from their mums, mums will lick the puppy to stimulate breathing when born, clean the puppy and to encourage toileting!
- Enjoyment – sounds too simple doesn’t it? But I’m a firm believer in looking at the simplest explanation first, so quite simply, it’s an enjoyable activity
- Mutual grooming – ‘allogrooming’, a term used to describe grooming within the same species, ‘social grooming’, a term used to describe mutual grooming, could there be an element of mutual grooming when they lick us?
- Exploratory behaviour – puppies use their mouths to find out about the world and their environment, could it be a learned behaviour stemming from this?
- Learned behaviour – we have reinforced it! As I said, I laugh hysterically when my dog licks me, she in turn finds that reinforcing, so repeats the behaviour
So….a few suggestions there. Licking is a common behaviour and if you read up about it you will find there are MANY different suggestions out there as to why the behaviour is performed. Additionally, it can be contextual, so a different reason for the behaviour in different situations. Another line of thought is possibly hunger, a puppy will lick around their mums mouth to signal they are hungry. Also, trying to get at some regurgitated food! Plus…we quite simply taste nice! I know, awful thought, but our sweaty and salty skin might just taste rather delightful to a dog.
Just remember, it’s a behaviour which can be modified if you so wish. If you enjoy it, have fun! (Try to make sure you teach an ‘off’ or ‘settle’, so it is controlled). If you don’t like it, teach your dog to do something else instead to show you some love! Big paw cuddles maybe? Whatever you wish!
Behaviours such as licking can seem confusing and difficult to deal with if you’re not sure how! During my 1-2-1’s we cover many different aspects of puppy behaviour and training, so do get in touch for more information.