Why Do Dogs Stick Their Tongues Out?

Some people think of dogs as slobbery animals, and for a good reason. Dogs always seem to have their tongues lolling out.

But why is this such a typical behavior among dogs? What causes them to do it? Why do dogs stick their tongues out?

Let’s take a look at the ten most common reasons a dog may stick out their tongue.

apricot mini labradoodle on pool deck
An Apricot Mini Labradoodle (my puppy Max!) sits on the pool deck with his tongue out


While dogs do sweat through their paws, full fur coats tend to get in the way of keeping cool. Panting is the canine solution.

Before you jump to shave your dog and prevent panting, give this article by the American Kennel Club a read, as shaving your dog can be extremely harmful.

By letting their tongue hang out and breathing rapidly, dogs expedite the evaporation process of moisture from their tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. This evaporation helps to cool your dog down and regulate temperature.

The Flehmen Response

The Flehmen response, sometimes called tasting the air or tonguing, is a behavior found in many mammals. It is an instinctual response to pheromones.

In most mammals, this behavior exhibits itself as a curled back upper lip, tipped back head, and general stillness for a few seconds.

Many dogs will do this in areas with other dogs and tend to stick their tongue out while doing so.

golden retriever tongue out
An American Goldendoodle (not English Goldendoodle) hanging out with its tongue out

Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Hanging tongue syndrome is the phenomenon where the dog can’t seem to keep their tongue inside their mouth. It has many causes and can also result in several health problems.

Facial trauma, disease, age, nerve damage, neurological damage, and unfortunate snout to tongue ratio can all result in hanging tongue syndrome. Some breeds do it more often than others, but any dog can get it.

Hanging tongue syndrome can also result in bad breath, cracking and bleeding of the tongue, dry or swollen tongue, and infection.

Treatments vary greatly and can include everything from close monitoring of the tongue to medication and surgery. In some cases, the tongue may need to be surgically shortened to fit in the mouth.

Dogs with hanging tongue syndrome are also more prone to sunburn, frostbite, and fungal infections of the tongue.

a happy pug smiles
A happy pug smiles. These popular (and expensive) dogs are known for a tongues out smile!

Under or Overbite

Severe jaw misalignment in dogs is a significant issue. It can get in the way of eating, barking, and grooming. In the case of some dogs, it can also reduce or change the shape of the space in their mouths, leaving no room for the tongue.

If your dog has an under or overbite, they may simply find it more comfortable to keep their tongue out of the way of it.

Unless the misalignment impedes the dog’s daily life and health, there is little to be done about it. While some breeds are more likely to do this than others, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog’s tongue lest they develop side effects of hanging tongue syndrome.

Missing Teeth

Missing teeth can result in a hanging tongue, especially if the missing teeth are the lower canines.

Lower canine teeth in dogs are kind of like a fence for the tongue. They hold it in and give it something to rest against. If one or both of the canine teeth are missing, the tongue has an easier chance of breaking free from the dog’s mouth.

The same thing goes for the rest of the teeth. The more a dog is missing, the more likely their tongue will slip out. Check to see if the side your dog sticks their tongue out on corresponds to the side that is missing teeth.

pitbull smiling
What a smile! (Wanna learn how to teach your dog to smile?)


Many breeds of dogs are prone to deformities. Some are so specially bred that the entire breed is a perversion of the source.

Dogs with extremely flat faces have a great many health problems and trouble breathing. They are also prone to hanging tongue syndrome.

Any dog – whether due to breed or deformities – that has a shorter snout than their tongue is long will have trouble keeping it in their mouth.

In the case of extreme deformity, the inside of the mouth may be so misshapen that there is simply no room for the tongue.

bergamasco mop dog
An all star “looks like a mop” dog is the Bergamasco breed

Mouth Injury

Severe trauma or injury to the mouth and jaw of a dog may force their tongue to hang out. The most common reasons this may happen are broken bones, uneven scarring, and nerve damage.

Broken bones and misaligned healing can change the shape of a dog’s jaw. The hanging tongue may be permanent due to this or just a temporary side effect during recovery.

Likewise, lumps of scar tissue or unevenly mended bone can have drastic consequences on the shape of a dog’s face. Scars can fade and shrink over time, so there is no telling if the hanging tongue will be a permanent result.

Ulcers, tumors, and various diseases can also cause injury or pain enough that a dog will hang its tongue out.

Additionally, temporary or permanent nerve damage may make it so that the dog can’t even feel that their tongue isn’t in their mouth or control it properly.

Neurological or Mental Disorders

Thanks to a whole host of neurological and mental disorders, a dog may lose control of their tongue or hang it out as a form of irregular behavior.

When it comes to problems of the mind, determining the cause may be somewhat difficult, but it is safe to assume that if the lolling tongue showed up around the same time as other mobility issues, then it may be linked to a neurological problem.

Motor function is a big part of the brain’s job, and it is pretty apparent when something isn’t working quite right in dogs. Dogs may also stick their tongues out during partial seizures.

clipping labradoodle face
A Labradoodle being groomed to get the “teddy bear” face cut


If it looks like dog doo and smells like dog doo, then it’s probably dog doo. This is the case when it comes to medication. Whether it’s a pain reliever, antibiotic, or dietary supplement, if your dog started sticking their tongue out around the time they started medication, it’s safe to assume the two are linked.

Many medications can cause dogs to feel loopy and lose some mobility control. If they just got back from the vet, had surgery, or started a new prescription, then a lolling tongue may merely be the result of the medication.


The last reason and one of the most common, that your dog may walk around with their tongue out is their mood.

If a dog is relaxed, excited, nervous, scared, stressed, or feeling any other emotion, they may stick their tongue out. In the same way that people sweat when they are feeling extreme emotion, so do dogs. The result, however, is panting.

Wrapping Up

While your dog can stick their tongue out for any number of reasons, it is important to keep an eye on any changes to this behavior. If your dog starts hanging their tongue out more, can’t seem to put it back in their mouth, or seems to be losing control of it, consult a vet immediately.